J.J. Abrams talks about guiding the next voyage of the Enterprise
Nicholas Meyer attended J.J. Abrams’ bar mitzvah.
To most folks, that bit of trivia means zilch. For die-hard “Star Trek” fans, it’s a cosmic coincidence that augurs well for the fate of their beloved franchise.
Meyer, after all, is the producer-director who played a big role in reviving the “Trek” franchise following the disappointment of the 1979 feature “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” At the very least, his presence at Abrams’ coming-of-age ceremony can be seen as some sort of positive omen.
“It was my first step in preparation for working on ‘Star Trek,'” Abrams jokes.
He says he’s been doing a lot of research, noting: “We’ve been provided with every published ‘Star Trek’ work, whether it’s original novels or analysis or companions to the series.”
He’s also watching episodes of the original “Trek” series but says he and his team are being careful not to soak up too much information.
“We don’t want to become oversaturated with the pre-existing material,” he says. “We’re reading as much as we can, and as much as we need to, but we’re also going to limit it. You want to remain fresh and be inspired.”
Abrams still isn’t ready to talk details about his take on the franchise.
Yes, he’s working on the script with Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci. “Lost” mates Damon Lindelof and Bryan Burk will join him as producers.
Abrams, however, won’t confirm that he’ll direct the project. He also says it’s “infinitely too early to be talking about” the plot of the pic.
But what is clear is that Abrams knows what he likes about “Trek” and what he thinks the soul of the movie should be.
“‘Star Trek’ to me was always about infinite possibility and the incredible imagination that Gene Rodenberry brought to that core of characters,” he says. “It was a show about purpose, about faith vs. logic, about science vs. emotion, about us vs. them. It was its own world, and yet it was our world.”
More concretely, Abrams says that as a kid, “Trek” was “always my favorite when it was a little bit scary, when they would deal with beaming something on the ship that was an incredible mystery or there was a clear threat.
“All of these things I loved about the series is what we’re working to incorporate into the story for the movie,” he says.
Abrams adds that while he was a regular viewer of the original “Trek,” “I don’t think I would qualify as a ‘Trekker.’ I fall in the ‘big fan’ category.”
Luckily, Abrams adds, he and his fellow scribes and producers have “varying degrees of knowledge” about the franchise — Orci’s got “immediate recall” of all things “Trek,” while Burke’s “relatively fresh” to the Rodenberry universe.
“The beauty of that is we have all points of view,” he says.
That multilayered approach will also come into play when Abrams and company finally put the movie together. They’ll have a major balancing act to perform between die-hards and a whole generation that just isn’t that into “Trek.”
“We absolutely feel beholden to the fans, but at the same time, we have to recognize that you can’t only go out and make a movie or TV shows for a group of people that live and breathe a show,” Abrams says.
His goal: to make a pic that “simultaneously speaks to the people who hold ‘Star Trek’ close to their heart and at the same time tell a story that resonates” with new fans.
While it would be easy to get caught up in the pressure of taking on nothing less than the revival of an entire franchise, Abrams is remarkably calm about the whole prospect.
“Maybe if I looked at it from the point of view of a TV analyst or an entertainment analyst, I’d be thinking it’s too risky or scary,” he says. “My reaction is always a gut reaction, which is, if there were a great telling of a ‘Star Trek’ movie, it could be as thrilling and as fun as anything I could imagine.
“Listening to that voice has been very helpful.”