Sunday, 27 January 2013

Why We Shouldn't Blame JJ



(Sigh.) So the dust is still blowing in the wind as the world comes to terms with the fact that JJ Abrams is to direct Star Wars Episode VII. Of course this left Trekdom up in arms seeing as he's the crowned saviour of the franchise and has been since 2009's reboot. How could he do it? How could the person who gave Star Trek A New Hope(!) defect to the darker side?

The simple answer would be cold, hard cash and the fact that JJ has openly admitted that he is a much bigger Star Wars fan than he is a Star Trek fan. Dummies have been spat out, anger has been vented at this apparent defection but hey; can we really blame him?

Abrams has been responsible for Lost, CloverfieldSuper 8, reviving Trek (and Alcatraz cough, cough) so he would be the obvious choice. He loves his sci-fi/fantasy and 99% of it turns to gold. I can imagine it wasn't the hardest choice in the world and now he has control over the futures of the two biggest franchises in that genre. For decades these two have been at war; their battles spreading to many memes, Fisher vs Shatner on Twitter...but really, who cares? He wants to do this and I'm sure all these internet blowouts are just like water off a duck's back and come on, you've got to be a bit jealous that he gets to play with BOTH franchises?

Now before we go any further I have to declare myself firmly in the Trek camp and initially when I heard the news I was pretty gutted. I have a fairly large Trek collection but there is a place in my home for a Star Wars Lego collection. It did feel like two fingers being waved and I hadn't been this disappointed since the Enterprise finale. However after a couple of days dealing with the rumours and the official announcement that JJ is directing Episode VII I think I can live with it. Even Star Wars fans have to admit that the prequels were substandard and I'm not going to shy away from the fact that the latter end of Trek's film series were less than spectacular. The Clone Wars TV series has been a success and Abrams has something to build on, luckily with Lucas only on board as a creative consultant who has provided (importantly) only treatments of the three sequels to the original trilogy. 

Star Wars has made a fat lot more money in a much shorter period of time than Roddenberry's creation and that's not something to snigger at. I have included the excellent infographic here to demonstrate - of course all figures and facts can be swayed but the numbers speak for themselves. There's a billion dollar difference at the box office in the UK and a THREE billion dollar deficit worldwide for Star Trek. Mark my word, JJ hasn't been dumb here.  He holds the ultimate keys to fictional power now and I for one can't wait to see how he reboots the movie Star Wars universe. We can be pretty certain it'll all fit in and there won't be any resets or sideways universes. Let's just hope this amazing success and fortune doesn't go to his head and we get less Empire Strikes Back and more Phantom Menace. However lest we forget that Lucas did a deal with the cinematic devil or as we like to call it, Disney.

That's something that you might not have remembered - two massive Star Wars stories in a matter of months which means that, because of the first one, JJ Abrams is going to be directing a movie for the House of Mouse. Who could have seen that coming a year ago? Then again without that kind of backing and input would there even be Episodes VII, VIII and IX on the boards plus a plethora of other films and media that has been rumoured to be coming on the back of the announcement. Don't forget as well that Lawrence Kasdan who was prominent in the making of the original films (having written Empire and Jedi) as well as George Lucas will be involved in the new movies. No doubt to keep the train of thought pure with the vision of the series. Notably JJ was pretty much given free reign by Disney rivals Paramount when he stripped Star Trek back to basics a few years ago.

Star Trek began life with a second start in 1966 and has never had a life of smooth running - cancellation, dropping box office takings and an inconsistent prequel series. Books and spin off material has varied from being canon to being totally irrelevant to continuity while it's "rival" has kept its material canon pretty much all the way through since 1977. Question is, will the new director be paying much attention or are we going to get the JJ vision of how this universe has evolved since the closing credits and Ewok songs of The Return of the Jedi? His work with Trek has been outstanding and brought it back from the brink with a stunning film and now a sequel that looks just as, if not better. Star Wars on the other hand hasn't fallen so far and it's popularity is far larger as the stats here belay. Working fandom up into a frenzy for Episode VII won't take a lot but then there's no "disturbing lack of faith" to work on. It's there to be built on and not from the ashes. The Star Trek reboot could have been a disaster but it wasn't so surely Trekkers and Trekkies alike should be more than happy to share their saviour apparent with the "enemy" - after all we'll get to keep him at least as a producer on future installments and with the hype over Star Trek Into Darkness, that could be for some time.

Let's bring this to a rambling conclusion - both franchises are now in very, very safe hands but what we MUST hope is that one doesn't suffer because of the other. Be wise, JJ for you could well rack off at least 10 million people on Facebook if you get this all wrong and both Kirk and Skywalker go down the pan.

Anyway, anyway, anyway. I look forward to seeing the results of Abrams work both this year with the Star Trek sequel and 2015 for the Star Wars re-ignition. I think that's really all we can say for now.  It's not that bad. It does feel like he is in command of everything but I think we can be assured the two will be kept separate however they might have some familiar touches in the next round. That will certainly be something worth looking out for. As a Trek fan I'm sad to see his resource split and to something that he openly admits he likes more, but from a sci-fi/fantasy perspective this can only be just about the best news you could want - and it does mean we can virtually guarantee that we will be seeing the next Star Wars episode in cinemas in just TWO years time.

May the Needs of the Force; or the One, be with You