Star Trek Fans Can Relax: J.J. Abrams Gets It

Star Trek EW Cover

Entertainment Weekly has published a real drooler of an article regarding Alias and Lost creator J.J. Abrams’ upcoming Star Trek reboot. Here are ten facts from the article that really stood out for this long-time Trekker:

  • From the article: “J.J. Abrams’ regard for Star Trek can be summed up in two words: Galaxy Quest, the 1999 hit starring Tim Allen that satirized Trek with painful precision.” I think this is actually good news for the film. I’ll have more to say about that at the end of this article.
  • The new Trek has a bigger budget ($150 million) and promises better special effects than any previous Trek film.
  • Abrams really seems to connect with the optimism of Star Trek–which is, I believe, the franchise’s greatest asset.
  • The new Star Trek is not being tailored for fans of the show. Its goal is to reach a larger audience. Again, this is a good thing, as the biggest issue I’ve had with many of the Trek films in the recent past has been in the moments where they pander to the fans.
  • If I’m understanding correctly, the new film has a time-travel angle to the plot.
  • The story will include an appearance by Captain Pike, who was the captain of the Enterprise on the original pilot, before Shatner was cast for the role of Kirk. Also, Sulu will get to swing a sword again.
  • Abrams screened Leonard Nimoy’s cameo scene for EW, and the writers were apparently quite impressed with the scene’s coolness. Nimoy has also expressed his approval of Zachary Quinto’s casting in the young Spock role.
  • Simon Pegg, who knows a thing or two about making good movies and giving good performances, has high praise for both Quinto and Chris Pine (Kirk).
  • In regards to overcoming his non-Trekker prejudice, and his anxiety about making a Trek film that would be accepted by both the fans and mainstream audiences, Abrams says, “I knew this would work, because the script Alex and Bob wrote was so emotional and so relatable. I didn’t love Kirk and Spock when I began this journey — but I love them now.”
  • The first full trailer for the film will screen when Quantum of Solace is released on November 14.

I’ve always believed there were two types of people in the world: Star Trek people and Star Wars people. Abrams is an avowed Star Wars person. How does this make him qualified to birth the next good Trek movie?

Well, it doesn’t, but it brings an interesting sensibility to the task. I was a huge fan of Alias, and I’m still a fan of Lost, so Abrams has a proven track record as far as I’m concerned. And in regards to Galaxy Quest, even the most hardcore Trekker has to admit the movie nailed it. Abrams has been warning since last year that his movie would not be made for the hardcore fans. Nonetheless, the sense I’ve gotten from even my most hardcore, Klingon-speaking Trek fans (yes, I know some of those people) is that they are cautiously optimistic. They will begrudgingly admit that the last two movies, Insurrection and Nemesis respectively, weren’t very good, and a reboot is just what the doctor ordered. Some still complain that the crews from Voyager and Enterprise never got a chance to shine on the big screen. But those people are nuts. Because, let’s face it–those shows sucked.

I know that some of the fans are recoiling at the idea of Abrams stating that he wants his film to be a more “visceral experience,” i.e. Star Wars. I imagine they believe that sensibility to be antithetical to what Star Trek is supposed to be all about. The argument takes me back to the early eighties, when Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was in production. While successful at the box office, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was generally regarded as a terribly boring film. Gene Rodenberry, the much-lauded creator of the original Star Trek, complained bitterly about the sequel. Given at best ceremonial duties as executive producer for the sequel, Rodenberry circulated bitter memos that director Nicholas Meyer’s reinvention of the Star Trek universe was too action-oriented and “militaristic.”

Despite Rodenberry’s misgivings, Khan released to critical praise (even earning lauds from the cantankerous Pauline Kael) and box office success, and is still generally regarded by the fans as the best of the films. Without that crucial success, Rodenberry’s vision for The Next Generation would have never gotten off the ground.

No matter what you think of Abrams, he is an artist who understands characterization and story. As far as the Trek mythos goes, he shows in the EW article that he has an understanding of its inner core: optimism. The Star Trek universe shows us that no matter how bad things get, a peaceful, prosperous, and rational future is still attainable. Star Trek is the model for that future, populated by characters worth cheering for. If Abrams has his ducks in a row concerning that (and I believe he does), the rest should take care of itself.

What do you think of these newly revealed Star Trek details?

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