Entertainment Spotlight

Another world sucked into director J.J. Abrams’ orbit

Updated: 2013-01-26T20:30:20Z

By DARRYL LEVINGS

The Kansas City Star

So this is what it is like when two universes collide.

With coming “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” films reportedly to be made by the same director under the same Bad Robot Productions roof, J.J. Abrams is going, yes, where no director has gone before.

Not everyone in the geek world is thrilled. It’s like a cat person snuggling up to a big, wet shaggy dog, a Mizzou fan putting on a ’Hawks sweatshirt, Data taking a shower with C3PO.

Abrams, also known for “Fringe” and “Lost” on TV, is just finishing “Star Trek Into Darkness,” for release by Paramount Pictures on May 17. Like the first hugely successful reboot, it finds the young Capt. James T. Kirk and Spock back aboard the USS Enterprise.

When George Lucas sold his “Star Wars” franchise to Disney — the Death Star to some in Hollywood — some fretted, but others were happy if new creativity paddles might jolt the series back to life.

But now, Abrams will shock Hollywood if he agrees to hook the jumper cables to the Millennium Falcon for a seventh “Star Wars” film in the series, out in 2015.

We tapped into the sci-fi conflict in our own house, asking The Star’s public editor, Derek Donovan, to speak for the “Star Wars” world and staff artist Neil Nakahodo to shoulder up with his fellow Trekkies.

Q. Some are smarting like their franchise was just slapped in the face by a Vulcan; “Star Wars” folk fear their fantasy retreat is about to be lost to the Borg.

A. DD: I understand why Jedi fandom is exploding with trepidation. Yeah, sci-fi enthusiasts have well earned their reputation as inveterate complainers, and they didn’t hold back at this news. I especially liked one online asking if there should be “some geek law somewhere that says you can’t be involved with ‘Trek’ and ‘Wars’ at the same time? If he’s doing this, what happens to ‘Trek’? Conflict of interest, IMO.”

NN: “I had that attitude about 10 years ago. “Star Wars” was my favorite and “Star Trek” was just sterile and not enough epic space battles. It was like PC or Mac. No way could you like both. But over the years, thanks to my wife who likes both, I came to appreciate “Star Trek,” mostly because of thoughtful storytelling and intellectual dilemmas. I believe you can be into both. There’s no reason to not like both light sabers and the USS Enterprise.

Q. Or Jabba the Hutt, our personal favorite. But will Abrams go bipolar on us, keeping both of these galaxies spinning in his head?

A. DD: The worlds of the two franchises have little in common from a stylistic or visual standpoint, and “Trek” has always been irredeemably old-fashioned to my eyes. It’s set in a sterile, stylized and overdesigned future that’s never felt remotely believable. Why does everyone have to wear the same clothes in space? And why are 95 percent of the alien races completely humanoid, just with a few ridges on their foreheads?

On the other hand, “Star Wars” takes place “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” and is populated with broken-down tramp spaceships and unruly, distinctively nonhuman aliens. Its everyday life looked lived-in, making the cold, machined efficiency of the Empire even more threatening.

NN: But “Star Trek’s” humanoid aliens have personality. I would rather drink blood wine with a Klingon than hang with C3PO, who would bore me to death. I don’t care that he speaks over 100 languages. I would ditch him or any other character from “Star Wars.”

That means you, Jar-Jar! .

Q. Abrams himself said he was never a “Trek” fan as a kid; “Star Wars” was one of his favorite movies of all time.

A. DD: My biggest fear about Abrams is that he’s the king of no follow-through. I’ll be the first to admit that he’s brought us some great setups so far: The tantalizing mystery of the “Lost” island, or the slow tease in advance of “Cloverfield” or “Super 8.” But the payoffs? There wasn’t one to “Lost.” And once we finally saw the “Cloverfield” and “Super 8” monsters, it was just the same-old, same-old droolers that Hollywood has churned out for decades.

Is Abrams going to sully “Star Wars” with his lazy go-tos of time travel or alternate universes? Let’s save those hackneyed tropes for the cheapo Syfy channel movies, please.

NN: George Lucas disappointed me so much with the last three “Star Wars” movies. I convinced myself that I liked them just because I didn’t want to believe that Mr. Lucas would ever mess up the visual storytelling of Darth Vader.

So J.J. couldn’t do any worse. He left me breathless with the opening scene in “Star Trek: The Future Begins.” I believe it’s in the right hands.

Can’t we just employ a Romulan cloaking device over our differences? After all, space is a very big place.

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