When the news reached this parish that Michael Arndt was writing Star Wars VII, we were excited that such a talent would be training his telescope on a galaxy far, far away and telling us of the epic adventures he spied there. After all, this is a man who has a screenwriting Oscar on his mantelpiece for Little Miss Sunshine. This is the man who played with toys and made more than a billion dollars (Toy Story 3). His credentials don’t come much better. That’s why I’m personally disappointed that he has left the Star Wars project. He has been replaced with JJ Abrams (the director) and Lawrence Kasdan (the producer).
I am very excited about the story we have in place and thrilled to have Larry and JJ working on the script. There are very few people who fundamentally understand the way a Star Wars story works like Larry, and it is nothing short of incredible to have him even more deeply involved in its return to the big screen. JJ of course is an incredible storyteller in his own right. Michael Arndt has done a terrific job bringing us to this point and we have an amazing filmmaking and design team in place already prepping for production – Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy
Now don’t get me wrong, I think JJ is a good director – he revitalised the Star Trek franchise and his other work has marked him out as the closest thing to Spielberg apart from the man himself. But scripting is not his strongest point. He works best as a collaborator on ideas. That’s why Kasdan will be hammering at a keyboard alongside him. Again, don’t get me wrong, Kasdan is Star Wars gold – he penned The Empire Strikes Back as well as Raiders of the Lost Ark, for God’s sake. However, both of those films are over 30 years old; Kasdan hasn’t reached such heights since.
When The Phantom Menace was released, one of the major criticisms was that George Lucas had written it himself and not hired some heavyweight scripter to lend a hand. With the Arndt move, it could have been that he laid the groundwork for the next trilogy and the producers were moving on to the next phase, but now that Abrams has decided to write it himself tells me that he was unhappy with the way the script was progressing (too much talking? too many close-ups? too quirky? did his script suit Lego versions of the characters?).
I was looking forward to seeing Han, Luke and Leia speaking Arndt’s words, brimming with character and intelligence; dialogue driving the plot.
Right now this ship has been delivered a blow and may struggle to make the Kessel Run.