Word is quickly flying around that TV producer/Star Trek director J.J. Abrams is all but set to direct the newest Star Wars film, Episode VII, currently being scribed by Toy Story 3/Little Miss Sunshine writer Michael Arndt. I have faith in Arndt’s ability to create a compelling story worthy of the lore (although that bar is pretty low at this point), but the idea of J.J. Abrams crossing the streams between Star Wars and Star Trek franchises, a dangerous kind of cross-pollination that shouldn’t exist amongst these fictional fiefdoms, is scary. Episode VII can only be less because of Abrams.
In many ways, this new Star Wars is a reboot of the franchise. Sure, it’s a continuation of the saga, post-Death Star 2, but following Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm last year, new films were christened when they had not previously existed with talent that had previously never been associated with the property. It’s a fantastic new idea that has its first black mark.
So let me explain my position a little: I really liked J.J. Abram’s more dramatic reboot of the Star Trek franchise. He took a franchise that had become this dull, bromidic mess and updated it to fit with the modern aesthetic. He made a thinking man’s Michael Bay film with enough lens flares and shaky cams to shock life not only Star Trek, but any future installments to follow.
But, then he showed us what that future was, and it was unimpressive. Blown out, over-stylized, full of explosions and an endless stock of CG… well, hold a second.
“N, you idiot, did you even see Episode I through III? [Yes, obviously.] All of that was CG! What are you complaining about?”
Yeah, and that made those films worse. There’s absolutely nothing about Abrams’ approach to filmmaking that leads me to believe that Star Wars won’t become this hyperkinetic, wam-bam-thank-you-ma’am actiln flick, which is the farthest thing from what Star Wars is. Star Wars is an adventure and, at its best, a character study. We see people like Han Solo help the Rebel Alliance at the last second. We see Luke embrace the Force, we see Anakin Skywalker become Darth Vader… well, maybe that to a lesser degree. As much as I enjoyed Abrams’ Star Trek, these classic characters were given just enough room to be near-comical portraits of their previous iterations, merely to prove the point that Abrams, Orci, and Kurtzman understood that universe. In a brighter move, Lucas even went after David Lynch to direct The Empire Strikes Back, a novice director who had distinct taste. We need new blood.
“N, you idiot, haven’t you seen Super 8? Abrams knows how to develop characters at a slower pace more appropriate of Star Wars!”
Why, yes I have, but the experience was a muted one. A story of a small town reacting to an extraterrestrial arrival is very interesting on paper, but simply failed to resonate. I remember a drunk father, a kid dealing with a missing parent, and some pretty uninteresting antagonists. That’s not really Abrams’ fault, but I can’t quite grasp his ability to move us through the characters, something that will be especially important for a Star Wars film where the characters are the entire story, whereas in Star Trek, the characters are merely participants in it.
There’s also my fear that this will create some kind of homogeneous gloop between two historically very different franchises. Sure, Abrams can mix it up, I get that he can be dynamic, but these are two ideologically different ideas. It’s how you can like one and not the other, they seek different objectives. In an era where popular films are becoming more and more similar and media companies are consolidating more and more, it’s scary to think that Star Wars could become something less and less distinct. Many would argue that the prequel trilogy did just that.
Do we really want to see a Star Wars sequel trilogy where that becomes more true?