J.J. Abrams Beyond the Mystery Box on Hyperspace Theories Episode Four

Little pieces of official information about Star Wars: The Force Awakens are slowly beginning to be revealed. But that doesn’t slow us down one bit on Hyperspace Theories!

We continue our discussion of the foundations of Star Wars storytelling in the first segment. This month we consider the influence of J.J. Abrams, the director and co-screenwriter of The Force Awakens. Just as Kathleen Kennedy was handpicked by George Lucas to lead Lucasfilm, Abrams was handpicked by Kennedy to take leadership over the company’s most important project in decades, Episode VII. The stakes are undeniable, with the project in the eye of no less than Disney CEO Bob Iger. On December 10 at a Dealmaker’s Breakfast sponsored by Variety, Iger remarked:

“I keep telling J.J. Abrams this is a $4 billion movie,” Iger said, in reference to the Lucasfilm deal, not the actual budget of the film. “We need to treat this very special. It’s an unbelievable privilege and unbelievable responsibility to take a jewel and treat it in a way that is respectful of its past but brings it into the future.”

In assessing Abrams’ perspective on storytelling we talk about his early work for television, such as Felicity and Alias, as well as more recent projects like Lost, Undercovers, and Fringe, and his feature films including Mission Impossible 3, Super 8, and the two Star Trek movies. Of course we also discuss his 2007 TED talk about the infamous Mystery Box view of storytelling.

Since our last show reacting to the reveal of the first teaser trailer for The Force Awakens, fans learned a bit more about the movie, too: the names of several major characters. The topic of character names therefore was the natural fit for the Hyperspace Calculations segment on world-building. Selecting names is a key part of any storyteller’s task, including having the right sound and the right “fit” for the character, any symbolic meaning or word-origin connotation that might be attached to the name, and the need for the character names to work coherently together within the story. With those factors in mind we give our initial thoughts about the names for Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron, Kylo Ren, and BB-8.

In the Storytelling segment we continue our conversation about a protagonist’s story arc. This month we consider some of the other stories that have made a major impact in recent years, and how the character arcs in those stories might influence the creators of Star Wars. For example, Harry Potter, the Hunger Games franchise, and Marvel’s cinematic universe have challenged traditional story arcs.

As usual we conclude with our Plot Bunny Giveaway, this time based on the character names from The Force Awakens.

You can also listen to Hyperspace Theories at Libsyn or download the show there. Or subscribe on iTunes.

Tricia is @FANgirlcantina on Twitter, as well as posting at FANgirl Zone on Facebook and on Tumblr.

Kay tweets @Geek_Kay.