This weekend marks the sixth annual Middle East Film and Comic Con, with fans from all over the region descending upon the Dubai World Trade Center to mingle, shop, cosplay, and meet their heroes. Dubai is the Las Vegas of the Middle East, so it makes sense that the largest geek convention in the region should make its way here.
Greg Grunberg Dazzles Dubai Fans With Tales of Finnegan and “Uncle JJ”
Headline stars for MEFCC included Anthony Mackie (Falcon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe), Liam Cunningham (Davos from Game of Thrones), and filmmaker/comic book author/actor/writer/nerd Kevin Smith (Clerks, etc.). But there was one star who beamed in from the Trek universe, Greg Grunberg, who appeared in 2009’s Star Trek and last year’s Star Trek Beyond.
Grunberg is most famous for his role in NBC’s Heroes, but his main claim to fame is his lifelong friendship with Star Trek producer J.J. Abrams, whom he has known since age four. Abrams has been casting Grunberg in his productions going back to his first Super 8 films when they were kids. Now Grunberg’s eldest son has an internship at Abrams’ production company Bad Robot, he told the crowd.
“He’s lucky he has me as a friend!” Grunberg joked.
Grunberg told the story of how he was supposed to appear as the redshirt Olson in the 2009 Star Trek film, but couldn’t because of a scheduling conflict, so Abrams cast him as the voice of Kirk’s irate stepfather. Determined to cast him as a redshirt, Abrams had Grunberg play “Snap” Wexley, an X-Wing pilot in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
“I have more lines in that movie than Mark Hamill,” Grunberg bragged.
After finishing his scenes, Force Awakens staff tried to get Grunberg to record the lines, “I’ve been hit!” “I’m going down!” and “Goodbye!” Knowing where this would (inevitably) take his character, he refused.
“And I lived!”
Grunberg had a larger role in Star Trek Beyond as the Yorktown’s Commander Finnegan, the Kelvin-verse counterpart of Kirk’s academy bully from the original series episode “Shore Leave.” The not-exactly-svelte actor joked that he insisted on wearing a spandex suit like Star Trek: Voyager’s Jeri Ryan’s, to help “shape his figure.” Grunberg also revealed how it was he who suggested the name Finnegan from canon and co-writer Simon Pegg eagerly agreed.
“That was just amazing, amazing,” he said. “I just love the fact that there’s a history to the character.”
Star Trek At MEFCC
The convention did have some more highlights for Star Trek fans. There was a display of a captain’s chair from Star Trek Beyond where you could take photos (for free!). There was also a photon torpedo from Star Trek: Into Darkness.
The biggest Star Trek element at MEFCC was the “Star Trek 50 artists, 50 years exhibit,” which has been traveling the globe. As noted in TrekMovie’s review of the accompanying “Star Trek: 50 artists 50 years” book, the exhibit is a triumph of risky artistic choices that, for the most part, paid off.
While it was delightful to see these attractions at a con so far from Riverside, Iowa, there was not much of a Trek presence otherwise. In the fandom explosion of the last 15 years, Star Trek alas has not had as much of an impact as Marvel Comics, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and other franchises in the Middle East.
I didn’t see any Starfleet uniforms, Klingons, or green alien women at this year’s Dubai comic con. (If I missed any, please tweet them to us @TrekMovie !) Having said that, the convention’s slogan was “Live long and comic con.” Staff wore shirts that read “Make it so” and volunteers’ shirts read “To boldly go where no volunteer has gone before,” both in the Crillee Italic font used for the TNG titles.
So I guess we’re not doing too badly after all.
That’s it for this report from Dubai and the 2017 Middle East Film and Comic Con. Keep up with all the event news and reports at TrekMovie.