With apologies to Joss Whedon, there’s no bigger mainstream geek director working in Hollywood right now than J.J. Abrams. Whedon may hold the box office dominance at this point with The Avengers under his belt, but Abrams has both Star Trek Into Darkness and a little project called Star Wars: Episode VII on his plate, so it’s likely only a matter of time before he claims that throne.
Abrams has been keeping a low profile since the announcement that he’d direct the next Star Wars movie, but Playboy (of all places) managed to snag an interview with him recently, and there’s some pretty great stuff in there. To whet your appetite I’ve pulled the choicest bits relating to Stars (Trek and Wars)…just for you.
First up, here’s what the director had to say when asked about the differences between his original Star Trek movie and the upcoming sequel Into Darkness:
“The first film was very much about these disparate orphans coming together and starting a family. The next step has to be about going deeper and, yes, as the title indicates, getting a little more intense. We’re testing these characters in ways they deserve to be tested: Kirk being cocky to a fault, Spock being so Vulcan that it raises the question of how he can possibly be a friend or lover when he’s that unemotional.
I learned so much doing the first Star Trek—a movie. I’d never done any kind of space adventure before or anything on that scale. We knew the second one had to be bigger and not just for bigger’s sake. It was where the story was taking us. We got really cool glimpses of the Enterprise in the first movie. This time we get to see areas of the ship nobody’s seen before. And the villain is more complex now. In our first film Eric Bana plays a wonderfully angry Romulan dude, pissed off and full of vengeance. In this one, the bad guy is still brutal and fierce, but he’s got a much more interesting and active story. We have to grapple with many layers of his character. He’s essentially a space terrorist, and Benedict Cumberbatch, whom people know from BBC’s Sherlock, is fucking kickass in the role. Kirk and the rest of the crew are figuring out how the hell to get an upper hand with this guy. The darkness is real in this movie, and it’s incredibly challenging and terrifying, and it can certainly be lethal. You need that edge, partly because Star Trek has been so relentlessly parodied over the years.”
He also offered his take on whether or not there would be any inter-species sex in the movie, considering how much of a ladies’ man Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is, and Abrams’ response called back to the essence of the original series:
“Star Trek has to be sexy. That’s in keeping with the original spirit of the series. In the 1960s they were limited because of the time, but so much was insinuated. Part of the fun of our first movie was playing with the idea that Uhura and Spock were a couple. This movie takes that further and asks how that’s possible. Why would she be interested in that kind of guy, and why would she put up with him? It’s obvious what he would like about her. I mean, it’s fucking Zoë Saldana.
And it’s always fun playing the womanizing card with Kirk and seeing him in bed with girls who might not be completely human—you know, green skin or whatever. Nobody’s going to force Kirk to be a romantic and settle down. That would feel forced and silly. Kirk’s a player. We like him that way.
We also have Alice Eve joining us; she’s an incredibly wonderful, versatile actress and definitely in the sexy category. She’s a great complement to Uhura. Hey, it wouldn’t be Star Trek if there weren’t some hot young actors, women and men, in various moments of either undress or flirtation.”
And while there have been rumors that he might step away from the Trek series for good after this entry hits theaters to concentrate his efforts on fixing the mess George Lucas created with his prequels, Abrams wasn’t completely dismissive of the idea of coming back for a third outing with the members of the Enterprise:
“I would say it’s a possibility. We’re trying to figure out the next step. But it’s like anything: It all begins with the story.”
The conversation soon turned to a galaxy far, far away, and Abrams described the fact that he’s helming both mega-popular space franchises as “Preposterous. Ridiculous. Completely insane.” He refused to give specifics about what exactly we’ll see from the next chapter of the long-running saga – “it’s so early it would be insane to discuss details or get into plot points about what this unfilmed movie will be” – but he did offer some insight into his approach to the daunting task of making the highly-anticipated next entry:
“Here’s the thing. I try to approach a project from what it’s asking. What does it need to be? What is it demanding? With Star Wars, one has to take into account what has preceded it, what worked, what didn’t. There are cautionary tales for anything you take on that has a legacy—things you look at and think, I want to avoid this or that, or I want to do more of something. But even that feels like an outside-in approach, and it’s not how I work. For me, the key is when you have a script; it’s telling you what it wants to be…[Trek and Wars] shouldn’t feel the same aesthetically. They can’t. You’re right. But again, I don’t apply aesthetics first and fit a movie into that aesthetic. If I had come into Star Trek with those eyes, I would probably have been paralyzed. The advantage here is that we still have George Lucas with us to go to and ask questions and get his feedback on things, which I certainly will do. With Star Trek it was harder because I wasn’t a Star Trek fan; I didn’t have the same emotional feeling, and I didn’t have Gene Roddenberry to go to. But I came to understand the world of Star Trek, and I appreciated what fans felt and believed about this universe and this franchise.”
Well, depending on how you feel about Lucas’ level of involvement in the new trilogy and upcoming spin-off movies, you’re likely either thrilled or disappointed at that statement. But as long as Lucas sits back and lets Abrams truly have control of the universe Lucas once created, I think Episode VII will turn out just fine. It’s only when Lucas starts to get greedy and tinkers with things like story, characters, and – as we’ve seen with constant re-releases – visual effects, that’s when fans start to feel a negative influence from the series creator. But it finally seems as if Lucas is just tired of all of it, and now that he’s handed things off to Spielberg’s producing producer Kathleen Kennedy at Lucasfilm, it feels like he’s really there just to offer help whenever he’s needed.
You can read the rest on Playboy (which is pretty obviously NSFW BTW). If you’re a fan of Abrams work – whether it be on the big screen or the small, with series like “Felicity,” “Alias,” “Fringe,” or “LOST” – this is a must-read. But what do you make of Abrams’ comments? Are you stoked to see Benedict Cumberbatch face off against Pine and Co. in Star Trek Into Darkness? How do you think he’ll handle the pressure of directing a brand new Star Wars film? Sound off in the comments below with your thoughts.
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