So, old JJ Abrams has done it again – and I couldn’t be angrier. If you’ve just spent the last month or so on Tatooine, allow me to break the bad news to you; JJ Abrams (the Star Trek reboot, Lost, et cetera) is attached to direct the 7th film in the Star Wars franchise (the one being produced by Disney after their $4billion purchase of the saga late last year). Well, forgive me for being somewhat sceptical about the alleged saviour of sci-fi. Because, looking at his career, there are certain concerns that not even Obi Wan can help us with.
1. He never finishes anything
Having worked with the likes of Jerry Bruckheimer, Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay before reaching his mid thirties, Abrams is the classic Hollywood success tale writ large. His frantic schedule has had him involved in dozens of film and television projects in recent years, all the way from Felicity right up until the recent conclusion of Fringe, and one theme is very dominant. He never sees anything (barring individual films) through to fruition; Abrams simply cannot stay committed to a long term project. First it was Felicity that led to the inspiration for Alias, and then as Alias started circling the shark pit he crashed into Lost. Then he jumped over to cinema, made the brooding (if overblown) MI:3, and later this year he will be doing the rounds promoting Star Trek: Into the Darkness of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Eyes (not forgetting Cloverfield, Super8, Revolution, Alcatraz, Person of Interest and Ghost Protocol).
And now it’s been announced that he will return to Star Trek 3 only to produce, so that he can concentrate on Star Wars VII (are they seriously going to call it Star Wars VII? Wasn’t that a joke in a really old episode of The Simpsons?). Say what you will about the prequel trilogy, at least George Lucas was committed to his awful vision, wooden dialogue and shiny computer generated tomfoolery. At least he took the story from start to finish. I just don’t think that JJ will be able to take the sequel trilogy to (what I do secretly hope will be) a wonderful climax for the entire ennealogy (Google it, it’s a real word, I swear).
2. He sacrifices the substance of a story in the telling
One of the many, criticisms of the prequel trilogy was its rather pedestrian cinematography and visuals. Now this should not be too much of a concern with Abrams, as his filmography so far includes some pretty impressive work. Let’s look at the evidence in his favour – Star Trek was a visual tour de force (my retinas should heal in time for the sequel), Cloverfield updated the monster movie for the Halo generation, and even his TV efforts have some nice touches (check out any episode of Alias he directed).
But let’s be honest here; he really only paid lip service to the ethos of Trek, which is peaceful resolution of conflict – not blowing the enemy to smithereens while their crippled ship gets sucked into a black hole. It’s some crisp imagery, but it’s not Trek, my friends – Trek is about co-operation and forging a brighter tomorrow, in the same way that Star Wars is about the importance of family (insert mandatory incest joke here). Abrams overlooks the defining themes in Star Trek in favour of exciting visuals and a clever, if ultimately heartless, time travel plot device to link his Star Trek with the existing canon without incurring the wrath of an entire third of the internet. Who’s to say he won’t pull the same trick again?
3. He’s too much of a geek
Can we really trust someone who works on both Star Trek and Star Wars? I mean apart from actors, whose opinions don’t count for much. You can’t have a Communist Nazi, and you can’t have a Star Trek/Star Wars fan (not a purist at any rate) who would get heavily involved with the making of both. The internet is built mostly on pornography, conspiracy theories and fan-boy debates about whether Spock could Vulcan death grip Darth Vader. Having an individual fuel one of these juggernauts of pop culture is enough, but if Abrams becomes the mastermind behind both franchises, it risks sci-fi becoming synonymous with him, and denies the chance for new creative individuals to emerge on the scene.
Given its popularity, it’s easy to forget that Star Wars (1977, that is) was an indie film – unknown leads, a little-known director and a plot that was a tribute to the 1950s Flash Gordon era of sci-fi. Abrams taking over completely would be stifling, and would lead to a generation who will struggle to produce quality speculative fiction because their dreams will be filled with a Han Solo and a Captain Kirk who are both drawn from the same individual.
Well, I suppose there’s always Joss Whedon…
Written by Samson Fowler