As anyone can tell, I am quite excited about the upcoming movie. After the letdown that was 2002's Star Trek: Nemesis (good in concept, so-so in execution) and the huge disappointment that was Star Trek: Enterprise (canceled after only four seasons on TV), I was beginning to wonder whether or not Star Trek could be truly great again.
When it was announced in mid-2006 that J.J. Abrams (the genius behind Alias, Lost and the director of the recent Mission: Impossible movie) would be producing and subsequently directing, there was a glimmer of hope. Along with him he brought Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci, writers from his previous projects and the ones who also scrippted M:i:III. Abrams' team consisted of a good mix of longtime Trek fans, casual Trek fans, and people who didn't know a whole lot about it. This meant insight from people who not only knew what Trek fans liked, but also who would know what it would take for Star Trek to appeal to the casual moviegoer.
Star Trek has spent too much time being the "poor Sci-Fi cousin" (so-to-speak) of Star Wars. With seven trips to the big screen (I unfortunately include the dreaded animated flick from last summer), Star Wars has made roughyl $1.9 billion in box office receipts! Its highest grossing movie was 1999's Episode I: The Phantom Menace, which brought in $431.1 million! Each of Star Wars' installments has had an average income of $274.0 million in the box office!
And Star Trek? The franchise has taken ten trips to the silver screen since 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture, with a grand total of $755.6 million in box office totals. Trek's most successful film was 1986's Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (the one with the whales, for those who aren't completely familiar with the franchise) which brought in $109.7 million, and remains to-date the first and only Star Trek movie to bring in over $100 million in the box office. The closest any other film came was 1996's First Contact (the one with the time traveling Borg) and that reached $92 million. The average Star Trek film has made $75.6 million.
The last figures for the new Star Trek (no subtitle) movie placed the budget somewhere near $130 million, and that doesn't include the big marketing plan Paramount is putting behind this movie. Paramount must like what they see if they put this much money behind it. Then again, I remember hearing great things about the last flick and look where that ended up: Number 2 opening weekend ($18.5 million) behind a Jennifer Lopez romantic comedy and a box office intake of $43.3 million.
What's the difference?
Star Trek has been Paramount's "golden cow", so to speak. It's been around since 1966, one of the longest running film and television franchises there is. Paramount can't allow it to die, what franchise does that leave them? So in an attempt to jump-start the franchise, J.J. Abrams was called upon and the decision was made to go back to the beginning. Star Trek is the origin story of Kirk and Spock and how they came to be aboard the Enterprise. Paramount is banking on the success of recent origin story/reboots like Batman Begins and Casino Royale to be duplicated with Star Trek.
It's an awfully big risk to take, because if you look for people who played Batman before Christian Bale, you'll find Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney. If you look for people who played James Bond before Daniel Craig, you'll discover Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. If you look at who played James Kirk before Chris Pine, you'll discover William Shatner.
That's a big difference. This is the first time in the 43-year history of the Star Trek franchise that the original characters have been recast. Star Trek fans are well-known for being extremely touchy, sensitive and very picky about their Star Trek. Why do you think the franchise has lost so much of its fanbase over the last 15 years? Because it became fragmented because you had those who preferred the original series, TNG, DS9, Voyager or Enterprise. There are fans who loved DS9 but hate Voyager, and vice-versa. There are fans who love Enterprise but hate the original series. There are fans of the original series who want this movie to fail because William Shatner's not playing Captain Kirk!
J.J. Abrams and Paramount Pictures are taking a huge risk in taking the franchise in this direction. To be honest, I don't care who plays Jim Kirk as long as they are convincing and don't make me pine (pardon the pun) for the days of Shatner as Kirk. In an attempt to try to link this new vision of Star Trek to the original, Leonard Nimoy returns as an older version of Spock. And if Leonard Nimoy's involved (remember he walked away from doing Star Trek: Generations because the script wasn't good enough) then there must be promise, right?
My big question is, what does Star Trek need to not only be fresh and original again, but to also be appealing enough to be successful?
Paramount has kicked their marketing campaign into full drive, because I have read a remarkable story about the "premiere" of the movie.
