Monday, February 2, 2009

Abrams Talk Trek to LA Times

LA Times had a two part interview with Star Trek director J.J. Abrams about the upcoming movie. Below are some excepts or read the whole thing (part one, part two).
With "Star Trek" you seem to be pursuing a revival like we've seen with Batman and James Bond, which holds on to core mythology but recalibrates the tone.
JJA: I think I benefited because I came into this movie as someone who appreciated "Star Trek" but wasn't an insane fanatic about it. The disadvantage is I didn't know everything I needed to know immediately at the beginning and had to learn it. The advantage though is I could look at "Star Trek" as a whole a little bit more like a typical moviegoer would see it; it allowed me to seize the things that I felt were truly the most iconic and important aspects of the original series and yet not be serving the master and trying to be true to every arcane detail. It let me look at the things I knew were critical.

GB: What are some of the things that made that "critical" list?
JJA: The characters was the most important thing in it. We needed to be true to the spirit of those characters. There were certain iconic things -- if you're going to do "Star Trek," you've got to do the Enterprise and it has to look like the Enterprise. If you're going to do "Star Trek" you have to do costumes that feel like the costumes people know. You have to be able to glance at it and know what that is. Even the text, the font of "Star Trek" has to look like what you know.

The phasers, the communicators, the Starfleet logo -- there are all these things that are the touchstones, the tenets of what makes "Star Trek" "Star Trek." If you're going to do this series those are things you don't mess with. And yet, they need to withstand a resolution that "Star Trek" has never had to withstand before. And I don't just mean IMAX -- though it will have to work there too -- but what I mean is that audiences are so savvy now and they've seen every iteration of "Star Trek," "Star Wars," two separate versions of "Battlestar Galactica," they've seen "Alien" and "Aliens," they've seen countless science fiction movies. They've seen it all. And even worse, they've seen a movie as "Galaxy Quest" that completely mocks the paradigm in its entirety.

GB: You know that no matter what you do, you'll get an earful from hardcore fans.
JJA: The key is to appreciate that there are purists and fans of "Star Trek" who are going to be very vocal if they see things that aren't what what they want. But I can't make this movie for readers of Nacelles Monthly who are only concerned with what the ship's engines look like. They're going to find something they hate no matter what I do. And yet, the movie at its core is not only inspired by what has come before, it's deeply true to what's come before. The bottom line is we have different actors playing these parts and from that point on it's literally not what they've seen before. It will be evident when people see this movie that it is true to what Roddenberry created and what those amazing actors did in the 1960s. At the same time, I think, it's going to blow people's minds because its a completely different experience than what they expect.

GB: Last time I saw you, you mentioned there would be a tribble in the movie. That's fun.
JAA: Yes! There is a tribble in there. But you have to look for it. And there's that other surprise I told you about but please don't write about that one.

GB: Can you talk a bit about the story of this film?
JJA: This story is ultimately about a guy who is full of unbelievable potential but he is aimless, he is lost. He ends up finding a path that takes him beyond his wildest dreams. It helps him find his purpose. That's a great story in any situation, in any culture. There is something about that spirit of innovation, collaboration, possibility, adventure and optimism that is inherent in what "Star Trek" was.

GB: How much did you go back to the various "Trek" shows, films, novels, etc., to research the mythology? I imagine at some point sifting through all of it would become a counterproductive exercise.
JJA: I looked at a lot of the episodes of all the series that came after the original "Star Trek" but because we are focusing on the original series I didn't really need to know every episode of "Deep Space Nine" or "Voyager" or even "Enterprise." But, yeah, I watched episodes, I read up a lot, I watched the movies, I talked to people, whether it was our "Trek" consultant or one of the two writers [Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci] about what it would mean to do what we wanted to do. We have one producer, Bob [Orci], who is a complete Trekker and another in Bryan Burk who had never seen an episode of the show ever. And it was a great balance. We could make sure it passed the test of the ultimate fan and the ultimate neophyte and make sure that it was equally entertaining to both parties.

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