Let's get this out of the way: JJ Abrams is vastly overrated as a writer and director. As a composer, I like him. As a producer, he's come up with some interesting projects but they rarely are cohesive and usually don't have good endings (LOST, Fringe, Cloverfield).
His second whack at Star Trek is due to come out soon (Star Trek Into Darkness), and it looks pretty terrible. The recent publicity stills features chicks and guns. JJ Abrams clearly does not understand or else intentionally disrespects Star Trek.
Spaceships, aliens, big themes and a journey of discovery - that is Star Trek. [When I reference Star Trek, I refer to the original series (TOS) as it is the only one that matters]
I am so hopeful he'll bow out of the next installment of Star Trek or that Viacom/Paramount will release him after "...Into Darkness" falls below expectations so he can then instead concentrate on reviving that tired Star Wars franchise.
As I noted in my review of his original Star Trek (linked here), he made ridiculous choices in terms of story, characters, casting, special effects and especially in his "re-imagining" of his alternate timeline of the story. The most egregious faults were his brewery subbing as the Engineering section, 40 shuttles, bug-eyed aliens and dwarf rock-monster aliens, the stupid swivel phasers, cheap-looking sets, the nauseating Spock-Uhura romance, and especially the Plot Scrambler that put the right characters into the right chairs. The new film looks pretty bad, frankly. If the villain turns out to be Khan, Tremaine, Mudd, or a fucking tribble, who cares? It is not Trek- he's making Star Impossible Trek Mission.
Many fans already are quite apprehensive or outright dogging Star Trek Into Darkness given the storyline, trailers and promo visuals. Clearly it is not a spaceship on a journey (remember the "five-year mission"?), there don't seem to be any space battles, our hero (Kirk) is once again tentative and cocky whereas the Kirk of TOS was a man of high achievement and confidence. We get Spock vs. the Volcano for a sub-story that just seems idiotic even in the trailer (they couldn't beam the bomb into the volcano?). And the focus is on the villain - played by Brit-of-the-moment Benedict Cumberbatch (who got cast based upon his work in BBC's Sherlock Holmes reboot). Obviously Abrams and his creative team are trying to recapture the magic of the best of the films, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - which boiled down to a test of wills between good guy Kirk and over-the-top villain Khan (in a brilliant hammy performance by Ricardo Montalban).
Abrams has had such a full plate over the years what with all his television series and other projects, it is hard to know how many of the bad choices are his. My insider at Paramount tells me that Abrams is very hands-on and often wants changes and to go over something several times before giving approval, so the blame should fall to him. It is his production company and his impramatur. I also blame his writers, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. They crafted the clunky dialogue and the terrible plot of the first film. They did some fun campy stuff (Xena, Jack of All Trades) in their early career but their big movies have been pretty lame: Cowboys and Aliens, Transformers, The Island. [Gah! Update: I checked the credits and Damon Lindelof is also a writer on this one - now for sure it will suck]
I sure hope Sumner Redstone of Viacom and Brad Grey of Paramount decide to cut Abrams loose from the next Star Trek. Any number of directors and writers could take over the franchise and keep the basic JJ reboot aesthetic and work with the story developments (and problems) Abrams, et al brought to it. I still think Dean Parisot deserves a crack at a Star Trek film since he's already made the best one (GalaxyQuest).
To fix it in the third film the new writer and director will need to work with the cheap gimmick of time-travel that Abrams, Orci and Kurtzman injected into the mix with 2009's Star Trek. It is fixable, but hamstrings the process. In my next post on this subject I'll show how it's done.