So the word on the street today is that J. J. Abrams–he of the TV shows “Alias,” “Lost” and “Fringe” and the movies “Cloverfield,” “Mission Impossible 3” and “Super 8” among others–is planning to direct the new Star Wars movie–Episode VII–coming out in a few years. For many of the people like myself who endearingly refer to him as “J. J.” and have embraced seemingly everything he has done since popping on to the entertainment scene a little over a decade ago, this news is great news. After all, look at what he did for the Star Trek franchise a few years ago and what he’s hopefully planning on doing with it this year (the sequel, “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” is due out in May). He’s taken once-dry material and made it fresh and new again. Who wouldn’t want him to do that with arguably the most beloved, movie franchise in cinematic history? Something to help us at last wash the dual tastes of Jar Jar Binks and springtime on Naboo out of our collective mouths. Not to mention Anakin/Darth Vader’s primal scream at the end of Episode III. Brrr. I get shivers just thinking about it and they’re not from the bone-chilling cold outside.
In truth? As a lifetime aficionado of everything and anything Star Wars, the only director I’d personally want to handle this daunting task more is Joss Whedon, endearingly referred to by many, including myself, as just “Joss.” But he is otherwise preoccupied with making the Marvel multi-verse completely bad ass right now, so J. J. is, for me, a more-than suitable replacement. He’s arguably one of the two best, young directors in Hollywood presently (the other, Ben Affleck, was apparently vetted for the job but not chosen; s’cool for him, though. Word is he’s been tapped to direct the Justice League movie in a few years which could, conceivably be equally as bad ass as “The Avengers” if the right superheros are chosen).
But not everyone is as ciked as I am. Por ejemplo: I’ve seen a lot of people who hated J. J.’s reboot of Star Trek online today, trolling the entertainment sites and lamenting the fact that this is happening. The term “Lens Flare”–a filming technique that he has been criticized for overusing–was even trending on Twitter last night after the news was officially announced. Still, most people appear to be cautiously optimistic about it. I guess we’ll all know all in a few years but for now, let the speculation about a story line and a cast begin. Josh Holloway (Sawyer from “Lost”) for Han Solo, anyone? Lord knows if J. J.’s involved, you’re not going to know anything about Episode VII’s plot until it is released.
But this announcement has gotten me to thinking. J. J. has already taken on one beloved franchise. Now, he’s taking on another. Whether or not the Trekkies and the Star Warsies go to war over this remains to be seen (I classify myself as “both” and “neither” at the same time and as for what that means, I have no frackin’ idea). One reviewer classified it as the equivalent of owning Coke and Pepsi with Dr. Pepper (the Mission Impossible franchise) thrown in for good measure and you can imagine what that would do to the fans of both, can’t you? Coke and Pepsi can not be made by the same company! We need to retain some measure of capitalistic competition in this country, people!
Okay, maybe not. But it got me to thinking anyway: What if J. J. were to take on another, beloved franchise but not a franchise beloved by Geekdom. Rather, a franchise beloved by, say, children? ‘Know which one I’m talking about? The title of this blog entry says it all. Without further adieu, I give you one madman’s speculation on the possibilities inherent in:
Dora the Explorer: A J. J. Abrams Film
The opening shot of the movie is a close up of a blinking, brown eye. The camera pans out and we see our heroine, Dora’s face. It is streaked with dirt and she is laying in a corn field. She is wearing her customary purple, nondescript belly shirt and her equally nondescript orange capri pants, but her sneakers have disappeared (she is still wearing her yellow socks). She sits up and looks around her but the area in which she finds herself is unfamiliar. She honestly can not remember how she ended up there. She stands and calls out to her best friend, Boots, but receives only silence in response.
She again surveys her surroundings. Instinctively, she reaches behind her in an attempt to remove Map from Backpack and get her bearings. With a gasp she realizes that Backpack and, by association, Map are gone. She considers what she should do. In doing so, she realizes that there is a small structure of some sort at the edge of her vision. She squints: It looks like a shack. Why had she not seen it before? She considers it as she starts off in a trot toward it.
