Why I Like JJ Abrams For Star Wars

When Star Trek ended it’s long run of spin-off series after something like 19 years the movie franchise had already gone down in flames. People were saying it was the end of Trek. Rick Berman, the man who took over for Gene Roddenberry, had simply refused to break too far from the formula he felt still worked after all these years. The problem was the formula was making it increasingly more difficult to ever begin watching Star Trek without starting from the beginning. 

Many years of non-stop television series, ten movies over twenty five years, and constant complaints…even from the most die hard fans meant we may have seen the end of Star Trek. Thankfully Paramount wasn’t ready to accept it. They wanted a way to make Trek accessible to the masses. So they said, “To hell with the fan’s Prime Directive. We’re gonna shake things up.” And shake them up they did. After creating the best Mission Impossible up to that point Paramount was highly impressed with JJ Abrams and wanted to extend their working relationship with the man. Soon after they announced he would be taking the reigns of one of the most beloved franchises in the history of media. 

Let me say something here – I hate remakes/reboots/prequels or whatever other name they spend more time coming up with than the actual scripts of the remakes/reboots/prequels Hollywood makes. For some reason, though, after seeing Star Trek in 2009 I was completely satisfied. It was sort of a remake/reboot/prequel/sequel all rolled into one. And it worked. Abrams was not really a fan of Star Trek but two of his good friends and frequent collaborators Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci were. He tasked them with the near impossible – make a script that marries all of Trek together and changes everything to make it fresh and new. Abrams used his love for Star Wars by creating some great fights and seriously cool space battles, something more epic than we had seen in any of the previous Trek films. 

Star Trek Into Darkness is coming this Summer. I have seen the 9 minutes of footage they played in front of the Imax version of The Hobbit and let me say I was seriously impressed. Some say it’s a betrayal of Trek franchise for Abrams to leave it. I don’t see it that way. He has a proven history of laying the groundwork for other people to expand on the worlds he creates. With Alias he took a backseat after a couple years and allowed others to continue it on. With Lost he allowed Damon Lindeloff and Carlton Cuse to make it into the show that became event television for six years. Fringe was left in the hands of others as well. He continued to stay on as executive producer for all of them but nurtured others into taking these shows and moving them in exciting new directions. Even after Mission Impossible III he stayed on as producer, hired a couple of writers he’d worked with in the past and entrusted the directing duties to Brad Bird. He took the fourth film and made the best one in the history of the franchise. So when it comes to Trek I have faith that Abrams will find the right person to replace him and take the franchise to new heights. 

As far as Star Wars is concerned I am very excited. Abrams has a very fertile imagination, a great eye for dynamic shots, and the ability to pace a story very well. The problem with George Lucas was that he felt bored. It was like he felt obligated to make the prequel trilogy but didn’t really want to. So he loaded it with boring stuff about trade embargoes and the inner workings of the Imperial Senate. It was like the odd numbered Star Trek films and how they were slow, boring movies with little action.

Between hiring Michael Arndt as the writer, bringing in Lawrence Kasdan to consult on the script, and hiring Abrams as director I feel like this new Star Wars film could be the best on since Empire Strikes Back.

Now, let the casting rumors begin. 


LucasFilm Is Now Disney Owned?!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve heard the news. Disney purchased LucasFilm for a whopping $4.05 Billion. That is Billion with a B. This is a crazy bit of news. Nobody even knew it was on the market.

Disney wasted no time talking about their plans for LucasFilm. They intend on having Star Wars Episode 7 in theaters by 2015, the same time as Avengers 2, with 8 and 9 to follow shortly after. This is great news for Disney, but what does it mean for fans?

First off, Disney owns Marvel Studios and their comic book line. That means Dark Horse Comics will lose the rights as soon as their contract is up. There’s no way Disney is going to re-up that contract now. Marvel was the first company to release Star Wars comics back in the late 70’s and they will have it back again in just a couple short years.

Second, we must address what this means for the fans of the movies. Star Wars and Indiana Jones are both owned by LucasFilm. Fox and Paramount only had distribution rights. Now that Disney owns them that means we won’t have Lucas making poor decisions on how to handle these two properties. Instead we’ll have Disney making those poor decisions…maybe. The good thing is Kathleen Kennedy is staying on as the head of LucasFilm. This could go the same way as Marvel or Pixar for Disney where they are able to make their own decisions while having access to giant bags of money.

People that know me know that I hated the Star Wars prequel trilogy and didn’t really like Indiana Jones 4. With Lucas out of the picture we finally get to see other people step up to the creative plate and give us a new vision of the worlds Lucas created. We may also finally see a Star Wars television series.

