This Film is NOT a Future Release.
The Following Preview has been Archived.
February 2nd, 2009:
Will center on the early days of seminal "Trek" characters James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock, including their first meeting at Starfleet Academy and first outer space missionWhat to Expect:
First of all, let me just get this out of the way...OMG STAR TREK!!!
Ahem. Excuse me.
I have been a Trekkie since I was 14. Of the many geeky interests I have pursued, Trek has been the oldest and most enduring. I love Star Trek. Well...most of it.
Unfortunately, if the Trek franchise isn't quite dead, then at the very least it's in hospice care being made comfortable until the end comes. The early demise of the most recent series, "Enterprise," and its overall lukewarm reception, coupled with the failure of the most recent film, "Star Trek: Nemesis" (oh my God, they killed Data! YOU BASTARDS!) have been harbingers of doom for the long-lived franchise. The series screamed for reinvention, for a new, forward-thinking premise and direction. Trek had people who were capable of pulling this off. One of DS9's longtime writers, Ronald D. Moore, went on to create a little show called "Battlestar: Galactica," one of the most critically acclaimed and complex science fiction television shows ever made. Article continues below
But it had been a looooong time. The last installment in the Trek canon universe, the aforementioned and much-reviled (did I mention they killed Data?) "Nemesis," was six years ago. And the most recent crop of Trek writers and producers hadn't exactly been burning up the airwaves with the final seasons of "Star Trek: Voyager" (a show that began with great promise and managed to squander every bit of it) and "Enterprise." So they made what had to be a risky but probably wise move...they went trawling for totally new talent. Of the many bandied-about filmmakers whose names were rumored to be attached, the project eventually went to the team of director J.J. Abrams
and writer/producers Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci, one of the most up-and-coming trios in film and TV, responsible for, among other things, "Alias" and "Fringe."
Three years ago, when Paramount began approaching writers and directors with an aim toward somehow rejuvenating the Trek franchise, J.J. Abrams was not what you'd call a Trekkie. He had no idea that they'd already made ten Trek films (that number even gave me a moment's pause before I realized that damn, they had). He'd seen dribs and drabs of the shows and films but was never what you'd call a fan. But he was the new golden boy. He was someone with a fresh perspective who was doing really interesting things with shows like "Alias" and "Lost." Abrams' film career was still nascent; he'd just come off writing "Mission Impossible: III" but his directing resume was limited to a few smaller films in the 1990s. "Cloverfield" wasn't yet released, but Abrams' buzz was golden. At first, he didn't intend to direct, but produce...however, the scriptwriting process (and some gentle prodding from no less a personage than Steven Spielberg) convinced him to take the reins. Kurtzman and Orci were coming off having written "Transformers" and would be writing its sequel, so between these three men there was a lot of potential and box office viability to be had.
Now, if I might change the subject briefly, let me share with you a little secret. Whenever a film is made based on a pre-existing property with built-in fans, like Trek or Watchmen or Sin City...the studio doesn't care about the fans. They'll say they do, but they don't. The director and the writer may care, they may even BE fans, but when it comes down to it, the studio doesn't care. What they care about is getting butts in seats, and they know damn well that anybody who's enough of a fan to actually give a crap about whether the film is "true to the original" or not is enough of a fan to go to the movie no matter what. No Trekkie is going to skip a Trek movie, even if he or she is righteously peeved about the direction they've taken it. Execs know that die-hard fans, the ones they claim not to want to piss off, are also guaranteed ticket sales. So why should they care about pleasing them? It's the neophytes they care about, the ones who aren't going to give a rat's patootie if the new movie contradicts established canon or if a new actor is right for a beloved role.
This is why we fanboys and fangirls like having representatives in the production. Our rep in Trek is not J.J. It's Alex and Roberto. These guys are fans, for reals. So a combination of Abrams, not a fan but chock full of new ideas, and Kurtzman and Orci, fans and also chock full of new ideas, seems like a really good plan.
So these guys, who are so chock full of ideas...what ideas have they come up for this high-pressure job?
