Wired magazine has recently published an article on how fans of the original Star Wars movies [Ep. IV: A New Hope, Ep. V: The Empire Strikes Back and Ep. VI The Return of the Jedi] are engaging in a campaign of online hate against the direction of the Star Wars franchise. Issues with Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens  such as a gay character, the increased age of Princess Leia, and black storm troopers are causing sabre rattling among the purist camp of the old school Star Wars fan base. J.J. Abrams explained to StarWars.com his awareness of careful attention to balancing the needs of purity with evolution.
“It’s very much a tightrope walk… because this has to be new, a story that fans have not seen before and at the same time, it’s Star Wars and you have to allow it to be inheriting what it’s been.”
J.J. Abrams is no stranger to taking classic movie franchises and moving them forward, keeping old fans happy while bringing in new fans. In Star Trek , Abrams successfully piloted the Enterprise warp speed into box office takings of $258 million domestically and $128 million foreign. IMDB rates the prequel as 8/10 based on a number of mostly positive reviews, though not all are positive.
“It’s a fairly new direction, yet totally faithful to Trek where it needs to be: in spirit.”
“This is a movie with cutting edge special effects, but they serve more to frame the storyline and characters rather than to be the show entirely.”
“I’m afraid that this movie will eventually erase what we know about Star Trek… I hope fans will realize that shiny explosions and short skirts is not everything… BRING OUR STAR TREK BACK!!! BRING TNG, DS9 and VOY BACK!!!”
The reviews above may be indicative of how Star Wars Ep. VII will be received. The film will most certainly be a blockbuster, and will most certainly contain Abrams’ signature special effects, relying on some CGI and some puppets and models to balance out the old feel with computer animation that was largely seen as overused in the three Star Wars prequels. But there will also be the inevitable criticism by so-called “purist” fans.
Indeed, the original Star Wars trilogy has been altered many times to produce what is now considered the classic trilogy and its re-release over the years has continually added computer animation to “freshen up” the beloved classics, such as the explosion of the Death Star and a computer animated Jabba the Hut. Lucas’ evolution of the classics, however, was in great contrast to entirely CGI characters, such as Jar Jar Binks, who turned out to be “the most hated character in cinema.”
— Steven D. Brewer (@limako) September 6, 2015
Notwithstanding this analysis, news is spreading fast of fans’ woes concerning a gay character, the added two years to Princess Leia’s character and black Stormtroopers.
— Marc Smith (@PsychologyMarc) September 18, 2015
The backlash to the above changes has been challenged by the mainstream media, dividing opinion along the lines of political views regarding sexuality, perceived canon, continuity errors, and flat out racism. These issues are dismissed by the Star Wars creators and the media which describes such views at best as a misunderstanding of the development of franchise canon and at worst as intolerance and prejudice.
Irrespective of the controversy, it is clear that the reaction from the trailers of Star Wars VII are overwhelmingly positive, with optimism and “a new hope” for what was previously seen as a dead franchise, considering the underachievement of the trilogy prequels. For now, all we can do is watch the newest trailer in anticipation of the December 18, 2015 release date and know that a whole new generation of fans are likely to adopt their own idea of Star Wars purity.
[Image by Chung Sung-Jun /Getty Images]