Give me a few days and I'll make a try and write up a separate post going into more detail about it.
But to give you a reply now, I don't think he ever understood the original star trek crew, or the ethos of the franchise, what made star trek unique. He actually says it himself, here's a few clips and some quotes.
JJ Abrams on Star Trek - Interview - Film4
As someone who was never a fan of Star Trek, when I started working on the first star trek movie we did, I really approached it from a sort of movie-goer's perspective, which is what do I want to see, what would make me excited. I had to do it in that genuine way and not in a 'oh they'll love this', or 'the trekkies will want that' because I don't know.
I remember as a kid I didn't get him (Kirk). He was too handsome, he was too swaggery, he was too cocky, and you know, full of himself.
Spock was far smarter than I was, Bones was much grumpier than I was, you know. So my point is that, while, I didn't connect with any of those characters, including Sulu, including Uhura...
J J Abrams discusses Star Trek and Star Wars
I think that part of it might be that I have a kind of ADD, of kind of, wanting things to happen and sometimes I have to be reminded by people smarter and wiser than myself to just calm down, and to just let something play, you don't need to have another, sort of, thing happening right there.
Though I was never a Star Trek fan as a kid, since I was eleven years old I was a fan of Star Wars, I feel like I'm one of those fans.
When he was interviewed on the daily show by Jon Stewart, he said that he was never a trekkie and that “It always felt too philosophical”.
So to sum up what he has said:
- He was never a fan.
- Didn't know what trekkies, the fans, would want.
- Didn't 'get' or connect with any of the main characters.
- Had difficulty with the slower, less action-focussed pace. Had to be told when he was cramming unnecessary elements/events.
- Equates being a Star Wars fan to also being a Star Trek fan (They're completely different in tone).
- Didn't enjoy the franchise's thoughtful, philsophical leanings.
I think when you put it all together in one place like this, it's obvious that he was the wrong person to direct the reboots. There was no way he was going to stay true to the original tone, spirit, characters. It was always going to be his re-imagning, that is, the re-imaging of someone who didn't understand or like Star Trek. A recipe for disaster.
This youtuber makes some good points and I'd recommend you watch that clip, but to paraphrase the best bits for you;
It is the philosophy that sets Star Trek apart, without it Star Trek is just another space story.
The philosophy of Star Trek is that humans are capable of creating a fair and just society, so we should do that. We can be better so we should be better.
I would also add another part of it's philosophy is that humans can work together peacefully with alien races who seem completely different to us, but through perseverance we can overcome conflict and better ourselves and others (when Star Trek first came out this was a metaphor for cooperation between different cultures and ethnicities). None of this is apparent in Abrams's Star Trek.
What upsets me the most is that you think the reboot can still be Star Trek if you remove that. If you think movie-goers want movies with huge firefights then that's ok, you can have huge firefights and still have the movie be Star Trek. That's not my problem, but if the main point of the movie is the firefights, then you've done it wrong.
I appreciate that Abrams wanted to make the reboot attractive to new audiences, but he threw away the core of what set Star Trek apart from other sci-fi action/drama. It's because he didn't want to make a Star Trek movie, he wanted to make a sci-fi action movie and the Star Trek franchise just happened to be the one he was given to work with. I feel like he took advantage of a pre-existing franchise that he should have respected instead of trying to re-mold it into his own (non-fan's) vision.
In the process of re-molding it to his own vision, he mangled characters that have been loved for decades. He didn't do justice to any of the characters in my opinion, not a single one, but I'll just talk about Kirk and Spock here because they are central to the original star trek crew, and Abrams got them so badly wrong.
- Kirk is a brilliant and daring starship captain. He's not afraid to break regulations to do what he thinks is right, and not afraid to take risks when the stakes are high. That being said, he doesn't take his position or choices lightly. Abrams seems to misinterpret this as Kirk as always being reckless and having no respect for authority, and instead of portraying Kirk as a unique thinker, he simply skates around on good luck and comes across as flippant and arrogant. Kirk can be a bit of a womaniser, but in Abrams's hands Kirk is just a horny frat boy.
- Spock is half vulcan, half human and an amazing scientist. He usually plays the devil's advocate when Kirk is pondering a problem, and draws the best out of Kirk. An ongoing theme is that his calm vulcan side balances Kirk's more emotional human tendencies. In Abrams's hands, Kirk and Spock are like two bickering kids. Spock in particular seems to have the emotional control of a child, when infact the opposite should be true (Spock is the most calm and composed out of the crew). Yes Spock had internal conflicts between his vulcan and human natures, but Abrams doesn't understand how to portray this with restraint and goes totally over the top with it. Spock stumbles around like a hormonal teenager, throwing tantrums and snogging crewmembers when their minds would have been on the task at hand, bringing an incredibly embarrassing juvenile light to what was a sophisticated intelligent character. His vulcan nature sometimes isolated him from the mostly human crew, making him come across as aloof, but in Abrams's Spock is just self-righteous and possibly slightly racist/species-ist
I don't want to go into plot here, I've already gone on too long, but there are so many ridiculous things from both movies that frustrate me. Military/scientific crew members taking the time during an emergency situation to have a relationship squabble, magical rejuvenating blood that turns up conveniently, a female weapons scientist that is totally useless and gets the most attention when she takes her clothes off, technologies that turn up to solve a plot hole that would break the rules of the universe and are never heard of again, Spock the scientist ends the climax of the movie with a fist fight, old spock happens to be hiding out in the one cave on the entire planet that Kirk is dropped nearby, Kirk becomes captain after smuggling himself on board... The list goes on and on and makes me angry just thinking about it all, I'll have to save it for that other post.
To finish up, I give you ye ole' classic Hitler reacts to new Star Trek movie although youtube is crawling with vids from trekkies who didn't like the reboots.
To me, Abrams's Star Trek movies are just sci-fi action movies slapped with the Star Trek brand. If you changed the names of the characters and made their ship different, there would be nothing to tell you it was Star Trek at all. It is possible to reboot a franchise and make it new and interesting to the old fans while attracting new ones, but I don't think Abrams managed that. Instead of looking at the challenges facing humanity as it ventures into space, he focussed on the action scenes and what felt like adolescent angst. He took what was a thoughtful franchise about humanity exploring the cosmos and turned it into a soap opera with action set in space.
Taking all this into account, I think you can see why I might be nervous about The Force Awakens :) I just don't think the guy has good taste, I don't trust him.