Last week there was a lot of talk about Star Trek director JJ Abrams latest comments about his film. One Trekkie who took notice was Wil Wheaton, Wesley Crusher on TNG and author of “Just a Geek.” In the following guest blog (originally posted on Wil’s blog) Wheaton gives his thoughts on Abrams latest comments.
[EDITORS NOTE: Wil’s Blog contains some ‘colorful metaphors’]
“reinventing?” uh-oh. i’m not sure how i feel about this
Wired says that JJ Abrams promises to “reinvent” Star Trek:
“Effects for Star Trek have never, ever been done like this,” says Abrams, who credits George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic for the visual fireworks.
Abrams was fanatical about Star Wars as a kid. But Star Trek? Not so much. Directing the new movie, he tells the Associated Press, “was an opportunity to take the characters, the thoughtfulness, the personalities, the sense of adventure, the idea of humanity working together, the sense of social commentary and innovation, all that stuff and apply it in a way that felt genuinely thrilling.”
Without a lot of context, it’s tough to puzzle out exactly what this means for guys like us who’ve loved Trek forever and ever. If he’s just talking about bringing modern special effects to Star Trek, which totally would make it more thrilling to watch, this is great news.
However, if this “reinventing” — which is such a loaded term in this post-Episode One world (5-19-99 never forget!) — extends to some of the fundamentals of the Star Trek mythos, and if he wants to make Star Trek more like Star Wars, we could be looking at the biggest geekriot in history.
On one hand, this could be Abrams saying, “I’m going to take Star Trek and make it relevant to an audience that hasn’t loved it and watched it for 40 years.” That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
On the other hand, it could be him saying, “Look, Trekkies, I know you’ve been watching this show for 40 years, but I’m JJ Fucking Abrams and if I want to ‘reinvent’ this thing that means so much to you, I’m going to do it. So don’t get your spacesuits in a knot when I put turbines on the Enterprise, okay? They look cool!” That would be a very bad thing.
Speaking as a lifelong geek, my knee-jerk reaction when I hear someone talking about “reinventing” something like Trek is that it will be a tower of suck, built out of an endless supply of Jar-Jars and midichlorians.
However! Ron Moore reinvented BSG, and it’s the greatest thing ever, so reinventing things isn’t automatically horrible. In fact, if the article had been titled “JJ Abrams promises thrilling effects for Star Trek movie” I’d be celebrating right now. Language is important, as they say.
I guess it comes down to who is doing the reinventing, and if their vision builds upon the existing foundation in an interesting way, instead of pulling a massive, insulting retcon on us all. In his favor, JJ Abrams is really, really good at starting things (not so much with the keeping them awesome after one season, sadly,) but absolutely awesome at starting things. Since this is the beginning of Star Trek, I’m hopeful. Apprehensive, but hopeful.
So, yeah, not entirely sure how I feel about the “reinventing.” At least the people who totally fucked Star Trek up aren’t involved, but why does anyone need to “reinvent” Star Trek at all? There’s a good reason it managed to endure through four decades and several generations of Trekkies and casual viewers alike. I hope JJ Abrams groks that, because I really want to like this movie.
Oh, how about an almost-instant update:
“It was an opportunity to take what I think has been a maligned world _ to sound crass, a franchise _ and treat it in a way that made it something that I wanted to see”
“The whole point was to try to make this movie for fans of movies, not fans of `Star Trek,’ necessarily,'” Abrams said. “If you’re a fan, we’ve got one of the writers who’s a devout Trekker, so we were able to make sure we were serving the people who are completely enamored with `Star Trek.’ But we are not making the movie for that contingent alone.
“You can’t really make a movie for them. As soon as you start to guess what you think they are going to want to see, you’re in trouble. You have to make the movie in many ways for what you want to see yourself, make a movie you believe in. Then you’re not second-guessing an audience you don’t really have an understanding of.”
That makes a lot of sense, but, uh, JJ? You should probably understand Trekkies if you’re making a Star Trek movie. Seriously, have one of your minions make you a quickstart guide or something; it’s not that tough.
Anyway, making it for fans of movies instead of exclusively for Trekkies is something I can completely agree with, and shows that he understands the massive challenge that making a movie like this brings. That’s real good news, as long as he doesn’t go turning Star Trek into Attack of The Four Toed Statues or something.
He also says:
“I feel like this is so unlike what you expect, so unlike the `Star Trek’ you’ve seen. At the same time, it’s being true to what’s come before, honoring it,” Abrams said.
I’m going to commit heresy right now and say what few people are willing to say out loud: most of the Star Trek movies are absolute garbage. There have been ten Trek movies, and I’d say that two of them are accessible to mainstream audiences, another two are great, and the remaining six are nearly unwatchable. If JJ Abrams wants to make his new Trek movie unlike the 80% of Trek movies that aren’t that good, that’s just fine with me. Not that my opinion means anything, you understand, but rambling on and on about things like this is the price of being a geek, and I regret nothing. NOTHING!
Wil’s latest memoir, “The Happiest Days of our Lives” is available now from Monolith Press.