The idea of setting either a series or a film at Starfleet Academy and exploring the youthful lives of the original series characters, such as Kirk, Spock and McCoy, is not a new one. The idea was tossed around before it was decided that "Enterprise" would be the fourth Trek series. The idea came up again as a feature film idea, but it was not until Kurtzman and Orci tackled this film that the idea gelled into the film we're going to be seeing this summer. According to Orci, the whole team came naturally to the idea of this pseudo-prequel, sort-of-reboot approach. Inventing a new crew for a new ship had been done, and done, and done again. Nobody wanted to do the Next-Next-Next-Next-Generation, or come up with yet another totally new ship and try to get people to care what happened to it or the people on board. The only new idea was the original idea, to revisit the original crew. They're right in that the origins of the original crew of the Enterprise were frequently alluded to but never explored. We heard many tidbits about Kirk's past and his days at the Academy (his famous story about circumventing the Kobayashi Maru training scenario was a major plot point in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan"). So here we go. The Enterprise crew, young, brash, new...oh, and hot. Don't think that didn't cross their minds.
Prequels are somewhat out of vogue these days, just ask George Lucas. Reboots are where it's at. While "Superman Returns" wasn't exactly a barnburner, the reboot of the Batman franchise has been successful beyond anyone's wildest dreams, and the reboot of Bond brought legions of new fans to the character, this reviewer included. Everyone's looking for the next new reinvention of an old and hoary classic. And if there was ever a property ripe for a reimagining, it's Trek. But this storyline would seem to involve characters we know at a time in their lives before we first met them in the original series, so isn't that a prequel?
Yes and no. It is a prequel. It's also a sequel. It's also a reboot.
Okay, J.J. You got some 'splainin to do.
The plotline involves a young man you may have heard of, James Tiberius Kirk, and his escapades as a Starfleet cadet aboard the USS Enterprise, commanded by Captain Christopher Pike. Trekkies can tell you that Pike was the Enterprise captain in the unaired pilot of Star Trek, who was replaced by Kirk when the series began. Okay, so far, so good. The storyline also involves Romulans having contact with the Enterprise. Wait...what? Romulans were known at the time of the original series, but no one had seen or talked to them in many many years, and did not do so until the time of Next Generation. I suspect some canon tomfoolery is afoot.
In fact, the plot of "Star Trek" is a continuation of the "Next Generation" two-part episode "Unification," which featured Spock (played by Leonard Nimoy
) on Romulus, attempting to negotiate a peace between Vulcans and Romulans, who are related species long separated by ideology. According to this new canon, some years after this, one Romulan, a forward-thinker named Nero (Eric Bana
, bald, tattooed and badass-looking) goes back in time to the era of Kirk's Enterprise. In fact, it seems that Kirk's entire personal history may have been altered by this temporal interference in the form of the death of his father before Kirk was born.
So the entirety of this story is, in fact, an alternate timeline caused by Nero's time-travel from the future. An elderly Spock (also played by Nimoy) will also be appearing in the film to do some temporal meddling of his own. So in a way, it's a prequel, but it does not depict the young lives of the Enterprise crew we knew, because that was a timeline unaffected by Nero's interference. It's also a sequel, because it follows along after events we've already seen. And it's a reboot, because if the film is successful, the adventures of this Enterprise crew could conceivably continue. Confused yet? Trek will do that to you. They do love mucking about in the timeline and writing temporal paradoxes enough to give Sarek a migraine.
The surface plot seems to involve an exploding star near Romulus and Nero has some dastardly goal, although he's supposedly an honorable man. A great many hints to the content of the film are revealed in a four-part graphic novel series, "Star Trek: Countdown" which is being released right now to support the release of the new film, and reveals some surprising details, including a fleet of ships commanded by Captain Data. A neat trick, considering Data was killed in "Nemesis," as I can't seem to stop mentioning, and which still pisses me off.
But who cares about the plot? It's all about the casting. Trek was always character-driven, and the people portraying those characters are the ones who give them life. The casting of a young Kirk was the subject of much debate on the Intarwebz for months before the final decision was announced. The rumor that Matt Damon was being considered was so pervasive that it prompted Damon himself to phone Abrams and ask about it, whereupon he was informed that no, he wasn't being considered because he's too old for the part (which he most certainly is). Adrien Brody was often mentioned to play Spock, and a whole host of characters that aren't even appearing in the final film were discussed, probably artifacts from previous drafts.
