J.J. Abrams always says he's never been a Trekkie, but, according to a new report in The Wrap, it was Abrams' inability to fully control the Star Trek franchise—and wipe out merchandise connected with the original 1960s series—that may have been an impetus to switch franchises in favor of Star Wars. What's more, Abrams' lack of passion for the Trek source material—and his lasting desire to commercialize it—may say something about the movies he's made.
The Wrap's Brent Lang reports that convoluted questions of who owns what when it comes to Star Trek meant that Abrams could not create the "multi-platform experience that spanned television, digital entertainment and comic books" that he had envisioned. That roadblock may have played a part in Abrams's move to helm the Star Wars reboot at Disney, where such a lucrative concept would be welcomed with open arms.
You see, whereas Paramount owns the movie rights to Star Trek, CBS owns the rights to the television series (and any future shows in the works). That meant that CBS could and still did create merchandise based on the cast members of the original series. Since people were apparently getting William Shatner's Kirk confused with Chris Pine's Kirk, Bad Robot—Abrams' production company—asked CBS to stop making such products. CBS said no, so Bad Robot "scaled back its ambitions to have Star Trek's storylines play out with television shows, spin-off films and online components, something Abrams had been eager to accomplish."
Surely, Star Trek Into Darkness will make a lot of money , and, according to The Wrap, it appears that all parties worked "more harmoniously" on the sequel, but, alas, Abrams' grand plans for Star Trek could not be, and he's already hard at work on re-imaging Star Wars Episode VII for release in 2015. Disney certainly has major new hopes for franchising opportunities: We already know that the company will try to milk Star Wars for all its worth with standalone films and goodness knows what else—just like Disney did with its acquisition of Marvel.
But this new look at Abrams' relationship with this weekend's biggest blockbuster says something about his relationship to the Star Trek lore. In an interview this week with Jon Stewart, Abrams talked about how he "never liked" Star Trek as a kid. That shows in the films, our Richard Lawson wrote in reviewing Into Darkness, which are sleek and fun but ultimately forgettable. Exactly what the original series wasn't. The original series was loaded with moral issues that had far more weight than the flimsy scenery or Shatner's line delivery. Abrams knows this, for sure, but his willingness to try to get CBS to erase that past so he could create an empire makes it seem like he didn't much respect it. Perhaps he and Disney deserve each other.