April 21, 2006

"Trek" will be back ... in two years

Via Reuters:

More than three years after the last "Star Trek" movie crashed at the box office, the venerable sci-fi franchise is being revived by the director of the upcoming "Mission: Impossible" sequel, Daily Variety reported in its Friday edition.

The as-yet-untitled "Star Trek" feature, the 11th since 1979, is aiming for a fall 2008 release through Paramount Pictures, the Viacom Inc. unit looking to restore its box-office luster under new management, the trade paper said.

The project will be directed by J.J. Abrams, whose Tom Cruise vehicle "Mission: Impossible III" will be released by Paramount on May 5. Abrams, famed for producing the TV shows "Alias" and "Lost," will also help write and produce.

Daily Variety said the action would center on the early days of "Star Trek" characters James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock, including their first meeting at Starfleet Academy and first outer-space mission.

The paper described "Star Trek" as Hollywood's most durable performer after James Bond, spawning 10 features that have grossed more than $1 billion and 726 TV episodes from six series.

The 10th film, "Star Trek: Nemesis," bombed at the box office on its December 2002 release, earning just $43 million in North America. Last year, Viacom-owned broadcast network UPN pulled the plug on the low-rated series "Star Trek: Enterprise" following a four-season run.

Jonah Goldberg says that in "reality" (Trek reality, that is), it's unlikely Kirk and Spock attended the Academy together due to the different life spans of humans and Vulcans (Vulcans can live for over 200 years). However, an online Trek Timeline shows that Kirk and Spock were born only three years apart, so that surely makes it conceivable.

But the real question, as Goldberg asks, is will the film work?

Prequels of this sort don't have a good track record. Young Indiana Jones died quickly. Enterprise was very short-lived. I liked Young Sherlock Holmes, but that puts me in a dubious minority. The Ben Affleck Jack Ryan stunk on ice. And, of course, the Star Wars prequels had serious, serious problems though I'm not sure you can blame a prequel curse for that. I'm not saying it's doomed. The last Batman movie was pretty good. But, there's big potential for lameness. Of course, most Star Trek movies are pretty lame.

I agree that prequels are tough to make succeed. However, most Trek movies are pretty lame? The usual conventional wisdom is that the odd numbered Trek films are the bad ones. That's fairly accurate. Let's see:

  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Much anticipated and not as lame as you may remember. If you can make it past the interminable "ooh-ing" and "aah-ing" of re-encountering the starship Enterprise in spacedock (awaiting Kirk and co.'s arrival), the story is neatly done. The ending actually could make for a cool sequel.
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Possibly the best Trek movie of all, it brings back the Ricardo Montalban character "Khan," a genetically enhanced superman that led the "Eugenics Wars" of the late 1990s. Originally seen in an episode of the original Trek series, Khan is discovered by, of all people, Chekov, on the planet on which he was marooned. From there on it's rip-roarin' Trek action. And who can forget Kirk's "KHAAAAAAANNNN!!!" I can't, but then I have no life!
  • Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Like the Motion Picture, not as lame as you may remember, particularly because "Reverend Jim" Christopher Lloyd plays the Klingon bad guy. And hey, 'ya can't kill off Spock! So, they bring him back. Noteworthy for the destruction of the original Enterprise. Oh, wait -- the series "Enterprise" changed all that. Never mind.
  • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Definitely a keeper as the Enterprise crew travels back in time to 1986 to nab a couple of humpback whales in order to ... yep -- save the friggin' Earth. Classic moments abound: Spock learning profanity (and nerve pinching a punk rocker on a bus); Scotty trying to talk to a Macintosh computer (while divulging the secret of transparent aluminum); and, Kirk trying to convince a female marine biologist that he's from the future.
  • Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. The worst Trek movie of all time, hands down. Not only does it stretch science, but science fiction (like, the Enterprise traveling to the center of the galaxy under regular warp drive? No wonder Gene Roddenberry wanted to consider Trek V as "apocryphal.") At any rate, Kirk and crew journey to meet "God." It ain't really him. Oops.
  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Excellent flick centering on the Federation's desire to make peace with the dastardly Klingons. Or is it the other way around? Christopher Plummer is clutch as the Klingon General Chang who quotes Shakespeare ... in English and Klingon!
  • Star Trek Generations. The first Trek film to incorporate the Next Generation cast, it also neatly weaves Kirk into the picture -- and provides a Trek historic moment: Kirk's death. Malcolm McDowell plays a scientist obsessed with finding the "Nexus," a time anomaly where normal time does not pass and where its occupants are granted anything they desire. Gee, y'think this "Nexus" will play a role in how Kirk and Picard meet one another? Worth a look if not just to see what the Enterprise-B looks like. Oh yeah, and the Enterprise-D get obliterated.
  • Star Trek First Contact. Hey, 'ya gotta get Trek's coolest bad guys into a movie, eh? Enter: The Borg. The nasty cyborg collective attacks Earth, but unlike in the "Next Generation" series where the Federation had little defense against them, this time Starfleet pummels the Borg vessel mercilessly! But just before it's destroyed, the Borg ejects a "time sphere"! It's purpose: To go back in time and assimilate Earth some 300 years earlier! But Picard and the spankin' new Enterprise-E are in hot pursuit! Woo-hoo!
  • Star Trek Insurrection. Just what it says: Picard leads an insurrection against anti-Starfleet orders. A Starfleet admiral and a race called the Son'a want what the Ba'ku planet has -- a special type of radiation that reverses the aging process. But since the radiation can't be "harvested," the Ba'ku will have to be forced off their own world!
  • Star Trek Nemesis. Years ago, the Romulans planned an elaborate deception whereby a clone of Picard and copy of Data were to infiltrate the Enterprise and Starfleet. Those plans were eventually sidetracked, but the clone -- Shinzon -- grew up on the Romulan sister world Remus, and became a leader. Now, he and the Remans plan to not only take over Romulus, but the entire galaxy! MU-HAHHAHAHAHHAHA!!. Seriously. And he has the means to do it with the ultimate fighting ship ever witnessed in Trek history, armed with the deadliest weapon.

