If October's news about Disney's Lucasfilm buyout wasn't exciting enough, then yesterday's did the trick. Despite initial signs pointing against it, J.J. Abrams will direct Star Wars: Episode VII. The Internet is abuzz, fans are debating and Disney is going to break the bank.
Money aside for a few moments, this writer finds himself in a fan's dilemma. There are a lot of Star Wars fans out there. There are also a lot of Star Trek fans. But there aren't nearly as many of us who are fans of *both*--at least not at the level I was growing up (and probably still am in some ways). No two series combined had as much influence on me as a child. It took the maturing years to begin to understand why the fan bases of each despise one another--and it still baffles me. Good fiction should be praised, not become the catalyst for division.
Granted, the Trek franchise had plenty of low points in the years after creator Gene Roddenberry passed away (and arguably one or two before that) while the Wars prequels didn't satisfy fans in the way everyone hoped. Although, as our own Phil Contrino notes, that didn't stop many (ahem, me) from seeing them several times in theaters. As audiences, fans, or critics, we sometimes have to admit when our lofty expectations are unrealistic just as often as we have to admit when the material itself stumbles.
I've never found myself at odds between these two series before. Both have strengthened imaginations and striven to be *about* something. That can't be said for a lot of movies (or entertainment in general) anymore. But like many today, I have to wonder: can one man successfully shepherd these two series into an era where fans and general audiences begin to forget the differences between them? Is it a good thing if they do?
Initially, there's a fear of either one losing what some fans consider to make them great. At their conception, Star Wars and Star Trek were quite different from one another. The former lent itself more toward fantasy while the latter took a more strictly scientific approach. But at the end of the day, character is what matters. Story matters. Without figures like Luke Skywalker or James T. Kirk, these universes would feel shallow. The packaging is secondary so long as those two elements are driving them, and Abrams has proven that he knows how to accomplish that. Moreover, on paper, both series are about the exploration of imagination. They've always shared that much in common.
The image of Star Trek has changed, and even under the watchful eyes of Disney it's a safe bet that Abrams will be allowed to bring his personal flair to Star Wars (as he needs to). Can one director successfully revitalize both sci-fi behemoths? Over the next few years, fans will argue that he's cashing in, or that his eyes are too big for his creative stomach, or that he'll litter the Star Wars universe with lens flares every time a character uses The Force.
It's all conjecture. Not everyone agrees on everything, and no film or filmmaker is perfect. As a fan of both series, where a dilemma is caused by concern that Abrams risks spreading himself creatively thin, my confidence comes from the fact that he's done this before. Twice. Before Star Trek, he revitalized the Mission: Impossible franchise (directing the third installment) and kept it on a true path in between directing two Star Trek movies (plus Super 8) by producing the fourth film behind well-selected directorial and writing talent. That's a very good sign for worried Trek fans out there.
For Star Wars fans, the potential that highly regarded composer--and frequent Abrams collaborator--Michael Giacchino may have a chance to step into John Williams' legendary musical shoes is an exciting prospect.
My lone opinion may not change anyone else's, but for once, wouldn't it be a joy to see fans come together behind these two series over the next few years? After all, it may be hard for some to imagine how both universes can exist through the eyes of the same man. But like the franchises J.J. Abrams has boldly taken on, imagination is what will continue to make them work.
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