Monday, May 20, 2013


J.J. Abrams thinking. Because he's smart.
In today's Globe and Mail, writer Chris Lackner (here) analyzes the two biggest 'space movie franchises in the whole universe' (psst, Star Trek and Star Wars), and whether they should or could happily coexist, especially with the same person as the astrogator: J.J. Abrams, in my opinion, has a habit of throwing everything at the wall -- called "complexity" in some corners -- and takes credit and comes up roses for the good stuff that sticks.

Is the director the right person for both jobs? Should he be putting his own stamp on two different 'stories'? It's a question being asked in every bar... I mean, McDonald's, right now. Admittedly it's a fun debate for some, as long as it does not detract from day-to-day life.

Lackner interviews several key people on the interstellar issues of Star Wars and Star Trek, and the author's analysis goes beyond the usual "is, so"... "is, too". There is a greater concern: Both items of their respective times came out in their respective times. It's a loopy improper, perhaps, but I'm trying to sound like one of the guys ("there are girls?"). Star Trek was born in a period of great social unrest and strife in the United States of America and continued, and exploded, in syndication as this "strife" kept on renewing. The series' placement in a time and place was key to its ultimate resonance. Star Wars was a reaction to the morosity of early-mid 1970s Hollywood film, and social unrest. This was not deliberate or pre-planned so much as the force of George Lucas realizing that fun Saturday Matinee films were a thing of the past -- but which had a place, in his eyes, in the modern world. Consciously or unconsciously, Star Wars was, in simple and general movie-going terms, a nice surprise. Other movies didn't suck (oh, Annie Hall; yes, Annie Hall), but there was room for a movie of grand release.

Therefore the big question is an important one: Can we get in a knot over what direction Star Trek and Star Wars might take in the future? Times have changed, a populist director is trusted to take some liberties -- whatever that means -- with the material. Why can't we take a fresh route? Expectations are perhaps a big bug in the ointment of creativity. I've never bought this "one must respect the fans" crap. Yes, those fans spend a lot of money on their love (the inanimate kind, of course... what else would there be?), but there are whole other worlds and 'populations' to conquer. It is -- surprise -- a business, more than anything else. As my father used to say, "anything to make a beeeep dollar". "Maximize profits", is what shareholders say. (They also say "expand" and "manage growth"; actually, shareholders never say "manage growth", smart executives do.) Fans think that the original Star Wars and Star Trek feature films are generally "great", I'm sure, but they should look forward eagerly to a future of a vast unknown -- instead of the same bleedin' "known".

Time marches on and, as part of the exploration process, new courses will be charted even if a few end up a wee bit off-course in regards to the fanbases' essential Standards & Practices. In 2009, Abrams "electronically simplified" Star Trek on the big-screen by using the Flash und Flare Death Ray. Adding the quality of "complexity" is a natural course adjustment for an on-going film property perceived as originally lacking nuance, but does Star Wars really need more sophisticated narrative, like what Star Trek reportedly possesses? Are narratives necessarily more complex when additional letters are added to the soup, or do the stories end up convoluted, trying too hard to impress with "look how smart we are"? J.J. Abrams, no doubt, will start throwing everything he can in the hope the good stuff will stick.

Post script: Those Star Wars prequel films sure did suck! What was G.W. Lucas thinking?....


Jon said...

I believe it goes like this: if 100,000 people of all ages are currently watching your show/movie, then if you do nothing to attract more viewers, in 5 years there will only be 90,000; individual tastes change, and statistically, people die. So it's understandable that the goal is to always be attracting new viewers to a franchise. It still feels a bit formulaic. The Bond franchise was successfully reinvigorated by going back to the early concepts and styles; why not Trek?

Barry Smight said...

You're right.

Thanks for the comment.