Can J.J. Abrams balance the Stars?

Self-confessed nerd J.J. Abrams has agreed to take his seat in the Director’s chair for the upcoming Star Wars VII, VIII and IX movies. Yes, the same man who is currently directing his own Star Trek saga is directing the new Star Wars trilogy. With Star Trek Into Darkness being released in May 2013, Star Wars Episode VII slated for a 2015 release, and 2017 release rumours flying around his third Star Trek movie, it sounds like Mr Abrams will have a busy few years. And just for good measure, he’s signed up to direct films based on the Valve Corporation games Portal and Half-Life.

Abrams didn’t have the best start to a film career, co-writing poorly-received films such as Armageddon and Regarding Henry. Fortunately, his TV career took off almost before it began. His first three shows, which he created, wrote and directed, Felicity, Alias and Lost, are all widely regarded as some of the best TV shows ever, and rightly so.

This led him to be given a shot at directing his first feature film, the somewhat bizarre but entertaining Mission: Impossible III. Hollywood clearly liked it and soon he was producing the smash-hit Cloverfield. Around this time, he was back to dabbling in TV, producing various shows that never really took off. Then he had his fourth master stroke in just 10 years when he created the outstanding Fringe in 2008. This propelled him back into the big time. And he’s still there.

2009 marked the release of the first Star Trek film since 2002’s poorly-received Star Trek Nemesis. The film, merely titled Star Trek, featured an all-star cast including Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana and Simon Pegg. Overall, the film was a resounding success and took just shy of $400 million at the box office. Trekkers and newbies alike took to this stunning piece of cinema, so it was no surprise when a sequel was announced.

Before starting work on Star Trek “2”, as it was known at the time, Abrams directed the fantastic Super 8. The film, produced by the great Steven Spielberg, was set in 1979 and was essentially a homage to Speilberg’s films in the 70s and 80s. Watch it carefully enough (sometimes the references are far more obvious though) and you’ll see references to The Goonies, ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

In 2011, Abrams produced Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, the 4th instalment of the series, which was the live action directorial début of one of Pixar’s main men, Brad Bird.

Around this time, with Fringe still going strong, Abrams became a producer on Jonathan Nolan’s (brother of Chris) sci-fi drama Person of Interest, and also on the post-apocalyptic drama Revolution. The fact that Abrams was producing 3 shows at the same time is almost a foresight of what is to come.

January 2012 was a busy month for J.J.. First he was trying to negotiate the saving of Fringe, which, despite a cult following, was still struggling for viewers. No one was willing to take a chance on it again, so it was announced then that Fringe’s next season, its 5th, would be the last. Also in this month, Star Trek “2” began filming. And still, no one outside of the film knew anything about it. Not even a subtitle.

Then the big news. On 25th January 2012, it was confirmed that Abrams would be the director of Star Wars Episode VII. Cue hysteria in the sci-fi community. “He should stick to Star Trek!” “He can’t do both” were just 2 of the comments batted about.

Filming of Star Trek “2” finished in May 2012, possibly around the time Revolution started filming (the pilot was ready for San Diego Comic-Con, which took place in mid-July). So he’ll have been getting ready to enter post-production for Star Trek “2” and starting production on Revolution, Fringe and Person of Interest. I’m surprised he even found the time to breathe.

Now we enter today. We know an awful lot more about Star Trek “2”, now titled Star Trek Into Darkness, than we did a year ago, but still not a lot compared to most other films. Fringe has sadly finished, Person of Interest is still running strong, and Revolution is currently on a mid-season break. With Into Darkness being released in 2 months or so, this welcome break probably couldn’t come at a better time. Post production will be coming to an end on Star Trek Into Darkness and Abrams may finally be able to concentrate on developing the story of Star Wars 7 with writer Michael Ardnt.

So can J.J. Abrams balance the stars? Having seen all the evidence, I do not think there is any doubt he can. He’s balanced 3 TV shows and a film at the same time, so there is no reason why he can’t do this. The Portal and Half-Life movies may take a severe back-seat until he is finished with Star Trek, but there is no feasible reason why he will fail. He, first and foremost, is a Star Wars fan. He knows what needs to be in the film, and he knows what needs to be omitted.

Obviously this will be new for him, trying to direct films in two franchises that have had sparring fans since the dawn of time, and there will be fanboys who will refuse to like Star Wars VII. That will be their loss though. The film will be better than the prequels (Episodes I, II and III), and there is no logic behind the suggestion he won’t be able to manage both films.

May you live long and prosper with the force, J.J..

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