It’s been well-chronicled that director J.J. Abrams was initially hesitant to take the reins of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so when he finally decided to take the gig, he turned to the giants for inspiration.
In a fascinating feature in the print edition of Empire (well worth a read, by the way), Abrams touched on the films he put on his watch list before stepping behind the camera. Though he surely rewatched the original trilogy, Abrams also popped in some of John Ford’s legendary westerns (a nice move, considering the seat-of-the-pants action of the original films) plus a few of Terrence Malick’s cinema classics.
Here’s an excerpt from Empire’s report where they break down the influences:
Before he started The Force Awakens, Abrams watched some movies. No, not those ones, Other ones. He looked at “the confidence” of John Ford Westerns. He took in the “unbelievable scene choreography and composition” of Kurosawa’s High and Low. And he studied “the powerful stillness” of Terrence Malick. “It’s not something I would normally have thought of coming to Star Wars,” he says. The spare visual style of Ford, Kurosawa and Malick points to a key mandate for Abrams’ approach to Episode VII: the distinctive less-is-more quality of the originals.
Wow. Gotta respect Abrams’ ambition. Knowing some of the films he looked to for inspiration, it’ll be interesting to see what visual cues might’ve carried over, amid all the sci-fi spectacle and lightsaber battles, of course. Hey, he already dropped the lens flare — so it seems J.J. is definitely on the right track.