Director J.J. Abrams has successfully convinced Hollywood of two things. First, he convinced the industry that it's acceptable for a grown man to go by "J.J.". Second, his modernized adaptations of science fiction classics, including 2009's Star Trek and 2016's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, have millions believing that he can simply tell classic stories again, with cleaner special effects, recapturing all the magic of the source material.
However, not every Star Wars fan was thrilled when J.J. Abrams was tapped to direct Episode IX, the 2019 Star Wars film which will follow this year's Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. In fact, one angry fan has launched an online petition to demand that Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm, fire Abrams and replace him with someone else.
That fan, Matt Vela, (whose other petition demands that President Donald Trump declassify all government documents related to extraterrestrial life) believes that Abrams is incapable of creating new stories within the Star Wars universe. His petition points to similarities between The Force Awakens and George Lucas's first Star Wars film, 1977's Episode IV: A New Hope, and it argues that Abrams is only going to deliver another good-looking homage in 2019.
The petition doesn't offer up any alternative directors, though some critics suggested Ava Duvernay (A Wrinkle in Time) and Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman) before Abrams was announced. It does, however, use some fiery language to describe Abrams' previous work. Using Abrams again, Vela argues, is evidence of Lucasfilm getting "complacent" with its own success. "Star Wars fans deserve better," he says. "They demand better."
Despite The Force Awakens' stunning success, Vela believes "there was virtually no creativity, and no risks taken." Vela evidently doesn't consider Abrams' casting of actors of color in lead roles, including John Boyega as Finn and Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron, a unique choice. Killing off Han Solo (Harrison Ford) in the film's third act was also, apparently, not enough of a risk for Vela.
Admittedly, those who argue that Abrams' Star Wars sequels are simply microwaved adaptations of the original films do have a compelling case. The original trilogy's heroes, Luke, Leia and Han, can be easily compared to The Force Awakens' similar trio of good guys, though the dynamic between the two men and single woman was established as markedly different. Finn and Poe, for instance, are not romantic rivals for Rey's attention, though Luke and Han were originally framed as such in A New Hope.
The central plot-line of both films is noticeably similar as well; both films follow an adorable droid containing important information as it is abandoned on a desert planet. Those droids, A New Hope's R2-D2 and The Force Awakens' B-88 are chased by a Sith villain cloaked in black, and they're ultimately saved by naive but courageous heroes with mysterious backstories.
When he was confronted with those similarities in 2016, Abrams told IGN, "The Force Awakens was a bridge and a kind of reminder. The audience needed to be reminded what Star Wars is, but it needed to be established with something familiar, with a sense of where we are going to new lands, which is very much what 8 and 9 do." According to Abrams, he was just trying to clean the franchise's slate after George Lucas's disastrous prequels and prepare a new audience for two unique follow-up films. If Abrams sticks to that promise, the third film in the modern Star Wars trilogy won't feel similar to Lucas's third film, 1983's Return of the Jedi.
Vela and his thousands of supporters, however, remain suspicious that Abrams can deliver.
Notably, Abrams is the fifth screenwriter to work on Episode IX, and he'll be co-writing the film with Chris Terrio. Filming for Episode IX is expected to begin in 2018.
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