Star Trek VS Star Wars: A Conflict of Interest?

Recently it was announced that J.J. Abrams will be directing the next Star Wars film. Now given the fact that Abrams is already heading at the helm of the Star Trek franchise, the announcement set off a negative emotional response in me. What if it turns into a gigantic conflict of interest?

J.J. Abrams happens to be one of the most well-thought-of TV producers around. In spite of recent flops like Undercovers and Alcatraz, he has an enormous amount of great exploits to his name, including Lost, Alias, Felicity, and Fringe. His newest show Revolution has potential, even if it for the most part remains untapped.

2738867068_34a09f3770Thus, as a fan of J.J. Abrams work, I was excited to see him make the transition into movies. I was even more enthusiastic when he took over the Star Trek franchise, having been a big fan of the TV series and movies. I knew, based on his previous work,  J.J. could add a level of complexity and excitement to the new reboot, and his casting would be impeccable.

Star Trek 2009 did almost everything I wanted it to. The new actors were nearly all perfect matches for the original cast. The story honored everything that had come before it, but also began an entirely new, awesome adventure. While it did favor action a bit over message, the story was still pretty good. And while it is darker than most other Trek offerings, that trend had already become apparent for the franchise before the movie.

However, I do have some concerns now that J.J. has been will also be making the next Star Wars movie. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy the Star Wars movies. But I do think Star Wars is overrated, and I don’t hold it up to same level of worship that many fans do. I have always believed that Star Trek has been far superior because of the depth of its stories; in my opinion, Star Wars movies have always been largely melodramatic, action-heavy fluff pieces.

If I have to be honest with myself, some of those complaints can also be made about the most recent Star Trek movie. It lacks the original’s larger world-view of a better humanity, trading it off for lots of battles and effects, and even a love story for Spock and Uhura. It does stay pretty faithful to what had happened before in Star Trek, but it updates the whole thing into a modern blockbuster. On the other hand, it does extend the franchise reach to a new audience of potential fans. But, I worry that as it does so, future films might lose sight of what has always made Star Trek special.

The issue is, while Star Trek has always been good at wonderful special effects sequences, the series and movies have always been more about the its commentary on humanity and our society. In Star Trek’s futuristic world, we have outgrown the petty squabbles of our present day, and have moved on to become an evolved and resilient race.

The 2009 movie satisfies with great character development, and because of the story it pursues, it doesn’t necessarily need to go out of its way to emphasize the franchise’s idealistic vision of humanity.  However, I would not like to see that integral part of that original vision diminish in favor of more action, adventure and special effects.

On the other hand, the Star Wars movies have always fit the standard blockbuster framework, so I’m sure that J.J. will do a great job with it. If nothing else, he will definitely put episodes I-III to shame. Of that, I am confident. But with both movie series under his direction, will the vision for the two series converge, making Star Wars and Star Trek feel too similar?

After all, 2009’s Star Trek already began to lean towards that Star Wars formula. It was a lot of shoot-’em-up, and it had less complicated, more evil, villains. The pacing was faster than I’m used to from Star Trek, and it lacked much introspection.

I do not want Star Trek and Star Wars to be similar. I admit, I feel a certain superiority when arguing Trek’s advanced plot points and messages. Were Star Wars to be that good, assuming J.J. could raise the quality of the new Star Wars to the middle ground that the 2009 Star Trek occupied, balanced between what the masses want and fantastic writing, it removes the advantage Trek has, and gives those smug Wars fans new fodder. Whenever the opposite happens, and Star Trek is dumbed down to the level of Star Wars moving forward, continuing to push it away from its roots, the same thing will happen.

I’m afraid that J.J. will, intentionally or not, keep nudging Star Trek from its original vision. Who’s to say it will not go further once his time becomes divided between the two, with the worlds merging in his head?

They’re both sci-fi adventures full of aliens. Even though one supposedly occurred a long time ago in a galaxy far away, to paraphrase, it appears futuristic enough to be confused with our not-too-distant future to the untrained eye. It would not be that difficult to make many of the same choices when developing the projects, and end up with two very interchangeable movie series. I do not think he’ll use the same actors or sets, but with the gleaming white new Enterprise reminding me of Star Wars spaceships, there could be a similar color scheme and visual component.
Perhaps I’m being too hard on J.J. As I stated, I’m a fan of his work, and it’s not like all of the TV shows he works on end up the same. He could find ways to distinguish the two, and take them in entirely different directions. I’m just worried because of early signs of Star Trek’s evolution, and because of his expressed preferences, that it could happen in this case.

I also am a bit concerned that his work on Wars will distract him from Trek. After all, Wars is destined to get more attention. Will that mean he will not give Trek XIII his full efforts, instead focusing on Wars VII? Also, J.J. is reportedly is among those people who favor Wars over Trek, which worries me.

Yes, it’s possible to be a fan of both, but most people who are prefer one over the other. I hope that J.J. keeps in mind the fundamental differences between both series, and does not make them interchangeable. The best way to do that is to deepen the next Star Trek story back to the levels of morality tale it once achieved. This spring, we’ll find out if that’s happened, as Star Trek Into Darkness is released. Based on what I’ve viewed so far, I am optimistic.

I suppose what this argument comes down to is emotion. Both franchises elicit strong feelings from their fans, and since Star Wars already has the popularity, I want Star Trek to keep the quality superiority. It is a little petty, no doubt, but I very much hope J.J. takes this into account, keeping in mind what has set the two series apart in the past, and maintaining that divide. Nevertheless, because he’s a Wars devotee, I worry he does not have the same perspective on Star Trek that trekkies have, and thus will not protect the franchise with the same ferocity a real fan would.

To a lot of people, the premise of this entire blog post will seem ridiculous or trivial. Simply for those of us who have always kept a candle burning for Star Trek, please J.J., we beg of you: Keep Trek better. Its fate is ultimately in your hands.

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