The great thing about taking over the Star Wars franchise from George Lucas is that it will be virtually impossible for J.J. Abrams to be criticized for the title to his 2015 sequel. Not after The Phantom Menace and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Now that the core cast has been announced, attention has shifted to what the film will be called, and Harry Knowles at Ain’t It Cool is confident that the working title is Star Wars: Episode VII – The Ancient Fear. Reportedly, the title “refers to Max Von Sydow’s villain who makes Pazuzu look like a p—y!” – Pazuzu being the demon that Von Sydow’s priest battled in The Exorcist.
First off, the two key words are “working title.” Older folks might recall that Return of the Jedi operated under the title Blue Harvest – if only to keep the plot under wraps. And Abrams himself referred to his 2009 Star Trek reboot as Corporate Headquarters during production to throw spies off his scent. Now, the Internazzi has the smell of Fear – unintentional hat-tip to the second-and-a-half Naked Gun movie.
That said, The Ancient Fear sort of rings true. It sounds conceivable and fits within the franchise’s tradition of three- or four-word titles. As for Von Sydow playing a Star Wars villain more frightening than anything from The Exorcist, let’s chalk that up as nothing more than bloviating hyperbole rather than asshat blasphemy. I mean, Darth Vader was intimidating, but I never hid my face in my hands as he choked an insolent underling with the Force like I did with a possessed Regan. Star Wars villainy – Count Dooku, Palpatine, Darth Maul – doesn’t typically keep children up at night. That’s a low bar for Abrams to clear, one that easily could help differentiate his sequel from Lucas’ movies: give our heroes a truly terrifying antagonist.
LucasFilm and Disney didn’t respond to the online reports, and I suspect they’re happy to let The Ancient Fear get bounced around the internet, as a trial balloon of sorts. Who are we to not play along?