The casting of virtual unknown Chris Pine
left some fans scratching their heads, but as always, I'm encouraged when a director chooses someone without name recognition. It tells me they're going for the actor's appropriateness for the role. Upon seeing an advance of the film, writer/director and geekboy Kevin Smith said that Pine's performance astonished him, and that it would make him a star. Now, Kevin is prone to hyperbole, but he wasn't the last to praise Pine's performance. He is not imitating Shatner, which is to my mind a good thing. Only Shatner can do Shatner, anyone else doing it is just ridiculous. Quinto
, who is mostly known for playing the villainous Sylar on TV's "Heroes," was a much-favored casting choice by fans, in large part because of his physical suitability. In makeup, hair and costume, his resemblance to Nimoy as Spock is uncanny, and as Sylar he displayed a lot of the detached coolness that Spock needs. Karl Urban
(who you may remember as Eomer in the second and third Lord of the Rings films) was recommended to play Dr. Leonard McCoy by Kurtzman and Orci, and by some reports his performance is the one that's the most reminiscent of the original incarnation by DeForest Kelley. The other four main bridge crew are also being played by low-recognition actors, with the exception of British comedian Simon Pegg
("Shaun of the Dead") as Scotty, a role that's often utilized for comic relief, as it would seem to be here as well. Lt. Uhura (who, for the first time in franchise history, is given the onscreen first name of Nyota) is played by "Center Stage" alum Zoe Saldana
, Hikaru Sulu by John Cho
(the Harold of Harold & Kumar), and Pavel Chekhov by "Terminator: Salvation" star Anton Yelchin
The design of the film was very problematic, since they couldn't very well make it look exactly like the original series, which was made in the 60s and looks appropriately dated. What's ironic is that Star Trek has had a significant impact on our real-life technological progress. So many of our modern-day engineers and scientists were Trek fans that their own creations were inspired by the show, so we find ourselves in a tidy little Mobius strip of art reflecting life inspiring art inspiring life. From the images we've seen of the bridge and the ship's interior, they've gone ahead and made it look sufficiently advanced from the point of view of us here in the 21st century. The joke in the fandom is that the bridge looks like the inside of an iPod, and, well...it kinda does, with lots of white-on-transparent design. It's very Apple Store Modern. That being said, the costumes are suitably similar to the original costumes, right down to the (slightly longer) miniskirts.
A number of people have seen a 20-minute collection consisting of four scenes from the film, and reactions to this package have been mostly positive, with some griping about too-quick action scene direction and a significant degree of worry about the noticeable lack of Spock in the clips. This has led some to wonder if Quinto's performance is being downplayed because it wasn't what they'd hoped for. One never knows.
I'm not a sycophant in the Church of Abrams. He's creative, but seems to have a tendency to lose hold of the reins. His series have started off great and strong, and then gone off the rails. What is a detriment in a TV series that needs staying power might be an asset in a feature film, where a big blast of creative mojo would be enough for a two-hour story that might or might not continue. I was, I admit, encouraged by Kurtzman and Orci's presence. The writing in "Transformers" was smart. Not too injokey, not too ironic, humorous in parts and realistic in others. It had a tone that I think will be appropriate for Trek.
What concerns me is that I just don't know if we need this. I don't know if there's an audience that cares. Trek hasn't been gone long enough for us to miss it, and what we remember of it most recently wasn't exactly its finest hour. Trekkies are legion, but we're also tired. Tired of being disappointed, tired of being stigmatized and of remembering the glory days without forging anything new and exciting to get our juices going. Is this the film to get things going again? It could be. I'm pretty excited about it.
I think other people are excited, too. Most of the fans I know are optimistic and eager to see something new and different from Trek. I think it's going to draw in new viewers. I think it's going to be a success. Or maybe I just hope it will be.In Conclusion:
A new Trek prequel/sequel/reboot has been a tricky proposition, but a combination of exciting filmmakers and buzz-inducing casting, plus some glowing early reactions to screenings, have made this one of the most anticipated movies of 2009 for both women and men. If it works, it could be a whole new era for Trek. If it fails, I think that'll be all she wrote for Roddenberry's dream, and that would be a real shame.Similar Titles: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
, Mission Impossible III