An open letter of thanks to JJ Abrams for keeping the 'Star Wars' mystery alive
"Those stories about what happened…"
"It's true. All of it."
We haven't spoken much since you vanished into the world of "Star Wars." It was clear that when "Star Wars" began, your world became much more focused, and as a fan who is looking forward to Episode VII enormously, I'm perfectly fine with the idea that you're not randomly available to chat right now.
Besides, it's becoming increasingly clear that you've been busy. Last night, I was seeing a screening when the trailer came out. Or, more specifically, the trailer hit a few minutes before the screening was supposed to begin, but I was already inside the theater, sitting, and had turned my phone completely off, as I do any time I see a movie. My friend arrived and sat down behind me and told me he'd been trying to watch the trailer across the street. "I couldn't hear it, though, because evidently the guy behind us was losing his mind because somehow no one had told him there's a new 'Star Wars' film."
He brought it up on his phone, watched it, then passed the phone forward to me so I could watch it with my girlfriend. Couldn't hear anything, but the images were remarkable. Then I saw the movie, went to a reception, went out for a while. It was almost 1 AM when I finally got home and put on the trailer on XBox, running the highest-quality version from YouTube through my sound system and turning it up.
Thank god for thick walls in this apartment building, because I watched it about four times in a row, and I've watched it a few times today. I still haven't been able to share it with my kids, but that's going to be a huge moment. So far, they're so crazy for what they've seen. I love the way they're handling all of this. I'm not sure if you saw a piece I published a while ago, but I wanted to make sure no one misrepresented it to you. It's about the coverage of the film. It's about the hype, not the experience itself.
For example, when the latest poster came out, I saw people examining it to a terrifying degree. I saw one person actually break it down like a math problem, with a comprehensive list of how many characters and vehicles were acceptable on each successful poster as a way of proving that "The Force Awakens" is in trouble. There is nothing like the scrutiny that greets new "Star Wars," and while I spent many years riding the front of that wave, I have stepped aside for this one. Considering the history you and I have had in terms of writing about things at times I was not really supposed to be writing about them, I'm guessing you haven't really mourned my hands-off approach to this film.
For me, the three truly magical moments so far have been the trailers. Why? Because those are actual film, and that's all that matters to me this time around. The toys, the buzz, the debates, the speculation, the microscopic examination… that hasn't been the way I've approached it. Instead, it's been about the three pieces of film you've released so far.
Yes, I've soaked up plenty of other stuff. There was a moment where a big batch of art and concept stuff leaked, and I saw more than I probably should have. More than I wanted, definitely. I didn't share that stuff anywhere, and I didn't use it to guide my coverage because I'm trying to go into this as pure as I can. There will never be another moment where my kids get to see new "Star Wars" together, all of us walking in equal at the start. Up till now, "Star Wars" was mine, and I was passing it along to them. No more. Now it belongs to all of us equally.
So, yeah, I'm dying to watch the trailer with them. It'll be here at my house this weekend. I love what we've seen of Daisy Ridley's character so far. I love the idea of John Boyega's Finn, a stormtrooper, rejecting his life and walking away from it. I am intrigued by Adam Driver's Kylo Ren, and I'm very curious about the way it looks like he pulls a vision of destruction from the mind of Oscar Isaac's Poe Dameron.
And then there's that moment in the middle of the trailer, after that escape on the Millennium Falcon, which looks like a great big oh my god sequence that I can't wait to experience… the moment with Rey and Han Solo talking about the past and the truth behind the legends. Absolute goosebumps. That is gorgeous. And it says so much about where Han is now, how the stories we grew up on were stories told by people as recent history that had already started to mutate into myth.
My favorite thing about this final trailer is the new music in the trailer. That's thrilling. It doesn't really sound like other "Star Wars" films, but it's emotional, and it's big, and it has its own voice before finally kicking into some familiar "Star Wars" moments.
There's still so much we haven't seen, and I like it that way. My kids and I have an ongoing bet about theories we all have, and at this point, based on this trailer, I think I'm going to lose that bet. But it's wonderful, because the hooks are in. I'm not excited because the Disney marketing machine is in overdrive (which they are, and they are going to shatter every box-office record in the world as a result). I'm excited because it is clear that you have taken this opportunity to really ask questions about the world of "Star Wars," questions that you have about the characters and what happens after a war and about how you return to what was familiar and if that can even happen and what each generation hands down to the next. And right now, even knowing as little as I do about this film, I already look at that image of Kylo Ren and Finn squaring off with those two lightsabers, one iconic for almost forty years now, one of them brand new and instantly recognizable, and I can't wait to see what gets them to that moment and see why they have to have that fight.
I guess this is the long way of me thanking you for taking the job. I know you wrestled with the decision, but in an age where every story I've ever cared about has become fodder for the IP mill that seems determined to grind the coarsest, most obvious version out of everything in the pursuit of familiar property that somehow rigs the box-office lottery, it feels like you have approached "Star Wars" with love and respect and with a real determination to make something great.
I have no idea what I'll think of the finished film. I have no idea when I'll see you or when or even if we'll end up talking about the movie itself. But right now, in this final stretch before the film, looking at this third trailer, I wanted to to reach across that "I'm going to leave him alone to make his movie" wall I put up on this one to simply say thanks. It looks like it was worth the wait.
December 18th can't get here fast enough.