The 2009 reboot of “Star Trek” was a shining moment for fans of sci-fi and spectacle films and the sequel, due in 2012, may well follow the box-office trajectory of the Christopher Nolan Gotham City films — “Batman Begins” earned the credibility with fans old and new and then “The Dark Knight” delivered the billion-dollar payoff. “Star Trek” writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, the tandem that also penned “Transformers” and next summer’s “Cowboys & Aliens” and also created the Fox sci-fi series “Fringe,” are back to script the sequel. I caught up with the screenwriters, who talked about the challenges ahead and also shared a playful aspiration — an on-screen showdown between Captain Kirk and Darth Vader.
GB: It’s early days on the “Star Trek” sequel, but is there anything you can tell us about the story direction, tone or even the types of challenges you’re anticipating with this next-step project?
AK: Well, we have broken the story, which is very exciting. I think one of the weird challenges that we’re facing on this one is that in many ways, with the first movie, I don’t think people knew what to expect, so when we were in the writing process, Bob and I really spent our time going to things that we loved about “Trek” and it was a very unfiltered process. It felt intimate and small. There weren’t a lot of voices other than [producer] Damon [Lindelof], J.J. and [executive producer] Bryan Burke. Now, that first movie has come up and did well and everyone wants to know what happens next. We didn’t have that pressure, exactly, on the first one. That said, part of what we have to do is listen to it all, ask a lot of questions about what people’s expectations are — and then let all of that go when we sit down to write. We need to find our way back to the same kind of vibe that we had when we wrote the first one: What do we want to see here? What moved us about “Trek”? Where can we go from where we left off?
RO: One of the big challenges is all of the characters are together now. A prequel is a pain in the butt, but one of the nice little advantages was that you get to meet the characters as you go through the story and they get to meet each other. That’s fun. We don’t that luxury of not having the entire family there together at the start of the story. So now you want the character stories to be good for everybody but also not just be there to be stories but also fit into the plot and be organic. We’re looking at a lot of the old episodes for inspiration, still. Whereas the last movie was all about breaking free from “Star Trek” and its canon, now that we can do whatever we want, we still want it to feel like good ol’ “Star Trek” even though it’s a new story.
GB: Well, if you guys need a horta, I’m available. I can send over a head shot …
AK: We already have your head shot on our wall.
GB: Is your approach to this going to follow the lines of something like “The Empire Strikes Back,” where it’s essentially a second act and everything the heroes have built up in the first film is taken away from them and there’s doubt and despair before the resolution of the third film’s final-act story? Or, with that episodic heritage and optimistic spirit of that classic “Trek” archive, do you see these movies as more like self-contained adventures?
AK: It’s a great question.
RO: Yeah, that is an interesting question. I don’t know that we’ve ever thought of it in terms of a trilogy. We thought of the first one as, “How do we tell how this happened the first time and how do we free it so that it can go on forever without stepping on what came before.” So, if you were thinking of this movie as a second act, yeah, you would think of it as an “Empire Strikes Back” sort of story, but I’m not sure we’re thinking of it as a second act. I can’t speak for everybody on that, though.
AK: The movies you’re talking about are movies that we’re still talking about, what, 25 or 30 years later, because they have such emotional impact not just on us as viewers but because they put the characters through the mill in a way that was so primal and visceral. Good sequels do that; they find ways to challenge their characters in ways that they couldn’t have necessarily been challenged with in the first movie because, as Bob said, the first is always, ultimately, an origin story. So now [with the second] it becomes about this family that’s together, so now it becomes about the thing that shakes them up and challenges them.
GB: Your great advantage going in is the chemistry between this bright, young cast. It must be a treat to write for an ensemble that has already shown a lot of spark, humor and nuance.
AK: “Treat” is literally the perfect word. We spend a lot of time talking about how — now that everyone is together — they all need really clear, defined moments. Moments that are specific to their characters, specific to way they interact with each other and also build on the dynamic of those amazing, amazing actors. It’s going to be joy for us.
RO: What do you think, should Spock and Kirk play 3-D chess?
GB: Clearly. Absolutely. But it should be like “Harry Potter” chess where they’re in the game, like on the holodeck or something.
AK: Or Wookiee chess. Kirk and Chewbacca. Always let the Wookiee win.
RO: A third movie would be great [if it was] a crossover between “Star Wars” and “Star Trek.”
AK: I know I would buy a ticket for that.
– Geoff Boucher
For the record: An earlier version of this post identified J.J. Abrams as the “Star Trek” sequel’s director. No director has been named.
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