A lot has changed in the world since "Star Wars" first landed — both in our world, and in the world of "Star Wars" itself.
Those two places intersect in J.J. Abrams' "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," which seeks to strike the balance between honoring what's come before in the previous movies, with making sure those homages aren't over the top. For Abrams, it's a bit of a tightrope walk. The whimsical way that "Star Wars" alluded to its own history in the earlier movies is hard to attain in today's climate, where blockbusters franchises bob and weave throughout each other, culminating in larger epics — like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for example.
So how does Abrams plan on making references to "Star Wars" history within "The Force Awakens," without resorting to obvious winks and nods? Again, it's tricky, but in a new interview with Vanity Fair, he revealed that "the key is that references be essential so that you don’t reference a lot of things that feel like, oh, we’re laying pipe for, you know, an animated series or further movies. It should feel like things are being referenced for a reason."
"What was incredible about 'Star Wars,' among other things, was that in that first movie Vader could’ve been his father, but he wasn’t, you know," he added. "Leia could’ve been his sister, but she wasn’t. You didn’t really know what the Empire was up to exactly. You didn’t really understand what it meant that there was a Senate or the Dark Times or any of the references, and yet you felt the presence of all these things and you understood because it was all being referenced in a way that allowed you to fill in the blanks, and that’s a very powerful thing."
Abrams says he's built his own references into "The Force Awakens," but you might not even notice them, as they're his "own little stupid, secret ones." But you'll recognize where he got his inspiration from: John Williams, the composer of the "Star Wars" saga, and an absolute legend in Abrams' life.
"John Williams -- he was the DVD or Blu-ray of my childhood because we didn’t, of course, have VHS tapes of movies to watch when we wanted to," he said. "So I would buy John Williams soundtracks, often for movies I had not seen yet, and I would lie on the floor in my room with my headphones on listening to the soundtracks which would essentially tell me the story of the movie that I didn’t know. And I’d look at the photographs on the back of the album and I tried to read what I could about the movie—but really, I would just listen to these soundtracks."
"So it was an amazing thing to get to know him," he continued. "But the weirdest thing was the idea that I was showing him scenes from a 'Star Wars' movie he hadn’t seen yet. And the fact that they were scenes that I directed -- that’s probably as surreal as it gets in my professional life experience."
The surreal journey is far from over for not only Abrams, but for fans who never thought they would see an original live-action "Star Wars" movie after the prequel trilogy ended. The new era begins when "The Force Awakens" opens on December 17.