Ten feet or so away from the onset of the shack’s ramshackle porch there is a line of what looks like gray ash piled in her path. She pauses before it, looks left and then right and realizes that the ash frames the entire property. Tentatively, she steps over the line but nothing happens. She runs the last of the distance to the porch of the shack, gains it, and raps on the old door that hangs loosely from its hinges outside. A raspy, male voice tells her to “come in” and she does.
She opens the door, and immersed in the shadows that fill the structure’s interior she sees someone or something sitting across from her in a rocking chair. She can not tell much about the figure’s appearance at first: It seems to be made of shadow itself. But slowly it takes shape. She then recognizes the figure that leans forward in to a single beam of light as her friend Benny the Bull.
She asks him what has happened; asks him where her friend Boots is and what has happened to Backpack. Benny informs her that apparently, Swiper’s experiments with Red Matter–a hobby of his when he’s not swiping–backfired and created a singularity which he fell in to. It carried him back in time to the exact day that Dora’s Abuela first gave her Backpack. Seeing an opportunity to improve upon his future self’s situation, Swiper swiped Backpack before the exchange could be made and ran away. He disguised himself, traveled to his childhood foxhole and gave Backpack to his past self. Thereafter, he vanished, never to be heard from again.
Said alteration of the original timeline of Dora’s life set in motion a series of events that caused the new timeline within which she finds herself, a timeline in which Boots and her never became friends and she never received Backpack. Dora the Explorer is, in fact, plain ole’ Dora Vasquez. As for why he is imprisoned within the timeline, as well, Benny is unable–or unwilling, Dora thinks–to provide Dora with a reasonable explanation in the time allotted them. But he assures her multiple times that they are not in Purgatory.
Dora asks Benny what she needs to do and Benny tells her that she must travel to Swiper’s foxhole and confront him. She must then use the Red Matter–which Swiper still dabbles in–to create her own singularity and travel back in time. Once there, she must either prevent Swiper from swiping Backpack before it can be gifted to her, or she must swipe it back from him after and give it to her younger self. As for which one, the choice is hers, Benny tells her. The end result in both cases, he reasons, is the same. She asks how she’s going to get to Swiper’s foxhole without Map Quarterbacking her through it and Benny gives her a GPS device. He also tells her that she may have to get bloody. Dora tells him that she’s not afraid, and that she’ll do whatever she has to do to restore the original timeline. After all, she tells him, Explorer, not Vasquez IS my middle name.
Benny advises her that actually, Vasquez always has been her last name and Explorer is more of a title than a last name. Dora thanks Benny for his help and turns to leave. Before she can do so, however, Benny calls to her. She turns back at the door to look at her friend, who warns her that the path to Swiper’s foxhole, even with the assistance of a GPS device is fraught with peril. Dora suspiciously–because she has been wondering about him since she first saw him–asks Benny how he knows this and watches, helplessly, as Benny de-materializes in to a black smoke cloud, wisps around her once, and blows out the door in a flurry of grinding, mechanical clatter.
Dora switches on her GPS device as she exits Benny’s shack but quickly realizes that she has been duped. Benny the Bull’s GPS runs Apple Maps which, she knows, will get her no where near her intended destination. How on Earth will I find my way to Swiper’s foxhole now? She asks herself. At that precise moment, a single engine plane lands on the ground before her and she sees that her friend Isa is flying it. But Isa, Dora quickly realizes, is not her friend in this alternate reality. In fact, Isa’s pilot’s uniform–little more than a set of gray overalls–has what Dora understands is Swiper’s insignia–a mask with two beady eyes peering from within it–upon its lapel. Isa takes Dora in to custody. She binds her hands and feet and puts her in the back of the plane. She then takes off. Well, Dora reasons, I guess this is easier than trying to find my way there without Map or a functional GPS device.
Some time later, Isa lands her plane next to what looks at first like a towering pile of junk in the shape of a foot. However, Dora quickly realizes (as she is forcibly removed from the plane) that the “junk” is actually the sum total of everything that Swiper has swiped and not used since he first swiped her Backpack years before. Toys and appliances; clothes and Tupperware. Everything and anything that she can think of is represented in the makeshift structure that Swiper has framed his foxhole with. Swiper emerges from within his “castle” to greet Isa and Dora sees it hanging from his shoulders: Backpack.
