Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

Star Trek and Star Wars are interesting subjects. They're two long-standing titans of science-fiction and science-fantasy and you’d be hard-pressed to argue that everything under the pop-culture sun hasn’t been influenced by these two in some way. You can see their influence in almost anything: Mass Effect, Marvel and DC comics, Transformers, The Matrix (that’s right, The Matrix... What the hell happened to that franchise anyway!?).

It isn’t terribly surprising that people get the names mixed up. But of course, as any fan will tell you, they are very different. That first sentence probably sums it up best--Star Trek isn’t so much science-fiction as it is, well, SCIENCE-fiction. While I don’t think the US government is ever going to discover a warp drive, the business of space travel in Star Trek is not entirely off-the-map in regards to what it could one day actually be.

People don’t zip around in one man fighters; thousands of people build massive ships that require crews of hundreds to operate. Space travel in Star Trek is a lot like sailing on the open sea in the 1700’s. It takes time to get places and the show is filled with fantastical, yet plausible, ideas about how the human race would explore the final frontier one day.

Of course, the argument for why Star Trek outshines Star Wars is likely its elegant and sophisticated outlook on culture and ethics. I mean, Star Trek is pretty much the only future I know of where the human race got better and not worse. The characters on Star Trek tend to embody the best of us and the kinds of issues they face are very relevant to the evolution of our own society and sentimentalities into something better.

Star Wars on the other hand is what I’d like to call science-fantasy. Star Wars has a lot more in common with Lord of the Rings than it does Star Trek, ironically enough. See, George Lucas is no dummy. It’s sort of like Star Wars has the trappings of science-fiction in it. It seems to take place in the future (er, past…a past that looks like the future...oh nevermind) and technology is very advanced.

But the actual things that the characters are working with aren’t important. It doesn’t matter how Droids work or what a hyperdrive really is and there’s not much scientific basis for either. All of that is just the backdrop for the fantasy in Star Wars. And, as the die-hard Star Wars fans will tell you, it remains entrenched in our childhood hearts and minds as perhaps the greatest fantasy we’ve ever imagined.

Star Wars fills you with that awe and wonder that made the human race want to explore outer space to begin with. It sort of has this amazing ability to pull you from the same place that Jim Henson or Walt Disney did when you were a kid, but with these very adult themes and ideas. The spirit of the late 70s/early 80s, those movies are pretty timeless.

So the buzz on the internets has to do with Alias and Lost creater J.J. Abrams heading up the new Star Wars movie. This puts the often head-butting Star Trek and Star Wars fans into something of a predicament, I’d imagine, since the guy is also heading up the new Star Trek film franchise.

Now, what is this going to mean I wonder? I’m a fairly big Abrams fan, really. I think the guy did Star Trek justice in the reboot. It’s a nice update of the show that doesn’t lose the things that made the show what it was. It really felt like you were watching the old Star Trek.

Abrams seems, to me, to emphasize two things in his shows/movies: 1. Excellent characterization and 2. Wildly unexplainable phenomenon and mysteries that have a semi-scientific basis. Obviously, this makes him the man to go to when it comes to Star Trek. And, to his credit, I even think he has some of the "appeals to the best in us" in there too, in his own more gritty, modern-movie way.

Brief detour: everyone is going nuts trying to figure out what Star Trek: Into Darkness is all about. I’ve heard a strange reference to a character on a very old episode of the original show and some rumblings about Kahn being in the movie. Abrams has denied these I believe. The thing is I think maybe the guy just LIES sometimes. Like with Lost. I swear he seemed to deny stuff that was essentially true about Lost. I think Abrams might sometimes intentionally miscommunicate with fans in order to get the buzz going. Maybe I’m wrong, but I guess there’s nothing stopping you from just lying to your own fans, if that’s what you want to do. Consequently? I’m not ruling Kahn out.

Of course, I’ve also wondered if the next Star Trek might have something to do with the Mirror Universe. You know the one where Spock sports a goatee and essentially everything that went right with the human race actually went terribly, TERRIBLY wrong? There’s nothing implicit that says that in the trailer, but somehow I just feel like that would be Abrams thing, you know? Just a guess.

End detour.

Anyway, I’m thinking that as long as Abrams doesn’t lose sight of how Star Wars is different, he might be the guy to breathe a little new (yet old) life into it. Star Wars had mystery, in that you didn’t entirely understand the Force and you didn’t understand what the Jedi were like, because they had all seemed to disappear so long ago. I think Abrams could give us a little something to wonder at in Star Wars.

Ultimately, I think it’s going to be obvious that Star Trek and Star Wars could end up feeling more similar than different when this is all over. Or maybe a better way to put it is: I suspect that Star Trek and Star Wars will feel more like J.J. Abrams when it’s all over. I think he did a good job with Star Trek, but he’s just that kind of director; it feels like his kind of movie.

His kind of action sequences, his kind of characters. His style comes through and I think, in this case, it will in both of these franchises. Doesn’t mean he won’t pay homage to what’s come before or keep some of the essential differences that make each one what it is. I’m just saying--you’re going to notice that both Star Trek and Star Wars are J.J. Abrams’ movies when it’s all said and done.