Yesterday’s document dump of Star Wars: Episode VII concept art represents the latest — and greatest — disturbance in the Force since the J.J. Abrams franchise re-starter commenced shooting in the spring. We’ve seen other leaked images from the Episode VII set, including those Millennium Falcon shots that TMZ posted in June, or the aerial photographs (accidentally captured) of the crew shooting at a former air force base in England. These new shots should not leave us feeling any different.
And yet, somehow, they do. Those examples provided just brief glimpses into what might be happening on the ground. This latest batch of artwork potentially reveals major plot points for Episode VII,as well as background details on what’s been happening in this galaxy since Luke, Han and Leia partied with the Ewoks at the close of Return of the Jedi. Of course, Lucasfilm hasn’t officially confirmed the authenticity of these sketches, so they could be rendered as moot to official continuity as all that takes place in the Expanded Universe. Regardless, because of the sensitive (and illegal) nature of the material, we’ll abstain from linking to the artwork, preferring to see it blown up to big screen size in a year rather than on the page now.
JJ Abrams hosted an official 'Episode VII' first look in May
Curiosity about what Abrams is up to with Episode VII is natural and even encouraged. After all, the snooze-inducing prequel trilogy was so reviled that it’s great to hear any excitement surrounding Star Wars' imminent return to the big-screen. And Abrams has done a nice job stoking that excitement through cryptic photos,and just-shy-of-spoiler-y videos. No doubt learning from his Star Trek Into Darkness experience, the director-Mystery Box aficionado has maintained a firmer grasp on this movie’s messaging, carefully avoiding issuing any denials about which Star Wars characters are involved (or, perhaps more significantly, who is not involved) and, in general, putting a smiley face on all the secrecy. With Into Darkness, it always felt like he had something to hide. Here, it’s more like he genuinely wants to protect Episode VII's surprises to ensure they land with maximum impact when the movie hits theaters on December 18, 2015.
There’s no need to pity Abrams, who will be (very) well paid to live out the ultimate fanboy dream of playing in a full-scale Star Wars sandbox. But it feels like we’ve arrived at the saturation point for unofficial Episode VII leaks and speculation. A batch of out-of-context concept images (and commentary explaining what those images could potentially mean) doesn’t stoke anticipation for what’s to come, as much as it makes us numb for the movie we’ll eventually get. Spending all your time trying to guess what’s in Abrams’s head will inevitably result in disappointment when measured against what he actually delivers.
George Lucas and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) share a moment on the Tatooine set
One of the reasons the original Star Wars succeeded way back in 1977 was because it caught audiences off guard. Though the movie was teased in sci-fi fan circles (including a presentation for a handful of geeks at the then-six-year-old San Diego Comic Con), nobody was looking over George Lucas’s shoulder guessing at the destruction of Alderaan as he was shooting the scene. He had the room to discover the movie as he made it, both on the set, and later, in the editing room. Which is good, because the first cuts of Star Wars were legendarily terrible. Since Abrams is inheriting the franchise and setting it up for the post-Lucas era — a stretch of films that will involve such young talents as Rian Johnson, Gareth Edwards and Josh Trank — it’s only fair that he be afforded the same leeway. By all means, be excited for Star Wars's future. Just don't spoil it for the rest of us in the present.
*This post has been corrected since its original publication.