A Trekkie on why J.J. Abrams Is Good for Star Wars

220px-J.J._Abrams_by_David_ShankboneNow that the official confirmation has come down from on high, Bria and I have made an executive decision: Brian and Nanci are never allowed to go on vacation again. We are simply not equipped to deal with breaking news.

That said, this analysis probably would have been my responsibility anyway. Being one of the resident Trekkies on staff, I’m in the position to pick apart how J.J. Abrams performs when given an existing sci-fi franchise, and personally, I feel rather optimistic about this turn of events.

Sure, there are plenty of jokes about shaky camera shots and lens flares out there right now (Abrams did admit the lens flares in Star Trek were ridiculous), the fact that the Enterprise looked like an Apple Store, etc., etc., etc. People have been groaning about this quite a bit on Twitter, but I think I can put this to rest with my first optimistic point.

1. This isn’t a reboot. It’s a continuation.

Abrams isn’t starting from scratch. He doesn’t have to put together a new universe. In fact, if there’s one thing we’ve noticed about the Star Wars universe over the course of the prequels and the original trilogy, it’s that the technology doesn’t substantially change. Abrams has a lot of possibility to show creativity here, but the essence of the Star Wars universe will stay the same-has to, in fact, if any continuity is going to be held between the first six episodes and the last three.

2. Abrams was extremely respectful of the Star Trek franchise.

Abrams is, by his own admission, not a Trekkie. He’s a Star Wars guy, through and through. And yet…

For those of you not up on 40+ years of Star Trek, there is a prime continuity, established by the five television series and previous movies. Trekkies were very worried what the reboot would mean for that continuity, because unlike Star Wars, Star Trek has very clear canon level continuity lines. To have all of those years simply thrown out would have been devastating.

What happened in the 2009 Star Trek was the creation of a new continuity–an alternate universe that even crossed over with prime continuity. Not only was it an explanation that allowed the reboot, it was a quintessentially Trek explanation, complete with Treknobabble, Leonard Nimoy, and a CostCo size bubble of red matter that preserved everything Trek fans had cherished since the sixties.

And it did it with respect.

3. Abrams can do philosophical stuff.

Okay, granted, I only made it through one season of Lost, and most of the last season of Alias didn’t make any sense at all. But one of my husband’s complaints about the 2009 Star Trek movie was that it became “a big dumb action movie.”

But we know Abrams is capable of doing that kind of stuff, and we know he has Michael Arndt behind him as a writer to help take up the slack.

4. Abrams is a Star Wars guy.

If there is a reason that the 2009 Star Trek movie became “a big dumb action movie,” I think it might be because Abrams didn’t have as good a grasp on Star Trek. He wasn’t a Trekkie when he made the movie, and while he had respect for Gene Roddenberry and the franchise, what makes a Star Trek movie a Star Trek movie wasn’t there. (What makes a Star Trek movie a Star Trek movie? Knowing that the crew is a family.)

In fact, Star Trek felt more like…well, Star Wars. A group of unlikely heroes get together and save the galaxy. Sound familiar?

Abrams loves Star Wars. And personally, putting a franchise into the hands of someone who loves it sounds like the best possible decision anyone could make.

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6 thoughts on “A Trekkie on why J.J. Abrams Is Good for Star Wars

  1. I was really worried about this announcement because, as a Trekkie, I didn't feel that the 2009 Star Trek was very good. Sure it was an okay, even mostly entertaining, movie. But like you said it was missing the essence of Trek. It would have been a total disaster without those elements he did do right, so I'm not without praise for the job he did, but as someone who calls the movie iTrek I was left feeling like the franchise I love was now over. Not just "no shows currently being made" over but "It's dead, Jim." over.

    Star Trek was never about making money and I still feel like that was the only point to that movie (and the looming sequel *enter The Simpson's Star Trek XII clip here*) being made.

    When it comes to Star Wars though there is a lot more leeway for money making being part of the deal without necessarily changing the movie itself. Being a fan who isn't inherently a follower of the extra-universe (don't even know the term) versions of the franchise I can't comment on how a new set of movies will change the landscape of things in that regard however, after reading your points, I feel less concerned now that J.J. Abrams is a bad choice.

    Only time will tell though whether the Force is with him (kinda felt obligated to say that).

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  3. I agree with Brian and your husband - as much as I liked the Star Trek movie, it wasn't intellectually engaging Trek. Star Wars also is about much more than just action. Lucas engages with important philosophical and mythological themes, such as "man vs. machine" or the difference between good and evil. Say what you will about the prequels, Anakin's fall to the Dark Side raises some fascinating moral questions (of course, Stover's novelization helps).

    So far, I haven't seen any evidence that Abrams is as much a student of the human condition as Lucas was. Star Trek and Super 8 were both rich in special effects and characters, but poor in themes. I believe Abrams only directed the pilot of Lost, so I don't really know how much it reflects Abrams (I haven't watched Alias, so I can't comment).

    I hope that, with Lucas writing the story treatment, Lucas will have enough opportunity to push the story into more interesting directions. However, I would be interested in learning more about Abrams' background though so if anybody knows anything please let me know!

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