J.J. Arabs has officially signed on to direct the next Star Wars film.
First, let me state the obvious: he will probably do a lot better than Lucas did on the prequels. That said, I have to say that his work on Star Trek is pretty much like a hot girl cosplaying a character she knows nothing about. It’s slick, attractive and sexy, but there’s something missing. Abrams nailed the relationship between Kirk, Spock and McCoy and delivered a thrilling action story, but he missed on one of the best (and hardest) things about Star Trek: in the end, it’s about learning to settle differences without violence. In the original series, Kirk went out of his way to avoid killing whenever possible. He spared the Gorn, refused to shoot a man in cold blood (Wyatt Earp, actually, go fig) and never once during the entire three seasons did he kill a klingon captain. The flashy explody stuff came much later, with “Wrath of Khan” and “Star Trek III”. Not surprisingly, other than “Khan”, the best of the movies were “The Voyage Home”, which was about whales, and “The Undiscovered Country”, which was about brokering a peace with the Klingons. Star Trek at its heart is about finding a way to make peace.
Now witness this bit of dialogue from Abrams:
Spock: Captain, what are you doing?
Kirk: Spock, showing them compassion might go a long way to promoting peace between us and the Romulans. It’s logic, I thought you’d like that.
Spock: No, not really. Not this time.
Nero: I would rather suffer the end of Romulus a thousand times. I would rather die in agony, than accept assistance from you!
Kirk: You got it. Arm phasers, fire everything we’ve got.
So much for the quality of mercy. Sure, there’s a kind of halfhearted attempt, but the end is so bloodthirsty that it undercuts it completely.
Compare this to a scene from the original series:
Kirk: We are standing by to beam your survivors aboard. Prepare to abandon your vessel.
Romulan Commander: No…no…it is not our way. I regret that we meet in this way. You and I are of a kind. In a different reality, I could have called you friend.
Kirk: What purpose will it serve to die?
Romulan Commander: We are creatures of duty, Captain. I have lived my life by it. Just one more duty to perform.
What worries me the most about Abrams and Star Wars is that while he does deliver on action, he falls short on heart. One of the elements that has been missing from the prequels is the wisdom of Obi-Wan and Yoda. There are no scenes where the young warrior gains greater understanding. Yoda’s speech before he raises Luke’s fighter is a prime example of what I’m talking about. I’m afraid that in Abram’s hands we will get what we’ve always gotten: a flashy, fun popcorn movie that turns one of the most compelling elements of the series into a form of magic. No wisdom, no enlightenment, only a cool way of throwing stuff around. Granted, Abrams will still deliver a quality film, but it won’t be perfect, and it might just miss out on a large part of what made Star Wars so interesting.