J.J. Abrams has become a bit of a polarizing figure to me.
He has been associated with some of my favorite movies and television. Alias was great. Fringe was pretty good. The new Star Wars movie was obviously grood (somewhere between great and good). He’s also supposed to be producing the Half-Life and Portal movies, which I didn’t even know existed until I just looked up his IMDB.
He’s also associated with the new Star Trek movies, which I have extremely mixed feelings about.
I think I’ve developed a bit of resentment over the Trek/Wars thing.
First, a bit of background: I like Star Wars, but I love Star Trek. I never cared much for the original series, but the original cast’s movies were extremely influential on my childhood, and even more important to me was the Next Generation series.
Seeing the new Star Wars movie, it’s clear that he cares a lot about the source material. There were many, many details and homages all over that movie. It’s clear that it was tended to by someone who is a true fan.
The same can’t be said about the new Star Trek movies. The nicest thing I can say is that they’re above average action movies that happen to involve Star Trek characters. They’re not Star Trek movies, however.
What makes this difficult is that it’s not easily apparent. Abrams clearly has a gift for casting; this is evident in almost every project he’s been involved in. Even in the ST movies, there really isn’t a bad casting choice across the board (and even some excellent ones; Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban are simply fantastic in their respective roles).
However, the new ST films simply aren’t Star Trek, at all. Trek isn’t about action scenes and fast pacing. It’s about the conflicts and moral dilemmas that the human race would come across as it explores space and interacts with other alien races. It’s about a glimpse of a possible future where the human race has ascended to outer space, and has largely cast aside internal struggles in the name of space travel and discovery. It’s a thinking-mans setting.
Despite that, the new ST movies are just action flicks starring those characters. And in that, those characters are put into positions they hadn’t been before, which rings false to anyone who enjoyed them before. I know that technically it’s all “OK” in canon since this is a completely different timeline (and that these characters are much younger), but it doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it.
I think this is also further complicated by the fact that Hollywood wants blockbusters, and Star Wars’ format fits one without much modification. However, a slower-paced sci-fi movie isn’t Hollywood’s idea of a big-ticket, high-grossing film, so the chances of that being made are pretty slim. This leads to the question: is it even possible for a faithful Star Trek movie to be made at all, in the current Hollywood climate? I’m afraid the answer to that is no.
So while I could easily just say “Fuck Abrams for what he did to Star Trek,” I think it’s important to note that he had a job. His job was to make a popular Star Trek movie. He did. The alternative was probably no Star Trek movie at all.
That’s a hard truth to swallow as a Trek fan.