Reel Talk: Abrams fuels war of the nerds

February 21, 2013

Despite Star Wars fans’ best efforts, a Disney-owned sequel to the franchise is in the works. Still, the situation could be worse. George Lucas has abdicated his tyrannical control, Lawrence Kasdan, the co-writer of Episode V and VI, has been brought on board as a creative consultant, and J.J. Abrams has agreed to direct.

Wait, J.J. Abrams—the dude that directed Star Trek—is directing Star Wars: Episode VII?  That’s some ninth circle of hell shit. Putting the two most fanatically followed sci-fi franchises into the hands of a single filmmaker is dumbfounding, considering the huge pool of talented sci-fi oriented directors capable of overcoming Star Wars’ Episode I-III slump. And considering the animosity rampant in the Star Wars/Star Trek rivalry, the move comes off as more than idiotic—it’s straight up heretical.

Okay, Star Trek was a pretty good film. Entertaining to Trekkies and laymen alike, the Abrams-directed film managed to successfully reboot the Star Trek universe with its fresh cast, captivating plot, and impressive special effects. So, the people in charge of producing the next Star Wars started taking notes, realizing that the only thing larger than the box office numbers for Episodes I-III were the unquantifiable number of rants aimed at George Lucas’s transformation into the maniacal manipulator of a sacred franchise. Star Wars VII’s main goal became avoiding the infuriating reactions provoked by The Phantom Menace and its two equally shitty sequels

In the meantime, Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012, spurring the production cycle for the next Star Wars cycle. The deal was met with mixed public sentiments—Lucas haters responded with “after Lucas’s irreversible damage, Disney couldn’t make it any worse,” and less invested fans probably saw Disney’s purchase as a guarantee of quality entertainment for future Star Wars sequels.

As Disney began to prepare the foundation for Star Wars VII, intense fan speculation began as to who would direct this colossal movie event. Rumored considerations for the part included Jon Favreau (Iron Man), Gary Ross (The Hunger Games), Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class), and even Ben Affleck. Some other unlikely but interesting potential candidates ranged from Duncan Jones (Moon) to David Fincher (The Social Network, Seven, Fight Club). But instead of merely mimicking Star Trek’s move to a fresh new director, Disney decided to straight-up copy its rival by signing on Abrams.

This move is caustic to both Star Wars and Star Trek. Having one director in charge of two disparate sci-fi universes runs the risk of overlapping tropes and styles, not to mention giving two traditionally competing franchises similar tones and themes. And if anything, the fanboys behind this franchises pride themselves on what separates them from each other; a common director may not necessarily remove all of these disparities, but the differences between the two will begin to erode both stylistically and thematically.

This is only speculation, but Abrams has not shown much range in his styles and themes—we’re talking about the director of Super 8 and two Star Trek movies (he also produced Cloverfield and co-wrote Armageddon—the guy has a propensity to work on sci-fi movies involving aliens, as long as you count Steve Buscemi for the last one).But enough with the ranting. Abrams did a fine job with Star Trek, and the sequel looks pretty good.

With Abrams directing, the worst case scenario for Star Wars VII is an extremely entertaining popcorn movie. At best, he could restore George Lucas’s detractors’ hopes with a philosophical, well-acted/written sci-fi masterpiece. And you can’t forget Disney’s new presence in the franchise, a potential booster for special effects and overall quality control. Seriously, as long as the movie doesn’t transform into a Jar Jar Binks sitcom, it has all the makings for a solid Star Wars sequel. Wait a minute—what if J.J. is short for Jar Jar? Then we’re all fucked.


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