We are but a few weeks away from Star Trek Into Darkness reaching theaters, and yet so many of the movie's secrets have been (thankfully) kept under lock and key; hence, any attempt to wrestle information from director J.J. Abrams about his next major sci-fi genre blockbuster undertaking, Star Wars: Episode VII, is best to be considered a foolhardy endeavor, at this stage of development.
Nevertheless, that's exactly what Playboy (needless to say, their link is NSFW) attempted during an interview with Abrams. The effort culminated with the latter serving up some intriguing, but vague, food for thought about Episode VII and what his creative philosophy is for approaching George Lucas' operatic space epic.
However, the Star Trek/Wars director also touched on two other gestating sci-fi franchise installments: one which is, for certain, going to happen (an Into Darkness followup, a.k.a. Star Trek 3) and a sequel to the Abrams-produced giant monster found-footage movie Cloverfield, which shall henceforth be called just Cloverfield 2.
First, here's what Abrams said about the challenge of tackling Star Wars, as a self-admitted fan:
"Here’s the thing. I try to approach a project from what it’s asking. What does it need to be? What is it demanding? With Star Wars, one has to take into account what has preceded it, what worked, what didn’t. There are cautionary tales for anything you take on that has a legacy—things you look at and think, I want to avoid this or that, or I want to do more of something. But even that feels like an outside-in approach, and it’s not how I work. For me, the key is when you have a script; it’s telling you what it wants to be."
Indeed, what hasn't worked for Star Wars in the past - many fans would argue the majority of artistic choice on the prequel trilogy fall into that category (along with the winter holiday special) - now lives in infamy. That is probably a big part of the reason why Lucasfilm president and Episode VII producer Kathleen Kennedy had to spend a month coaxing Abrams to accept the director job.
However, with Oscar-winner Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3) writing the Episode VII screenplay and Lucas on hand to consult as necessary, Abrams has good reason to be confident that his Star Wars movie can rank among the best (or, at the least, better) installments in the franchise; not to mention, stand apart from his rebooted Star Trek universe, in terms of thematics qualities and visual design:
"As with anything, because ['Star Trek' and 'Star Wars'] are very different worlds, they shouldn’t feel the same aesthetically. They can’t. You’re right. But again, I don’t apply aesthetics first and fit a movie into that aesthetic. If I had come into Star Trek with those eyes, I would probably have been paralyzed. The advantage here is that we still have George Lucas with us to go to and ask questions and get his feedback on things, which I certainly will do. With Star Trek it was harder because I wasn’t a Star Trek fan; I didn’t have the same emotional feeling, and I didn’t have Gene Roddenberry to go to. But I came to understand the world of Star Trek, and I appreciated what fans felt and believed about this universe and this franchise."
On that note: Paramount, after Abrams was officially confirmed to direct Star Wars: Episode VII, refused to rule out the possibility that the filmmaker could direct Star Trek 3, in addition to producing the threequel. However, since then, producer Bryan Burk has made it known that a 2016 release date is desirable, in order to coincide with the original Star Trek TV series' 50th anniversary.
Star Wars: Episode VII is tentatively scheduled to reach theaters by Summer 2015, which would make it, in essence, impossible for Abrams to make that blockbuster and then have Star Trek 3 ready a year later (as a director on both films, anyway). Nonetheless, Abrams is likewise refusing to rule out the idea:
“No. I would say it’s a possibility. We’re trying to figure out the next step. But it’s like anything: It all begins with the story.”
The same holds true for Cloverfield 2, which Abrams and director Matt Reeves have talked about on-and-off about for around five years now. However, with director Guillermo del Toro releasing Pacific Rim in theaters during the summer - followed by director Gareth Edwards rebooting Godzilla next year - there's very much wisdom in Abrams' claim that now just isn't the right time for a Cloverfield sequel:
“Part of me just wants to let ['Cloverfield 2'] go, though we’ve had a couple of discussions about cool ways to do it. I’m looking forward to seeing Pacific Rim this summer. It feels like there are some really big monsters coming down the pike that could inspire something we do.”
One massive genre blockbuster at a time, right?
Star Trek Into Darkness opens in select (U.S.) theaters in 3D/IMAX on May 15th, 2013. It begins a regular theatrical release on May 17th.
Star Wars: Episode VII opens in theaters in Summer 2015.