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The greatest adventure of all time begins with “Star Trek,” the incredible story of a young crew’s maiden voyage onboard the most advanced starship ever created: the U.S.S. Enterprise. In the midst of an incredible journey full of optimism, intrigue, comedy and cosmic peril, the new recruits must find a way to stop an evil being whose mission of vengeance threatens all of mankind.
The fate of the galaxy rests in the hands of bitter rivals born worlds apart. One, James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine), a delinquent, thrill-seeking Iowa farm boy, a natural-born leader in search of a cause. The other, Spock (Zachary Quinto), grows up on the planet Vulcan, an outcast due to his half-human background, which makes him susceptible to the volatile emotions that Vulcans have long lived without, and yet an ingenious, determined student, who will become the first of his kind accepted into the Starfleet Academy.
Kirk and Spock could not be more different. Yet, in their quest to figure out who they really are and what they have to give to the world, they soon become competitive cadets-in-training. With their drastically opposite styles, one driven by fiery passion, the other by rigorous logic, they also become defiant, contentious adversaries, each equally unimpressed with the other, each going all out to be among the special few chosen to join the crew of the most advanced starship ever created, the U.S.S. Enterprise.
The crew is headed by Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood). Joining him are the ship’s Medical Officer Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban); the man who will become the ship’s Chief Engineer, Montgomery “Scotty” Scott (Simon Pegg); Communications Officer Uhura (Zoë Saldana); experienced Helmsman Sulu (John Cho); and the 17-year-old whiz kid Chekov (Anton Yelchin). All will face a harrowing first test that will set in motion the loyalty, camaraderie, daring and good humor that will bind them forever.
In the midst of it all, Kirk and Spock will come face-to-face with an undeniable destiny: a need to forge an unlikely but powerful partnership, enabling them to lead their crew to boldly go where no one has gone before.
I've been in the midst of a surreal back and forth email conversation with one of the men behind the making of Star Trek II for over a year now. No, I can't tell you who. It's surreal, because Star Trek II is probably my favorite movie of all time. To me, it's kind of like emailing with Jesus and then being forced to promise him you'll never tell anyone in your local Church what he said about the torrid, homosexual affair he had with St. Peter.
What I can say about our conversations is that I've learned something important about Star Trek from him. Here it is: Star Trek works brilliantly when it's not trying to be Star Trek, and fails miserably when focused on being whatever it is that makes it itself.
Confused? Consider. When Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan was made, it was made with the goal of simply making a great science fiction movie. It wasn't about making some overbearing monstrosity about the power of the human spirit, as Gene's creation so often becomes. Rather, they just wanted to make a great movie and they had a ready made universe of characters and places to make it happen with.
It worked. Star Trek II is generally now regarded not just as the best Star Trek movie, but also simply a great movie in its own right. It's a standard in science fiction filmmaking, and whenever a moviemaker says he's trying to make his own "Wrath of Khan", we know exactly what he's talking about.
For J.J. Abrams' Star Trek XI to re-energize Trekdom, he needs to get back to that. The franchise needs to shake free all the baggage that comes with being a Star Trek movie, and simply focus on being a great science fiction movie, in a broader sense. That doesn't mean he needs to toss out continuity or resort to bringing in hot, young, "Dawson's Creek" actors to put in his spaceships. Far from it. Instead, this is an opportunity to make something great with all the pieces that are already there. Use the basics of what Star Trek is to craft something fresh, inspired, and unique. Explore new realms of Science Fiction, avoid the technobabble and get right down to the basics of smart, otherworldly storytelling. Don't make a Star Trek movie. Make a great science fiction movie that uses the pieces and parts of Star Trek to movie it. It worked for Star Trek II.
By taking things back in time to the era of the original series, Abrams has made it a lot easier to do all of that. Kirk and Spock's time is a simpler one, with more to explore, more wonders to be discovered, and with the weight of fewer years on their shoulders. The question is, how will Abrams use the era he's decided to set his movie in? Will he trample all over established continuity and weight that simpler time down in the excess technical jargon of the future, or will he cut right to the story's human element and find a unique, interesting science fiction, character driven adventure to set Star Trek XI's heroes (whoever they might be) on? It's up to him. But by bringing in someone from the outside, Paramount and Star Trek have at least given us the possibility of a fresh, faithful perspective. After so many years of botched handling from people on the inside, a talented outsider with vision and a little Hollywood clout is the best any Star Trek fan could have hoped for to properly resurrect Roddenberry's dream.
A Letter To JJ Abrams On Behalf Of Star Trek Fans