The news – officially confirmed by Lucasfilm for the first time last night – that JJ Abrams will direct the next Star Wars movie sent the Internet insane on Thursday, with social media filled with jokes about lightsabers and lens flare and excitement about the prospect of the director taking on the most beloved of geek culture, but few asking what seems like an obvious question: If true, what does this mean for Star Trek?
I don’t mean the next movie, because Abrams is presumably already eagerly finishing Star Trek Into Darkness up as you read this. But in moving from Trek to Star Wars, Abrams is seemingly abandoning a franchise that he has near-complete control over for one where he is, at best, a large cog in a well-oiled machine. Presuming that the rumors and reports are correct and that Abrams is doing Star Wars, then Disney must have offered him something very impressive indeed.
Executives at Paramount, however, must be fairly upset with the development. Let’s not forget that, not only has Abrams’ Bad Robot production company been handed the keys to the Trek franchise – Reportedly, Bad Robot is behind the low number of tie-in novels and comics to the new movie continuity (Note that the IDW series that does tie in with the movies is written by someone with ties to Bad Robot), overruling the desire from other executives at Paramount seeking to exploit the franchise as much as possible – but the desire to work around Abrams’ schedule and keep him happy is what left a four year gap between the first and second installments of the reboot movie series. In response, Abrams has either jumped ship altogether or, if he chooses to want to work on a third movie, it’ll apparently have to wait until after the Star Wars project, so we’d be looking at another four year wait at least. Hardly the greatest outcome for the studio, really.
But what is the alternative? Paramount taking Trek back from Bad Robot? It’s possible, of course, but who would they give it to in that case? Pre-Bad Robot, the franchise was in a state of disrepair and the subject of countless attempts to revive it that all failed for one reason or another – And with Bryan Singer back at Fox and the X-Men franchise, the closest alternative Paramount had to Abrams (Singer pitched a Trek series called Federation that almost happened back in 2005) is also unavailable.
More likely, then, that Trek remains with Bad Robot and either ends up somewhat discarded – Surely unlikely, given that the franchise is just three years away from its 50th anniversary – or given to a new director for the next movie. This is probably the best case scenario, outside of Abrams choosing Trek over Star Wars in a couple of ways: Not only does it keep Trek a going concern while Abrams’ attentions are elsewhere, but Bad Robot has proven to pick good directors to follow Abrams on other movie franchises. (It’s clearly not just me who thinks so: The traditional Anonymous Sources are already reporting that Paramount plans for this last option to be the case, with Abrams working on both Star Wars VII and Star Trek 3 simultaneously, as director and producer respectively.)
If nothing else, the loss of Abrams will force Trek to change in some way, however small, and that’s likely for the best for the franchise. Not that Abrams’ Trek was bad – Far from it – but Trek at its heart was always supposed to be about new frontiers, and going where no-one has gone before, after all…