There! Hope you dug my little synopses. Feel free to differ and add whatever tidbits you deem necessary!

Posted by Hube at April 21, 2006 06:52 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

Christopher Plummer should be in every movie ever made. He's fantastic.

Posted by: The Unabrewer at April 21, 2006 11:49 PM

Good to see Jonah Goldberg weighing in on such an out-of-character topic...when I see his name I usually skip the read...yucky.

Posted by: Nancy Willing at April 22, 2006 03:04 PM

Goldberg is a big sci-fi fan, Nance. How's it "out of character" for him? Can't conservatives enjoy science fiction and other forms of entertainment?

Posted by: Hube at April 22, 2006 03:46 PM

glad to know he has a life!! no seriously Hube, his writing is political 100% of what I have come across as well as what he spouts on TV talk shows sitting across from his famously right wing nut mom and dad
don't get so excited when I have a little fun at your boy's expense!
humor me...

Posted by: Nancy Willing at April 23, 2006 03:45 PM

I'd agree with you that TMP wasn't awful. In fact I said at the time had it been an hour people would have been considered the best episode of all time. (Of course wasn't nearly the same story as "The Changeling?" But that ooh-ing and aah-ing was pretty boring.
And did you notice that Decker became Riker and the Delta(n) became the Beta(zid)?
The more I think about it Nemesis was a really bad movie. It was a bad remake of TWoK. With the villain seeking revenge against the Captain, the doomsday weapon and the death of the logical officer. Insurrection was just inert; not bad but a waste of time.

Posted by: David Gerstman at April 23, 2006 05:41 PM

I think it was Harlan Ellison who described ST:TMP as "every Star Trek episode ever made: The Enterprise meets God and it's a computer or a child."

You see Ziggy on Sunday?

Khan was the best, followed by Undiscovered Country. Never saw Nemesis. Too many people told me it was awful.

Posted by: Paul Smith at April 24, 2006 08:06 AM

Never saw Nemesis. 2, 6, and 8 are all pretty good. 1 is probably too maligned, Shatner wrote some Trek books that made heavy use of it. The actual plot of 4 is pretty mediocre, but it did have some great character moments:

"No I was born in Iowa, I work in space."

"I am looking for Nuclear Wessels!"

"A keyboard. How quaint."

5 is ok, but not one I would pay to see again. You can call it apocryphal if you want, but frankly a lot of the badly thought out stuff (like the great barrier) come straight from episodes of TOS.

7 was another ok one. Not great but not horrible. The whole Nexus thing didn't really work for me.

Never saw 9 or 10.

Posted by: Jeff the Baptist at April 24, 2006 09:12 AM

5 is awful, but there's just something great about the line "What does God need with a starship?"

Posted by: Paul Smith at April 24, 2006 12:46 PM

Jeff, You know two of those lines that were so funny in TVH don't really work.

1) If scotty wasn't familiar with a keyboard he wouldn't be typing so fast that he'd be leaving smoke behind his keystrokes.

2) Nuclear Wessels did work in 1987. But with the Cold War a thing of the past, it's, well, quaint.

Of course that Yellow Pages scene was priceless.

Posted by: soccer dad at April 24, 2006 12:46 PM