In 2009, J.J. Abrams took the grand old ship that was the U.S.S. Enterprise and made her a sexy, greased-lightning hot-rod, installing faster action, jettisoning technobabble and providing what was ultimately a more accessible experience than anyone had ever seen before in a Star Trek film.
Purists (like myself) love to hmm-and-haw about the sacrificial lamb that was Trek’s greater ability to examine and debate larger concepts surrounding the human condition (it wasn’t really a Star “Trek”…they didn’t really explore anything, they just shot a lot of photon torpedoes) but the brass tax of the matter is that J.J. Abrams took a worn-out franchise beaten down by time and lethargy and managed to re-energise (heh) it into something that could make three-quarters of a billion dollars. It has to be said though that coming out of Star Trek in 2009, my first reaction was that it was far more of a Star Wars film (where the emphasis is on action, adventure and special effects rather than the thinking-man’s science fiction of Star Trek).
And yet, I really like Abrams’ Star Trek. It supercharges the macho bravado and lady-killing mischievousness of Captain James T. Kirk, the emotionless turmoil within Commander Spock and the ever-lovable curmudgeonliness of Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy. It functions best as an action-packed superhero movie rather than anything resembling science fiction, but there’s nothing really wrong with that – some of my favourite films are superhero movies. It is with this mindset that I eagerly anticipate this Summer’s sequel Star Trek: Into Darkness directed again by Abrams, with everyone’s favourite Baker St. detective Benedict Cumberbatch as the cryptically identified villain ‘John Harrison’.
Last year Disney ruled the world with The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble as it was released here, to avoid confusion with a 1960s BBC series and a dreadful Sean Connery film made about it) after acquiring Marvel Entertainment for the paltry sum of a billion dollars and change. Quite recently they have decided they’re not content with only one mega-franchise dominating the interest of boys aged 15-35, so they’ve also bought out Lucasfilm and own every last speck of Star Wars now as well, right down to Jar Jar Binks. Unsurprisingly, they threw a new trilogy (as well as simultaneous ‘spinoff movies’) into production. For a few weeks there were rumours aplenty regarding the identity of the person responsible for shepherding this new trilogy to success, but last week it was revealed that this person was none other than J.J. Abrams himself – essentially crossing over to the other side, sleeping with the enemy as it were.
If you didn’t already know – ‘Star Wars -v- Star Trek’ is a hotly-debated topic amongst neckbearded nerds the world over and much has been made about the fact that such an influential part of one franchise is now crossing over. Some feel that with Abrams spearheading both the Millennium Falcon and the Starship Enterprise that this will bring forward an era of harmony between geeks while others believe there’s no way Abrams will stay with Trek now that he’s working for the far more lucrative Disney in what is essentially a rival franchise. Comments from the two productions seem to contradict each other so there’s no clear way of knowing what’s going to happen.
While it would be a shame to see Abrams leave Star Trek, there’s no doubting the fact that he is unquestionably better suited to Star Wars. He even proclaimed as much while working on the 2009 film (he’s never seen an episode of any of the other incarnations of Star Trek beyond the Original Series). And while this summer’s Into Darkness looks certainly spectacular, does it look so deeply directorially reliant on the return of Abrams? I don’t think so. There’s no reason a new director can’t sit in the Captain’s seat following the assumed departure of Abrams in favour of a galaxy far, far away.
Ultimately, this ‘Star Crisis’ as it were is actually providing a unique form of synergy for the two franchises – both Wars and Trek will have films (and hopefully more TV series) for years to come and the billions they generate will ensure their companies pay close attention to a consistent level of quality and output (we don’t need to see Spock’s half-brother Sybok or Jar-Jar Binks ever again). Live long and may the Force prosper with you.
Rob Ó Conchúir