Saturday, January 26, 2013

Opinion: Where No Star Wars Fan Has Gone Before...

By Chris Seekell

The recent announcement that JJ Abrams is directing Star Wars Episode VII has inspired me to compare the original Star Trek series and films to his interpretation to better understand why fans are reacting the way they are.

When I was growing up, shows like Voyager and Enterprise were on, and the only film I had seen prior to Abrams' was Star Trek IV. (The one when they traveled back in time to bring an extinct whale back to the future to repopulate the species or something like that.) However, that wasn't really enough to go on to compare the original to the reboot.

So after the rumors about Abrams directing Star Wars exploded, I proceeded to become more acquainted with Trek by watching some episodes of the original series from the 1960s as well as the first two motion pictures.

Now if I am getting my geek history correct, the original series was cancelled due to low ratings after 5 or so seasons, and it was a combination of a passionate fanbase and the success of Star Wars that prodded Paramount to make the films that rekindled the franchise, which spawned numerous sequel TV series set in different times including the ones I watched occasionally in the 90s and early 2000s.

The films told of the continuing adventures of main characters from the original series, Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and others, as they traversed space aboard the iconic USS Enterprise, and eventually transitioned the audience into the new characters that would appear in sequel TV shows such as The Next Generation.

In the mid 2000s ratings dropped again however, and the final series Enterprise was cancelled. This was coincided by poor box office performances by the last few feature films. Then it was announced a few years later, that JJ Abrams, known for his work on Alias and Lost, would be "rebooting" the franchise with a new film following the adventures of the original characters, portrayed by new actors, in their early days at Starfleet.

This film came out in 2009, and was considered extremely blasphemous by the Star Trek and overall sci-fi community. But why? Was it simply because it basically created a second Star Trek timeline, or was it sub-par in itself? I recall seeing it in theaters that summer, and as a Star Wars fan, thinking it was actually too much like Star Wars oddly. The action, dialog, and effects were decent, but the plot seemed very cliche to me. A farmboy losing a parent, being advised by an older mentor to join a military organization, then witnessing the destruction of a planet -- there are many ways to comically describe both A New Hope and Abrams' Star Trek with the same summary. To me simply, the film did not add anything to the franchise. In terms George Lucas would use, it was "fluff" and "circus". Additionally there was some complaining about the overuse of lens-flare.

But before I could have a solid opinion about Abrams directing Star Wars, I needed to go back to the original Star Trek, and put my finger on just how he "wrecked things." And I was surprised at the new perspective it gave me. Now I am writing for a Star Wars website, and I am sure you are all scratching your head as to why this article thus far has been all about Trek, but here is where I tie things in.

Star Trek may have its die-hard fans, but I'm not one of them. As a Star Wars fan, who wants to have an educated opinion about JJ Abrams, it does not matter what they think. It matters what I think. And after watching some of the original series, and the first two films, including the Wrath of Khan, which is considered the best film, I do not think that Abrams wrecked Star Trek. The series, while inventive, had its flaws, and it was cancelled for a reason. The first film was incredible slow-paced, and the creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, was actually forced out of the production of its sequel to an extent. This sequel was not a horrible film, but did not strike me as an immaculate classic that Abrams raped.

In fact, I believe Abrams did a good job of referencing these films, while making Star Trek a better cinematic experience. The only reason why the original is favored by so many, is because it came first. Where the new ones may lack plot, the old ones lacked so many other things that Abrams had. However there are two flaws in the new film that I still see. Firstly, it did not need to be a reboot. The story came so close to fitting in with the back-story mentioned in dialog in the originals. It could have been just as good, without the changes that required making a new timeline. And secondly, it still was too much like Star Wars. It seemed as if Abrams was attempting to turn Star Trek into his own version of Star Wars.

But as a Star Wars fan, this does not matter. Because we already know that Abrams will not be writing Episode VII. It will not be a reboot --at least of the films; the EU is a different story. And there is no problem with a Star Wars film referencing Star Wars. Therefore I feel like Abrams is not set-up for failure with this project at all. The only thing keeping this from being a success, is lens-flare, and I'm sure George Lucas will exercise his role as creative consultant and tell Abrams to back off a little with that.

This article is an opinion piece and represents the views of the writer, and not the entire Star Wars Underworld organization


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