Sunday, 27 January 2013

I've Got a Bad Feeling About This...

Hmmm. JJ Abrams to direct the next Star Wars film, huh?

It's been interesting to see the reactions to this news (especially since the announcement of more Star Wars films created a seismic ripple in the Nerd World). Everybody seems to be pretty positive about it, with only a couple of dissenting voices.

Let me add to that latter chorus.

I can't confess to being much of a JJ Abrams fan, though I also won't go so far as to say I'm a hater, either. But if you follow me on Twitter, you'll have seen a couple of tongue-in-cheek tweets about how they should have me direct the new Star Wars; all of that's a joke (I'm actually aiming to script), but the one serious point I made was that almost nothing he's done has really blown me away.

In terms of movies, I've seen Super 8, Star Trek and Cloverfield (Mission Impossible III is the only movie that ever put me to sleep). For TV shows, I've caught parts of season 1 of Lost, and Seasons 1-3 of Fringe. The only one of those I've loved is Fringe; his movies have been more or less enjoyable in the moment, but like cotton candy, evaporate almost instantly. As for Lost, I'm watching it on Lovefilm in a sort of desultory way, but I'm not 100% sure I'm enjoying it that much.

Star Trek is the most problematic for me (which you should understand is quite a statement, given Cloverfield; who carries around a fucking video camera when being chased down empty subway tunnels by monsters?). On the one hand, it looked beautiful; the opening sequence, where Nero's ship comes out of nowhere and starts blowing everything up is breathtaking, while, on a more cynical note, Abrams managed to put together a cast that makes Starship Troopers look like Deadwood.

On the other hand, there's no internal logic to it (oh, and spoilers, okay? It's been almost four years - if you haven't seen it yet, you've clearly got better things to do with your life, and I don't blame you). Nero goes back in time to kill Spock but overshoots and ends up too far in the past; in high dudgeon he hangs around for twenty or so years before re-emerging to destroy Vulcan. At the same time, Kirk sneaks aboard the Enterprise when it goes to investigate, and somehow finagles his way into the XO position and then captain. He gets marooned on a planet that happens to house both Spock and Scotty, each within walking distance of one another, and they happen to be the only people in the universe who can move him along in his quest.

Looking at all those complaints, it's clear my problems are actually with Damon Lindelof, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman; but shouldn't the director be on the lookout for problems of internal logic and consistency?

My point is, I don't believe Abrams has the focus to pull off a good Star Wars movie. I'm heartened by the fact that Lawrence Kasdan is detailed to consult on the script, but, for better or worse, the six existing movies are the products of one man's vision, weird and borderline offensive as it frequently is. I've seen some people suggest that Abrams is the natural successor to Steven Spielberg (another director whose oeuvre I find problematic), but that seems to be based solely on Super 8, which I really didn't enjoy. I just don't know what Abrams's vision is.

That said, I'm just glad they didn't get Zack Snyder or Stephen Sommers. Or they could have gone with Conan O'Brien's suggestion, and hired Wes Anderson.

In any case, yes, I'll be in line to see Episode VII when it comes out, just like I'm going to see Star Trek into Darkness. I remain ready to be proven wrong.