Backpack! She shouts and tries to rush Swiper but is quickly restrained by a collection of overall-clad, automatic rifle carrying guards with red shirts beneath, wearing masks similar to Swiper’s. Swiper orders them to place her under arrest pending termination. No sooner has he done so then a wormhole opens up directly to Dora’s left and the “over there” version of her steps through, flanked on either side by her friends Tico and the Big, Red Chicken (who are played, respectively, by Michelle Rodriguez and Jorge Garcia). Each is armed with a phaser and they immediately open fire on the guards trying to restrain Dora. They fall quickly, but not before one of them gets a shot off and mortally wounds the Big, Red Chicken (‘like what I did there with the color red, Trekkies?). Swiper flees in to his foot-shaped foxhole, followed closely by Isa. Dora, Dora and Tico pause for a moment to tend to the Big, Red Chicken but it is too late. He has expired.
Come on, Dora says to Dora and Tico, let’s go get Backpack AND some retribution. Dora and Tico agree. Dora takes the Big, Red Chicken’s phaser and follows Dora and Tico in to the foxhole. After a few moments, they corner Swiper and Isa in one of the interior chambers of the foxhole next to the large, sphere of Red Matter that Swiper dabbles in while he’s not swiping. Swiper holds out Backpack in one hand and a turkey baster with a single drop of Red Matter in the other. You want this? He threatens, then come and GET IT! Before Dora, Dora and Tico can react Swiper drops the drop of Red Matter on to the floor before him and a singularity opens up which he and Isa subsequently fall through.
Dora moves to follow him but Dora and Tico pause. Come ON, Dora shouts, we need to get Backpack back so we can restore the original timeline. But Dora and Tico look at each other and shake their heads. To do so, they tell Dora, would be too much of a risk and could potentially cause the collapse of not just the alternate reality in which they currently are in but “over there,” and all realities. We will wait here for you to return, Dora says to Dora. Tico nods his head and says dios velocidad which translates to God speed. Dora leaps in to the singularity, phaser in hand, and lands a few seconds later…
In the same room. No, Dora realizes, it is not the same. It is brighter and the decor is outdated. I’m in the past! She understands. But which past? She considers, and how far back? She runs out of the room and follows the tunnel which she had come down in the other reality with “over there” Dora and Tico up to the surface. She emerges in to the sunlight. The items that had comprised the foot that had framed Swiper’s foxhole are gone and she can see Swiper and Isa fleeing down the road about 100 feet away from her. She runs after them as fast as she can and finally catches up to them. She orders them to stop and they do so. Swiper turns, Backpack still in hand, and holsd the turkey baster–also still in hand–up to it.
There’s still a little left, Dora, Swiper cautions, one squeeze on Backpack and it’ll cease to exist, which is another way of saying that once again, YOU’RE TOO LATE! Simultaneously, Dora hears something mechanical clanking in the trees to her right. She turns, just in time to see the big, black Benny smoke cloud come roaring out of the woods. It targets Swiper and Isa, swirls around them, picks them up and throws them screaming in to the distance before it stops swirling, and re-materializes in to Benny the Bull on the road before her. Benny holds up his hand and Dora sees Backpack hanging there.
Backpack! She cries and moves to take it, but Benny steps back and holds it away from her. Not so fast, Dora, he says gruffly, I will give this back to you so you can complete your adventure and restore the original timeline but in exchange, I need something. Dora skeptically asks him what he needs and Benny replies, quite simply with your body.
THIS vessel has outlived its usefulness, he tells her. I need a new vessel before it expires and I would like that vessel to be you. So, Dora asks, you’re not really Benny the Bull? Benny the Bull? The Benny-thing says, no. What I really am is far older and more difficult to explain. Dora tasks him to try her and he replies that he cannot explain it thoroughly in the time allotted them. He assures her once again that they are not in Purgatory, which makes absolutely no sense to Dora since they weren’t even discussing Purgatory, but she dismisses it. She looks longingly at Backpack and thinks of her good friend Boots. After a moment’s consideration, she reluctantly agrees. But only after I give it to past-Dora, return through the singularity and make sure that things have been restored to normal. Benny agrees and gives her Backpack. Benny tells her that he will see her shortly, morphs in to a polar bear and runs off toward Swiper’s foxhole.
