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Star Trek and Star Wars in Trouble…?

June 25th, 2018

It’s been something of a rough week for my two favorite franchises with “Star” in their title.

In last week’s big Star Trek news, the show-runners for Star Trek: Discovery were fired mid-way into production of season two, and replaced by Alex Kurtzman… who was then announced as having been signed to a five-year deal to expand his Star Trek work into multiple different Trek projects and platforms.  Well, I’m certainly happy that someone somewhere is working on more Star Trek.  There are so many places this franchise can go.  We’ve been hearing forever that Nicholas Meyer (writer/director of Star Trek II and Star Trek VI, which count among the very best Trek has ever been) had been working on some sort of Khan story, and I’d love for that to see the light of day.  And the idea of Patrick Stewart’s reprising the role of Picard in some way could be cool!

So what’s bad?  Let’s start with, ugh, the idea of a teen-focused Star Trek story set at Starfleet Academy that just won’t seem to go away.  It was a bad idea decades ago when it was rumored to be the plot of the next Trek movie after Star Trek V’s disappointment, and it’s still a bad idea now.

I’m concerned about yet more behind-the-scenes turmoil at Discovery, which is now on its third show-runner.  (The series’ original co-creator and show-runner, Bryan Fuller, was apparently forced off mid-way through production of the first season.)  And I doubt that Alex Kurtzman, announced as running the show now, will stay as show-runner for long since he’s involved with lots of other projects (more on that in a moment).  So assuming he’s soon replaced by someone else, that’d be four show-runners in two seasons.  That doesn’t bode well for a high-quality show!!

Also, I don’t like reading the dreaded “reboot” word in connection to the mentions in the press of Patrick Stewart’s possible return to the character of Picard.  Ever since 2002’s disappointing Nemesis, I have been hoping that future Trek movies/shows would move the franchise forward rather than backwards.  I’m not interested in more prequels like Enterprise or Discovery, and I really don’t want a reboot that will erase the past fifty-plus years of Trek continuity.  (While I was originally open to the idea of J.J. Abrams’ movies rebooting the Trek franchise in order to give us new adventures of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, etc., ultimately now I think we have to look back on that three-film reboot series as a disappointment.)  I’d love to see what Picard is up to a few decades after the events of Nemesis — but a do-over/reboot does not interest me.

The real source for concern in all of this is the idea that Alex Kurtzman will be at the helm of all of these new Trek projects.  Mr. Kurtzman seems like a lovely fellow, and he seems like someone who truly is a Star Trek fan, which I think is great.  But I can’t point to any of his work that gives me much hope that he is capable of writing anything halfway decent.  He co-wrote 2009’s Star Trek, a film with a lot of great things about it, but whose clear weakness was the terrible script.  He co-wrote Star Trek: Into Darkness, which, as the years go by, is looking more and more like it’s the worst Star Trek movie of all time.  He’s the co-creator of Star Trek: Discovery, whose first season was extremely erratic and ultimately disappointing.  In terms of his non-Trek work, he’s written Transformers, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Cowboys and Aliens, and the recent The Mummy reboot starring Tom Cruise.  That is a painful array of bad films!!  So I don’t have any reason to trust that Mr. Kurtzman is capable of writing and shepherding future Trek projects that will actually be any good.  Sigh.

Meanwhile, there’s also turmoil in Star Wars land.

In the wake of Solo’s disappointing box office, there are rumors that Lucasfilm is halting all of their plans for future spin-off “A Star Wars” story films.  That seems like the wrong lesson to draw, in my opinion.  It seems pretty clear to me that the main reason that Solo didn’t explode at the box office was because it was released only a few months after The Last Jedi, so the film didn’t feel like an event.  While the previous three Star Wars films were released after months and months of heavy marketing push, I feel like we didn’t even get a trailer or a poster for Solo until about two months before the film’s release.  I guess Lucasfilm just assumed everyone would go, without much marketing?  Also, I think they underestimated how much the film-geeks who care about this stuff were discouraged by the mid-production of the film’s original directors.  That sort of thing gave Solo the stink of being in trouble for a year before it’s release, and that had to have had an effect on how it was received.  So we had a perfect storm of the true insider fans being turned off by everything we’d heard about the behind the scenes turmoil, and for the more casual fans not really being marketed to or made to feel like this new Star Wars film was a must-see event.

The lesson that I want Lucasfilm to learn is to consider how to move this franchise forward, telling new types of stories about new characters.  I think the idea of a “young Han Solo” film is inherently a bad idea.  (Though I will freely admit that I liked Solo a lot more than I expected to, and I think this is a film whose reputation will improve as the years go by and the film is judged more on its actual merit and not its opening weekend box office receipts.)  But enough with the prequels, already.  Just like I wrote above that I want to see the Star Trek franchise move forward, same goes for Star Wars!!  Let’s move ahead in the Star Wars timeline — or further into the past than just the childhood of the main characters from the original films.  (There are millennia of history of the Old Republic and the Jedi and Sith that could be explored.)  And even if we’re operating within the familiar era of Star Wars, let’s see NEW characters and situations (Rogue One did this really well, despite being a prequel) rather than feeling the need to stick to people named Skywalker or Solo or Organa.  (While I generally hate prequels, Rogue One proved that a prequel can still be great — and, personally, I would LOVE to see an Obi-Wan Kenobi film with Ewan McGreggor reprising the role, seeing as Mr. McGreggor’s Obi-Wan was one of my favorite aspects of the prequels, especially in Episode III.  But that’s an exception to my general philosophy, and it’s more about my feeling that the prequels’ low quality meant Mr. McGreggor never really got his due in the role.)  Follow-up articles indicate that perhaps the early reports of Lucasfilm halting work on all spin-off films may have been overblown, and I hope that is the case.  But I also hope that they are learning the right lessons from Solo’s release, and not the wrong ones.

I am a critical thinker and I don’t give a free pass even to those franchises and properties that I love.  But at the same time, I want nothing more than for new stories in these worlds to be great!!  I believe there is plenty of gas in the tank for both Star Trek and Star Wars for an unlimited number of future great stories, in movies or on TV or in other media.  Here’s hoping the women and men guiding these franchises are able to find a successful (creatively and financially) way forward.

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