J.J Abrams, director of this summer's blockbuster relaunch of the Star Trek film series, told reporters that the forthcoming follow-up will, like its predecessor, both appeal to nonfans and reward those familiar with the long-running franchise. "Whatever the story is and whatever the final movie ends up being, I know it will be something that will work on its own terms and be something that you don't need to know and study Star Trek to get," Abrams said in a press conference Thursday afternoon. "But if you are a fan, there will hopefully be gift after gift of connections, references, characters that you hold near and dear. At least, that's the intent."
Cinematical spoke to Abrams at a press day for the DVD and Blu-ray release of Star Trek, which is due November 17, 2009. The following is an edited version of Abrams' comments to the press about the sequel, which is currently being developed by the director and his original screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman.
Since you were able to wipe the slate clean with your prequel, do you plan to come up with something completely original, or is there a possibility you will reference some of the existing creatures or races in the next installment?
Abrams: The fun of this movie series is that we will have the opportunity, given its alternate timeline, to cross paths with any of the experiences, places and characters that existed in the original series. We have to be really careful, obviously, doing that. I don't want to do something that is so inside that only die-hard fans will appreciate.
Will the first film's alternate timeline affect what you can leave in and what can't be a part of subsequent films?
Abrams: The trick in doing any movie, but especially something like this that involves some weird alternate reality-time travel thing is that you don't want to not explain it, but you don't want to explain everything. I think you have as much fun with the missing pieces as you do with the pieces you get. So, for me, not knowing every detail, allows me to get inside of the story and start to fill in the blanks. When everything is spoon-fed, typically I feel like you're being pandered to, or it's too expositional. It's always a balance.
You managed to contemporize what was an aging franchise, with your work on Star Trek, and you talked about including more current events in the sequel. Do you think that Star Trek is evergreen, or is it something that needs to be continuously updated for each generation?
Abrams: It's hard to give a blanket answer to that question. I do think that, whether it's Star Trek or anything, whatever is being investigated, created or produced now, in movies or TV, needs to consider the context in which it is being distributed. It's not a vacuum. There are certain universal themes of love, conflict, loyalty or family that are everlasting and that need to be presented in a way that makes it feel relevant, even if it's a period piece. You need to consider what context that film, that story and those characters are being seen in. But, having said that, with Star Trek, it's not like we're looking to make the second movie some kind of heavy political allegory. I think that it's important that there is a metaphor to what we know and that there is relevance, and I think allegory is the thing that made shows like The Twilight Zone and Star Trek resonate and still be vital today.
But, because the first movie was so much about introducing these people, and it was very much a premise movie about how to bring these people together, it made it difficult to also have the film go as deep as it could, about certain conflict, certain relationships and the heart of who some of these characters are. I think it was successful in what it needed to do, to introduce these people, but I feel like, now that we've done that, it is the job of the next film to go a little bit deeper. It shouldn't be any less fun or take itself too seriously, but consider who these people are now and grow with them, and just examine them a little more closer, now that we've gotten through the pleasantries and introductions.
Is there any chance of you shooting the next Star Trek film in 3-D?
Abrams: Paramount talked to me about doing the first one in 3-D and, having it only be my second film, I was petrified just at the addition of it. I thought it would be another dimension of pain-in-the-ass. I was just like, "I want to make a decent 2-D movie." I was so worried that, instead of being a decent 2-D movie, it would have been a bad 3-D one. I'm open to looking at it because now I feel a little bit more comfortable. And, if I, in fact, direct the Star Trek sequel, 3-D could be really fun, so I'm open to it. What I've seen of Avatar makes me want to do it, because it's so crazy-cool looking.
How far ahead do you envision your involvement with the franchise? Is it a movie-by-movie basis for you, or do you see yourself involved with it for the foreseeable future?
Abrams: That's a wonderfully optimistic question and I appreciate that, but the answer is that it's obviously just movie-to-movie. The fact that we are now actively discussing the second film is surreal and very nice, and I'm thrilled. I hope that that results in something worthy of your time. But, it's one of those things that you just don't know. And so, I cannot presume it's going to be a series that goes beyond those. Do we have ideas for a few movies and have we discussed them? Of course. You can't help but go, "Oh, it would be really cool, if we could do this." Or, "[what] if we can set that up there?" You throw those things around. But, we can't presume it's going to be anything more than now another film that we're lucky enough to do.