Dora travels the last of the distance to her Abuela’s house and arrives simultaneously with Swiper. Instead of chanting “Swiper no swiping” like she always does she opts, instead, to shoot him with the Big, Red Chicken’s phaser before he can enter and swipe Backpack. It works. She watches, hidden in the bushes with an incapacitated Swiper beside her as her Abuela gives her younger self Backpack. Once satisfied that the exchange has been made, she binds Swiper’s hands and feet with the rope stashed in her version of Backpack, throws him over her shoulder, and runs quickly back to his foxhole.
She arrives to find the singularity promptly closing. She leaps in to it with Swiper in tow, and arrives back where she started. The sphere of Red Matter is gone and “over there” Dora and Tico have vanished. They probably took it with them to protect it, Dora thinks. The singularity closes behind her with a “pop” and she lays Swiper down on the floor just as he is waking up. She loosens his bonds and informs him that she is going to cut him loose. The alternate version of you and your cronie alt-Isa are trapped forever in the past, and the Red Matter is gone, she informs him, if I so much as SNIFF you doing anything but swiping in the future I’m going to come back here and finish what I COULD HAVE finished before. She holds the phaser up so he can see it, points to the switch–labeled “Stun” and “Kill” which is currently set to “Stun”–and asks him if she is clear. Swiper stands up rubbing his wrists, snaps his fingers together and says, “aww, man,” but he agrees. Dora swings Backpack on to her shoulders and leaves him that way, cowering in his foxhole.
She emerges on to a hillside. There is no foot shaped pile of swiped items around her. Standing a few feet down the hillside are her friends Isa, Tico, the Big Red Chicken and Boots! She shouts his name as she rushes toward and embraces him. Boots embraces her back and asks her what has happened. Dora states that she will explain it to him over a banana and a cup of Abuela’s non-alcoholic Sangria. She reaches behind her and touches Backpack. Backpack says “yum, yum, yum, delicioso!” Map? She asks and hears the familiar refrain of “who’s the guy you need to know when you’ve got someplace to go,” and smiles. She releases Boots, and is about to exclaim that “we did it!” when she hears a mechanical clanking behind her. She turns and watches as the black Smoke Benny cloud re-materializes in to Benny the Bull.
I was wondering when you’d show up, the Benny-thing says, I have fulfilled my promise to you and you DID IT. Lo hicimos! You have completed your adventure. The timeline has been purified. Now, are you ready to fulfill your promise to me? Reluctantly, Dora agrees that she is. Boots inquires about what is going on and Dora turns to him and explains the accord that she reached with Benny while in the past. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, Boots, she states. Boots is saddened, but he understands that any contract, even one between a black smoke thing and his best friend is binding and he reluctantly agrees to let her go. Or the one, he replies and Dora nods. They embrace again, and a few tears are shed. Dora hands Backpack to him and tells him to give it to Diego. It’s time for him to become more than just plain Diego, she says and Boots agrees. Dora says goodbye to Backpack and Map and also embraces Isa, Tico and the Big Red Chicken before she turns back to the Benny-thing and informs it that she is ready. Benny thanks Dora and tells her to close her eyes. The camera zooms in on Dora’s brown eye: The same one it had zoomed in on at the beginning of the movie. And as she closes it, the screen fades to black and the credits role.
I’ll concede that it’s more “Lost” than anything else but there are echoes of J. J.’s other shows and movies in it, as well. At least I think there are. Anywhos, that’s my take on how J. J. would treat the Dora the Explorer franchise were he to get his hands on it. There’s the potential for so much more. Whatever the case, please do not mistake this as a portrayal that mocks J. J. Abram’s style. It isn’t. If anything, it is an appreciation of that style. I can’t wait to see what he does with Star Wars. And if he happens to get his hands on this treatment and decides that it resonates with him, this next part is for him. Dear Mister Abrams: I admire your body of work greatly. I think the Lens Flare is an awesome filming technique and do not feel as though you have used it to excess. If you are interested in collaborating on a reinterpretation of “Dora the Explorer” please drop me a line either here or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). And if you’re not? Well, sir, I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. Sincerely, Frank Marsh, alias (‘like how I did that?) A Big Fan.