One of the biggest items of genre entertainment news last week was the revelation that J.J. Abrams will direct Star Wars Episode VII, sometime soon after he finishes work on Star Trek: Into Darkness. It is surprising that one person will be helming the latest iterations of the two most popular and profitable space opera franchises.
As I’ve noted elsewhere, Abrams does know how to handle ensemble casts and lots of action. On the other hand, I hope that his idiosyncrasies — such as lens flares and certain plot twists seen in Lost and the recently departed Fringe — don’t detract from what makes Star Trek and Star Wars great, each in its own way.
Any incarnation of Star Trek ought to have a future that we should strive for and want to live in, following Gene Roddenberry’s idealistic vision. The best Trek depicts diplomacy, scientific exploration, and social commentary, not just a Starfleet captain fighting the existential threat of the week (or movie, even if I enjoyed Abrams’ reboot).
For Star Wars, I expect big battles between good and evil, the hero’s journey, and exotic but lived-in settings. Lucas tried to make the mythic relatable through the Skywalker clan. In contrast to Trek‘s “for the good of all mankind,” Star Wars examines the heroic and villainous potential in each person. (The animated Clone Wars has been very good lately, while Trek has yet to return to television. Both have good comic book tie-ins.)
Fortunately, there’s room in both galaxies for lots of stories and interpretations, and both show the value of friendship, altruism, and wonder. There’s a lot of speculation and unrealistic expectations online, but I’m cautiously optimistic. May the Force be with Abrams, and may we all live long and prosper!