The JJ Abrams remake of Star Trek was on last night, and I was reminded, with the ongoing discussion about the upcoming release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, how much people are concerned that he will take a similar tack in updating that “galaxy far, far, away,” that he did with the Federation.
But, in as much as there is great dissention about his wholesale re-writing of the Star Trek franchise, I realize that there is a distinction between his goals in working on both of these franchises.
First, in Star Trek, Abrams was tasked with re-booting the franchise, and, short of creating a lousy, shot for shot “do-over” of the original storyline, he took a risk and threw the franchise characters, the people they were at their cores, and put them in new situations to allow them to show those cores those fundamental elements that made them so beloved in the first place. Faced with a task more daunting than any he could possibly have envisioned ever undertaking, he took his shot, and, a few determined hard-liners aside, was largely successful in that effort.
Star Wars, on the other hand, is a completely different animal. Abrams is not tasked with re-inventing a franchise, but rather continuing a story in an established universe. He isn’t being asked to present a “new take” on established characters, as he was with James T. Kirk and Spock. He is being asked to take the universe forward, not look backward and tell the same story again.
That is a major difference in goals. For all of the talk about JJ Abrams being the “sequel king” or some sort of remake master, in reality, we are, in Star Wars, getting something we seemingly rarely get to talk about: JJ Abrams getting to show us what he can do with a movie of his own. The story is his, the direction is his, and the results will be his, and his alone. Not Disney’s, not George Lucas’: his.
I, for one, am excited to see what we get.