After so many years of Lucas slowly losing his touch with what fans want we now get to see what may be a bold and creative new playground set in his sandbox. Overall I am excited. I still have reservations about it but that comes with the territory.

Lucas is also keeping ILM. That’s his baby, something he seems to care about more than screwing his fans with inferior product. One of my biggest complaints with the prequel trilogy was that Lucas seemed more in love with his technology than with his stories or actors. I say let him have the tech and give the other stuff to people who care about the stories.

Brian and I talked about this subject in detail on our podcast we just recorded. It will be available on Monday. And when my friend Dave and I record our Midichlorian Mayhem podcast (coming soon) we will be touching on it even more.

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Movie News – Bill & Ted and Daredevil

Recently two things happened to push forward the proposed sequel to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. First, they hired a director. Dean Parisot who directed Galaxy Quest got the gig. This is good news for Galaxy Quest fans. The other thing that came out was Keanu Reeves spilling a little bit about the plot. It sounds like it will play with alternate dimensions, one where they never wrote the song that changed the world and multiple others. Given that the previous two dealt with time travel and the afterlife I like that they are taking the third in another direction all together. Sadly, George Carlin can’t take part.

In Daredevil news it seems that Fox didn’t like Joe Carnahan’s take on the man with no fear and is willfully letting the rights lapse. This means Marvel/Disney will now be able to do what they want with the character. This is both good and bad. I reported not too long ago that Fox was negotiating to keep Daredevil in exchange for letting Galactus and Silver Surfer go back to Marvel while keeping the Fantastic Four. This means Josh Trank can use those characters in his reboot of the FF franchise. That’s good. What is potentially bad is that I would have loved to see what Carnahan would do with Daredevil. Now he isn’t getting a shot.

Possibly Big Marvel Movie News

It has been known for some time that Fox needed to move on making a new Daredevil movie by October or the rights to the character revert back to Marvel. Fox isn’t ready so they have decided to try and strike a deal with Marvel to extend their rights a little longer by offering up the characters of Silver Surfer and Galactus.

This is good news for Marvel. Sure, it would be nice to have Daredevil able to move freely among the likes of Captain America and Iron Man but the chance to use a huge villain like Galactus is awfully tempting. Plus, right now, Fox is talking to Joe Carnahan about helming the new Daredevil now that David Slade has moved on.

Say what you will about Carnahan’s A-Team movie (personally I liked it) but the man made Narc and Smokin’ Aces. He could bring a lot to the character of Daredevil, especially if they go with the Frank Miller storylines they’ve been talking about.

The bad news is that if this deal goes through then Galactus and Silver Surfer can’t be a part of Josh Trank’s new Fantastic Four movie or any subsequent sequels. Sure, they can still use Doctor Doom or even create a different threat for FF to fight but those characters were a huge part of the FF mythos. And personally I would have loved to see what Trank could’ve done with a real Galactus, not a giant gas cloud like in the stupid second movie.

Let’s just hope every dark gas cloud has a silver lining and things work out for the studios. This could be a huge step forward into the studios sharing characters, doing crossovers, and splitting costs and profit to give the fans what they want.

Pixar – Back To The Well Once More

I remember when Steve Jobs first took over Disney and one of the first things he said was that he was tired of Disney cashing in on their classic animated films with sequels. He vowed to put a stop to the straight to DVD sequel machine. And, although Pixar had done well making sequels to Toy Story they had no immediate plans to franchise their movies into oblivion. After Toy Story 3 they made Cars 2, a sequel to the worst animated film Pixar had made. Granted, Cars was still better than most animated fare.

During the making of Cars 2 they mentioned that they had a story for a prequel to Monsters Inc. and now they’ve announced Finding Nemo 2. What is happening to Pixar? They used to be all about quality filmmaking, not branding. These sequels seem unnecessary. The Toy Story movies worked, Cars didn’t. Making a sequel to Finding Nemo seems like nothing short of a cash grab. Creatively I see no reason for another story of Nemo.

I feel the same about this as I did when they made a sequel to Home Alone. I don’t believe, however, that the folks at Pixar would basically remake the movie and change the setting. Each Toy Story film was different and even Cars 2 changed the tone from the Doc Hollywood style of the first to more of a James Bond style for the second.

I want to hold onto hope that Pixar knows what they’re doing but I’m getting scared that the Disney influence has somehow rubbed off on them too much. If they want to make a sequel to one of they’re movies I vote for The Incredibles. At least that movie has a way of lending itself logically to sequels.