3:27 am - 02/01/2013

10 Ways ‘Star Wars’ Has Influenced J. J. Abrams

Ever since we got the official, Jabba-sized news that J.J. Abrams will be directing Episode VII of Star Wars, we’ve all been wondering how the director will approach the new film. The Internet being what it is, needless to say there’s already been a good deal of speculation, predictions, expectations, and way too many lazy lens flare jokes. It’s the nature of the movie fan beast to wonder what a prominent director like Abrams will inevitably impose on the Star Wars franchise through his involvement. Most importantly, will it be for the better or the worse? The key to determining Abrams’ suitability and what his venture into a galaxy far, far away might be like isn’t to ask how he’ll influence Star Wars. It’s to ask how Star Wars has influenced him.

Thanks to his Amblin Entertainment photocopy of a movie, Super 8, Abrams has ensured he’s widely perceived as a devoted Spielberg disciple. What many have never considered is whether the director might also be similarly influenced by George Lucas. Especially since he took on that other widely popular space franchise. Yet look closer at the room of Joe – Abrams’ auto-biographical surrogate in Super 8 – and you’ll see Star Wars posters and a model TIE Bomber hanging from the ceiling. Then there’s Abrams openly professing that Star Wars is one of his favorite movies of all time. Most telling is a conversation with Bryan Curtis of Grantland that reveals he’s very much a “Lucasite” who admits that “[the] lessons I’ve learned from George, as a filmgoer, that have informed how I approach movies, as a filmmaker, are legion.” If you start to explore Abrams’ work with that in mind, you realize he is as much influenced by Lucas’ Star Wars as he is Spielberg’s canon.

We’ve gathered together ten examples that sample how Lucas’ original trilogy echoes throughout J.J. Abrams’ career. It should be noted that our intent here isn’t to maliciously find parallels to expose derivativeness. It’s to highlight Abrams’ affection for the series and how much he has been impacted by it. We do so in order to suggest that we don’t have to worry about whether Abrams knows how to make a good Star Wars movie. He does. Because he’s been making Star Wars movies in increments for years.

The Strong Female Protagonist Who Still Has to Appear Half Naked

One of Star Wars’ greatest legacies is Leia Organa, who remains one of science fiction’s most empowered, admirable female characters. She’s an intelligent warrior who is as courageous as she is caring, and more than comfortable asserting her authority (and superiority) over the men around her – frequently with a sharp tongue. The bun-haired rebel is also a somewhat problematic feminist figure, given that she’s a princess prone to needing to be saved by men, is saddled with being narratively defined by who she loves, and is famously sexualized and objectified in that slave girl metal bikini. J.J. Abrams’ female characters all very much evoke the range of Leia’s characteristics and portrayal. Abrams’ work is frequently defined by bad-ass women like Kate Austen (Evangeline Lilly) in Lost, Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) in Alias, Uhura (Zoe Saldana) in Star Trek, and Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) in Fringe, who are all inevitably required to strip down to their underwear and be ogled.

The Absentee Father

If you strip away all the space opera and battles, one of the core elements of the original Star Wars trilogy is Luke Skywalker’s relationship with his father. That’s why the true denouement of the series isn’t the victorious Battle of Endor, but the poignant moment when Luke removes Darth Vader’s mask and looks upon Anakin Skywalker for the first time. Of all the influences Star Wars may have had on J. J. Abrams, this is the one that has found its way most into his work. Super 8, Alias, Lost, Fringe, and Star Trek all have central characters who struggle or have struggled with absentee fathers.

The Dead Parent Who Is Revealed to Be Alive … and Evil

The paternal reveal of The Empire Strikes Back remains one of cinema’s greatest twists, even if it’s now so famous it’s hard to imagine it shocking anyone anymore (though the Internet proves that presumption wrong). Abrams faithfully recreated the “guess they ain’t dead!” revelation in Alias. Like Luke and his father, Sydney Bristow was told her mother had tragically died only to find out her mom — Irina Derevko — was a nefarious Russian agent and very much alive to cause all sorts of headaches for the Bristow family.

The Unexpected Sibling

Star Wars is full of familial surprises, but the ickiness of the twist that Leia and Luke are twins might very well surpass the shock of Darth Vader’s “I’m your father” moment. The revelation and arrival of a previously unknown sibling isn’t anything new. Television soap operas are full of them. So it’s no surprise that soap operatic shows like Lost and Alias have half-siblings turn up (Jack and Claire in the former, Sydney and Nadia in the latter). Still, you consider the fact that — like Luke and Leia — the Alias and Lost siblings are also the children of absentee parents, and it’s not a stretch to count this as one more plot element that stuck with Abrams.

A Motley Crew of People Who Come Together to Win the Day

It’s been repeatedly noted how much George Lucas was influenced by Akira Kurosawa films and a healthy dose of Seven Samurai. Which is exactly why so much of Star Wars is about a whole slew of different kinds of people (and giant fuzzballs) coming together to work with each other and beat seemingly impossible odds. J.J. Abrams loves people coming together. He loves teams. Everything he has done — Lost, Alias, Armageddon, Fringe, Super 8, Mission: Impossible III, Star Trek­ — follows the model laid out by Star Wars demonstrating the power of camaraderie to blow stuff up good. And, you know, save the day.

superdogbiter 1st-Feb-2013 02:03 am (UTC)
um star wars has influenced millions
hell my fucking dog is influenced by it
she wants to make a death star I know it
sandvich 1st-Feb-2013 02:04 am (UTC)
Wow, look at this list of plot elements that have appeared in fiction for hundreds of years. Clearly they all come from Star Wars.
vanishingbee 1st-Feb-2013 02:06 am (UTC)
Gag never mind I just read and saw he did not say this but that they prescribed this onto his work. Nope.

Edited at 2013-02-01 02:09 am (UTC)
sandvich 1st-Feb-2013 02:24 am (UTC)
No worries! Obviously Star Wars is super iconic and has been a huge influence on pretty much all Western entertainment that's come out since, but this article is just guessing at how it inspired JJ's stuff specifically.
vanishingbee 1st-Feb-2013 02:04 am (UTC)
I feel like him getting star wars has just made me mad he got star trek. I think he's way more suited to star wars.
yurasama_love 1st-Feb-2013 02:19 am (UTC)
I forgot that he basically looked like a hard boiled egg.
lovelyeli 1st-Feb-2013 02:20 am (UTC)
idgaf..i love both star trek/star wars and i think he could be Brilliant for the new star wars, it helps that he himself is a fanboy.
pastelstar 1st-Feb-2013 02:32 am (UTC)
I still wish that Sark was Syd's little bro. My mom still calls him that every time he shows up on a show.
markthatcoin 1st-Feb-2013 03:44 am (UTC)
he was so hot and perfect on that show, he looks kind of a hot mess on everything since O.O

if tumblr had been around back then i would have reblogged so many gifs of him omg
kittymink 1st-Feb-2013 03:18 am (UTC)
Um, Seven Samurai is a Kurosawa film.
prophecypro 1st-Feb-2013 07:21 am (UTC)
In the same way influenced every geek genre writer/director etc? We knooows
ohwutevernvm 1st-Feb-2013 08:15 am (UTC)
I will never forget that moment when my family and i were like D: and "dude.... you just made out with your own sister. your. own. sister." lol
mjspice 2nd-Feb-2013 01:19 pm (UTC)
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