By now, most of the internet is aware that JJ Abrams is (allegedly) signed on to direct the forthcoming Star Wars film. I have thoughts, and since it's half my blog, I get to share them at will.
First, thank the Blessed Exchequer. Hopefully this means he'll stop desecrating Star Trek and we can all PTSD his contributions to the franchise from our collective memories and get back to some real Trek.
Second, this may actually be a better fit and make a better movie. Lens flare jokes aside, most of our problems with Star Trek 2009 (podcast coming soon!) are about how it uses or abuses Star Trek history. The movie is certainly not cheaply made, and context aside, many of the visuals show are pretty good. Setting aside our concerns about the movie as a piece of Star Trek, the remaining problems Matt and I had with the film are pretty similar to the criticisms you could lob at even the first three Star Wars films. The characters are a tad two-dimensional, the universe is not really sketched out as a viable, working place, and the story is largely a grandly scaled morality play with more than one critical event happening by fiat rather than organic development. Turn red matter into "The Force" and Nero in Palpatine, and you're halfway to a Star Wars film right there. But you know what? I'm gonna say it: Even with its sins against my beloved franchise, Star Trek 2009 is better than any of the Star Wars prequels. It's a low bar to be sure, but Star Trek 2009 didn't make me want to open my wrists until the walk home when I was actually thinking about it. Phantom Menace had me praying or the sweet release of death from the first scene when Creepy Japanese Stereotype opened his mouth.
Now, before Andrew has an aneurysm, let me be clear: I really like the first three films and would argue to anyone they rightfully hold a place in the highest echelons of American cinematic history. I think Matt correctly argues in his post on the subject that Star Trek achieves greater narrative depths and a more internally defined and functional universe, but that's as much a virtue of the extended time frame of a serialized TV series than creative talent alone. Our (many) criticisms of JJ Abrams boil down to he is talented at making a big initial splash that is engaging and interesting, but can't sustain it to really tell a complicated narrative Happily, Star Wars is not about complicated narrative. There are good guys. There are bad guys. They fight with swords made of light. The end. In a way, I actually fully trust Abrams to make a high-energy, visual extravaganza of a movie with his entry into the Star Wars franchise, and since that's what I've always enjoyed from the Star Wars trilogy, I think it has a decent shot of working out.
And really, could he do a worse job than George Lucas? I mean, really?