Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams responds to series creator George Lucas' disappointments the seventh episode of the saga did "nothing new," saying the franchise revival "very purposefully" revisited the old "in order to start and tell the new." In his book, The Ride of a Lifetime, Disney CEO Bob Iger recalled Lucas' muted reaction to The Force Awakens, writing the filmmaker "didn't hide his disappointment" with the first live-action Star Wars movie in a decade. According to Iger, Lucas also criticized The Force Awakens because it didn't have "enough visual or technical leaps forward."
"There are a number of things that we obviously intentionally did in a kind of 'history repeats itself' mold, to say we are introducing this brand new cast of characters," Abrams said on Popcorn with Peter Travers when asked about Lucas' criticisms. "This Stormtrooper (John Boyega) who runs from the First Order. This scavenger (Daisy Ridley) who is living, literally, in the wreckage of the history of the movies that we know. And this hotshot pilot (Oscar Isaac), we don't know his history, but he's joined the Resistance to find Leia (Carrie Fisher), years later, sort of unable to give up the fight because she can smell smoke from miles away. Where's Han (Harrison Ford) at this point, what is he up to?"
For Abrams, blending the old with the new was part of "the fun of asking, 'Where are these existing characters?' and revisiting some of the themes — and in some cases, some of the locations from the original story — was part of doing this thing as a continuum."
He continued, "Which is to say, it's not just about going to new lands and meeting new characters, it's about embracing what's come before so that the characters that you meet in Episode VII — imagine chapter seven of a book. It's not about having entirely brand new, rebooted [characters], it's a continuation of the one story."
Abrams also acknowledges the "undeniable parallels" with the original trilogy, including another planet-destroying superweapon: this time Starkiller Base instead of the twice-exploded Death Star.
"And look, is there a big, giant, planet-sized weapon in Force Awakens? Yes. And does it blow up? It does blow up," Abrams said. "And so there are undeniable parallels, but in a way, because there had not been a Star Wars movie in a long time — the prequels were the ones that preceded it — I very purposefully wanted to sort of revisit the old in order to start and tell the new. And that was the challenge."
"For those who hate it, I could not respect your opinion more. And for those who love it, I question your sanity," he added. "It just, it felt right to us at the time, as does this one [The Rise of Skywalker] now."
Iger earlier echoed Abrams' comments, writing in his book: "[Lucas] wasn't wrong, but he also wasn't appreciating the pressure we were under to give ardent fans a film that felt quintessentially Star Wars. We'd intentionally created a world that was visually and tonally connected to the earlier films, to not stray too far from what people loved and expected, and George was criticizing us for the very thing we were trying to do."
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens December 20. Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.