Star Wars VII: The mother of all deadlines

The script is written, the cast has been announced, all JJ Abrams needs to do now is deliver on time – but what happens if the dog eats his homework?

We’ve all been there: walking to school in a cold sweat, running through the lines in your head, rehearsing every tone and perfected mannerism as you prepare to explain exactly why that essay you were due to hand in today is strangely absent from your now clammy palms.

For most of us those days are long gone, discarded or repressed along with all the other lightly absurd nightmare moments of school life that barely brush against our adult lives.

But some foolish others, including me, are unwise enough to embrace the terror of the deadline in their chosen career – spending every waking second under the invisible burden of an immovable date when copy has to be received or a VT has to be cut, or something equally vital to the continuance of mankind needs our immediate attention.

This is roughly the position director JJ Abrams finds himself in, although magnified by a gazillion (or thereabouts). Because he’s the man charged with delivering the next Star Wars film to cinemas on 18 December 2015 – no ifs, not buts, no dodgy excuses or frankly excellent reasons for failing to deliver his gargantuan project on time.

Having perfected the script, all he needs to do now is coax the cast and crew into making the best film of their lives – to weave movie magic, come hell or high water, knowing that a cultural behemoth and millions of fans hang on the success or failure of his endeavours.

Not that he’s inexperienced at this kind of thing, having breathed new life into the ailing Mission Impossible series and resurrecting the Star Trek franchise in fine style with two blockbuster flicks.

But you do end up feeling just a tiny bit of sympathy for the guy, seeing as he’s plainly precluded from delving into the canon of classic excuses. Somehow I suspect ‘my cat threw up on the final cut’ wouldn’t quite pass muster.

To be honest, he’s doing a pretty good job of it so far (it’s early days, I know, but stick with me). He stunned everyone with the news that he would direct for his much-loved franchise after a brief ‘will he, won’t he?’ dance, and swiftly vanquished the Jar-Jar demons when the producers proclaimed new disdain for green-screen technology.

Now he’s named a tantalising cast, featuring the three main actors from the original trilogy and a host of mostly-unknown but plainly pretty exciting new talent – and of course a lot of the shooting will take place in London, making some of us feel a tad patriotic about the whole affair.

Even so, there are some lingering doubts about Disney’s ability to make a decent live-action film after the immeasurable disaster of John Carter, the expensive Lone Ranger flop and several commercially successful but strangely underwhelming Pirates of the Caribbean outings.

That said, on this occasion the PR efforts have been tanatlising without giving away too much (so far) – so all we need now is a media blackout until release date and a trailer that whets the appetite without giving away the plot or précising all the ‘best bits’.

If Abrams can do all that, and make a cracking film, and bring it in on time, then there’ll be millions of people on this planet receiving one hell of a Christmas present.

See more from The Good Film Blog

© Matthew Bell 2014

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