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STEP THROUGH THE sleek, anonymous metal door of J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions and you enter a world of memorabilia—the murderous Talky Tina doll from The Twilight Zone, rows of old VHS tapes labeled “Midnight Movies,” a Six Million Dollar Man board game, assorted Godzillas. But if you look closely (we looked closely) you will see a meticulousness to the madness: The props and tchotchkes are all dust-free and carefully arranged. Those vintage 1970s Star Trek action figures aren’t just sitting there. They’re posed. This stuff is well loved. It’s clear that in addition to being one of the most gifted movie directors in the world, somehow the heir apparent to both Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, Abrams is also a superfan.
That puts him in a precarious situation. He has inherited the one megafranchise to rule them all. Sure, this won’t be the first time Abrams resurrects a beloved Enterprise. But … this is the saga. It’s one of the things that invented modern superfandom. And this is no reboot. With The Force Awakens, Abrams is marshaling the same actors, writers, designers, and even the same composer to reanimate the characters and themes that made the original Star Wars into, well, Star Wars. He loves those movies as much as you or any of your laser-brained friends do. But when he first met those movies he was just an apprentice. Now he must become the master.
No pressure, right? After all, the stakes are merely the future of the franchise that made Abrams a filmmaker; a mythology held precious by millions of people for four decades; and, oh, right, billions and billions of dollars in movies and merch over the next half century (at least). I sat down with Abrams to ask him about balancing these competing (ahem) forces to tell an epic story from a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away. The lightsabers are drawn; the coordinates for the jump to hyperspace are calculated. Can Abrams do it? Well, you know what Yoda said about merely trying.