Talk about a surprise! And reviews are starting to come out as well!
According to TrekMovie.com, tonight fans in Austin, TX were actually shown the entire new Star Trek movie instead of The Wrath of Khan and a 10 minute preview of new footage (a secret US premiere hours ahead of the gala world premiere in Sydney, Australia).
Two minutes in to the showing of Star Trek II, the film appeared to have ‘melted' and Star Trek star Leonard Nimoy came out in front of the audience holding a film can.
Nimoy asked them "wouldn't you rather see the new movie?" And apparently the crowd went wild. Nimoy stayed for the entire screening as did Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof.
The full report (including photos of the event and various reviews) can be found at TrekMovie.
From the Hollywood Reporter:
Putting a much-loved but over-the-hill vehicle back in shape takes more than a new battery and a lick of paint. It demands a full-bore refit, and that's exactly what J.J. Abrams has given "Star Trek."
The full review can be found here.
Paced at warp speed with spectacular action sequences rendered brilliantly and with a cast so expert that all the familiar characters are instantly identifiable, the film gives Paramount Pictures a new lease of life on its franchise.
Lewis Bazley for the In the News UKSo far every review is gushing positive about this movie. For a fan who was worried about whether this would be good (after all, the same writers behind this script wrote 2007's Transformers, a movie I really didn't like), this is excellent news. And considering I've read multiple reviews stating how this movie is what the Star Wars prequels should've been, that's saying something!
Remakes, reboots, reimaginings - whatever you want to call return visits to oft-explored franchise, JJ Abrams' take on Star Trek is hardly a journey into the final frontier. Yet in handing the Lost creator the reins to overhaul a landmark, 40-year-old TV series with ten film spin-offs, Paramount Studios have not just kicked off an inevitably lucrative new movie saga, but also managed to give a much-parodied source new life and devotees. Abrams has more than proved his dramatic and comedic credentials in the likes of Felicity, Alias and - before it went a bit mad - Lost and revealed a surprising talent for action direction in 2006's Mission: Impossible III but in Star Trek, he is now confirmed as the one of the most talented filmmakers of his generation. The pulse-raising, balls-to-the-wall action filmmaking on show here shows he is able to breathe new life into a potentially stagnant source, to find humanity in a profoundly absurd situation and to satisfy the fanboys while attracting new converts.
Nick Curtis for the Evening Standard
Abrams's version of Gene Roddenberry's idealistic space western isn't perfect. But it is confident, clever and above all spectacular enough to please die-hard fans and newcomers alike.
Debra Craine for The Times
Just when you thought that the Star Trek phenomenon had truly run its course, along comes J. J. Abrams's stunning prequel to resuscitate the most enduring franchise in sci-fi history. The past five decades have produced five television series and ten films - not all of them successful - so veteran Trekkers had no right to expect such a dazzling and beautiful rebirth.
Kev Geoghegan for the BBC
Star Trek is a decent film that does exactly what it says on the tin. It's big, flashy and action packed with impressive special effects. Kids will enjoy it and the snappy dialogue provides enough laughs for mum and dad.
Chris Tookey for the Daily Mail
J.J. Abrams had come up with a tremendous idea, inspired no doubt by the success of Batman Begins and Casino Royale, both of which had reinvigorated tired franchises by recasting and going back to basics.
The result is not only by far the best of the 11 Star Trek movies, it must rank as the outstanding prequel of all time.
But will it be enough? In order to be a success, Star Trek not only needs that big opening weekend, it's going to need staying power, and it's going to have some stiff competition this summer.
May 1: X-Men Origins: WolverineAnd somewhere in there is Pixar's latest, Up.
May 15: Angels & Demons
May 21: Terminator: Salvation
May 22: Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
June 24: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
July 1: Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
July 15: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Aug. 7: G.I. Joe
So despite the nothing-but-good reviews Star Trek is getting, will it be enough to be a success and keep the franchise alive?
Just a quick aside, Paramount commissioned a script for a sequel two weeks ago, so I guess they're banking on big success, but only time will tell. Opening weekend is still two weeks away.