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star trek old verses new movie...

Posted by on May. 8, 2009 at 3:32 PM
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A New Direction for 'Star Trek'

by Matt McDaniel    May 7th, 2009

Star Trek Director J.J. Abrams put himself in a perilous position when he agreed to direct a new movie version of "Star Trek." On one side, he had the fans. They had embraced a short-lived science fiction television show from the 1960s and, through sheer affection and determination, turned it into a worldwide institution. But in addition to being fiercely loyal, Trekkies can be finicky (for example, if you call them that, rather than "Trekkers"). The television shows, movies, books, graphic novels and video games have weaved together a dense history, or canon, and the hardcore fans reject any attempt to violate the already established continuity.

On the other side of the equation, Abrams had a public that had grown increasingly disinterested in the "Trek" universe. The last movie, 2002's "Star Trek: Nemesis," was the least successful of the 10-film series, bringing in only $43 million in the U.S. And with the cancellation of "Star Trek: Enterprise" in 2005, TV screens were without an ongoing series for the first time in nearly 20 years.

For Abrams and screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (who also wrote "Transformers"), the goal was to find that elusive middle ground that would bring a mass audience to "Star Trek" without offending the faithful. And it was a big bet, too, with a budget estimated at $150 million -- about one-and-a-half times the gross of the most successful of the previous films. So to create a blockbuster from the franchise that had basically defined the term "cult classic," the creators of this new movie knew they had to shake up the formula of what went into a "Trek" movie. Here are five things they did differently than previous "Star Trek" adventures.

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1. Start at the Beginning The first episode of "Star Trek" that aired on TV already had the chain of command aboard the USS Enterprise pretty well established. Kirk was captain, Spock was his number two, and their friendship was already firm. The writers decided that the untold story of how the crew came together could not only show fans something they haven't seen before, but give audiences who were unfamiliar with "Trek" a fresh starting point.

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2. Skew younger William Shatner was 35 years old when he first sat in the captain's chair on the original series. But that made him 48 when he returned to the role in the first movie, and 63 during his final appearance in "Star Trek: Generations." Chris Pine, the new Captain Kirk, is only 28. Along with the other younger actors (except for John Cho, who is actually older than George Takei was when he first played Sulu), this cast brings a freshness and vitality that the movies never had.

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3. Pick up the pace Following the pattern of the original show, the "Trek" movies often had long stretches of dialogue and discussion between action scenes. In fact, the first movie was derisively called "Star Trek: The Slow-Motion Picture" by some critics. Abrams says that as a kid he was more a fan of "Star Wars," and he credits the faster and more intense tempo of that series as the reason. So for his version, he has taken the space battles, fist fights, and even slapstick moments that have been part of "Trek" from the beginning, but speeds them up and packs them together to make his film a more thrilling ride.

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4. Update the look For the new film, the exterior of the Enterprise looks very familiar, albeit rendered in the most advanced digital special effects available. But inside, everything has been updated. From the bridge to the engine room, the ship is bright, sleek, and modern. The transporter and the viewscreen have been enhanced (though many of the classic sound effects can still be heard). Moreover, the visual texture of the movie is different. The camera sweeps and shakes to create a greater sense of immediacy, putting you right in the action.

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5. Break away from the past With all these changes, it seemed like Abrams and company were setting themselves up to be hated by the original fans. But with a bit of storytelling sleight-of-hand, they've been able to chart their own course without violating the series' long and well-documented history. How? The same way Kirk and Spock saved the Earth in "Star Trek IV" -- time travel. When the Romulan villain Nero, played by Eric Bana, is accidentally thrust backwards in time, he resets the past. By shifting the course of time, events play out in new and unexpected ways. Rather than the standard prequel, where the audience knows how the story turns out, this movie creates its own history without violating the established one the fans have loved.

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What's important to note, though, is one element from Gene Roddenberry's original creation that still carries through into J.J. Abrams' new vision. And that is a sense of optimism for the future. So many science fiction epics take place in dystopian wastelands where technology only leads to destruction. "Star Trek" envisions a better outcome for humanity, where the Earth has united to explore the final frontier. And that's a dream that is as important to embrace and celebrate now as it's ever been.

by on May. 8, 2009 at 3:32 PM
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