On the Big Board
|The casting was surprisingly good (except for Clifton Collins as the #2 baddie), but the lense flare is pointlessly annoying. Wrath of Khan is still the best of Trek.
|Abrams revived a dead franchise, with plenty of style.
|A much-needed jump start to a franchise that desperately needed it. Pine and Quinto were perfectly cast.
|Terrific from start to finish. Minimizes the bad Star Trek, maximizes the good.
|Time for this franchise to boldly go into the dustbin of history
The Star Trek film franchise had been strikingly consistent since its inception. The first film and its apocalyptic bald chick earned $82.3 million while its follow-ups, The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock, brought in $79.9 and $76.5 million respectively. The bar was then raised by Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, the title that remains the most successful in the franchise. It earned a whopping $109,713,132, a total that inflation adjusts to roughly $210.3 million. That’s juggernaut box office right there. The next title, the disastrous William Shatner outing entitled The Final Frontier, was resoundingly rejected by audiences, earning only $52.2 million. That production would stand as the biggest failure in the franchise for approximately 13 years. In the interim, The Undiscovered Country, Generations, First Contact, and Insurrection all performed within accepted Star Trek guidelines. Their domestic receipts were $74.9 million, $75.7 million, $92.0 million and $70.2 million. As expected, the Borg movie did a little better than the rest, but all of them saw the same general results.
Then, Star Trek: Nemesis was released.
No one knows what Paramount was thinking with this story. The idea of a Picard clone was a terrible one for an episode, much less a movie. The trailers were a muddled mess, almost an hour of scenes were deleted at the last moment, and the film was soundly rejected by almost everyone who saw it. Only 36% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes, even the most passionate of Star Trek fans acknowledge it’s on the short list alongside The Final Frontier for Worst. Trek. Film. Ever. The most telling sign of this would be the flick’s box office performance. It earned only $43.3 million, which might make it seem to be on a par with Final Frontier in terms of box office. If we adjust for the ticket price inflation from 1989 to 2002, however, a much different picture is painted. In terms of 2002 pricing, The Final Frontier would have been worth $75.9 million worth of box office relative to Nemesis’ $43.3 million. It had a full 75% more ticket sales than the title that effectively killed the Star Trek franchise.
For five years, Paramount did nothing with the Star Trek movie franchise. They bided their time while waiting for the next big idea to come along in much the same fashion that Warner Bros. did during the downtime between 1997’s Batman & Robin and 2005’s Batman Begins. This trajectory proved successful for the owners of DC Comics’ most popular license and it appears to once again work for Paramount as well. The key is the introduction of a new element in the equation.
JJ Abrams was in a much different place in 2002, the time of the last Star Trek movie, than he is today. Back then, his most popular show, Alias, was critically acclaimed but its ratings were atrocious. It also suffered from the same sophomore slump that Abrams’ last television series, Felicity, had experienced after Keri Russell got a haircut. Fast forward to now and Abrams is a much bigger player in our industry. Ever since he directed the pilot for Lost, his career has been in full bloom. His current series is one of the most popular on television and his next one, Fringe, has the best buzz of any new show on the 2008 Fall schedule. He also directed a masterful action film with Mission: Impossible III, a film revered by many movie critics such as myself that disappointed at the box office due to an unfortunate Tom Cruise/couch jumping incident. With this production, Abrams proved he could deliver a quality blockbuster movie on schedule and under budget, a rare ability in our industry. And he provided a dream scenario to Paramount when he expressed an interest in reviving the Star Trek franchise.
Again taking a cue from Batman Begins, Star Trek is a prequel to the original television series rather than a sequel or a new story taking place within the same timeline. With regards to the storyline itself, this is a more carefully guarded secret than the results of Roswell, New Mexico alien autopsies. Seriously, a member of the BOP staff worked on this production and we *still* couldn’t get a copy of the script. One of the actors in the film has described the security on the set as invasive to the point that actors feel like they’re on location in Guantanamo. It is that important to the people at Paramount that no one finds out the mysteries of this script and given the recent success of this very production team in keeping the secrets of Cloverfield a secret, we cannot argue with their results.
What we do know for certain is that the casting for Star Trek is inspired. Chris Pine takes on the primary role as Captain Kirk after JJ Abrams made the bold decision to not cast Matt Damon. He was deemed too old for this particular story. Any time a director says, “Thanks, Matt Damon, but we’ve already got Chris Pine lined up,” we’re impressed by his moxy. And if you don’t know who Chris Pine is, that simply means you haven’t seen Just My Luck or The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. No one should feel bad about that. Of course, the buzz casting is for the role of Spock as Heroes villain Zachary Quinto joins Leonard Nimoy himself in the project. Also onboard are BOP faves Karl Urban as Bones McCoy, Simon Pegg as Scotty, and John Cho as Sulu. We are giddy at the prospects of all three of them appearing in key roles in the same film. Zoe Saldana portrays Uhuru, Anton Yelchin is Chekov and Eric Bana appears as the movie’s Big Bad, Nero. Other notables who have signed on for smaller parts in this blockbuster are Jennifer Morrison, Tyler Perry, Clifton Collins Jr., Bruce Greenwood (as Pike), and Winona Ryder (as Spock’s human mother).
Stating the obvious, the pieces are in place for Star Trek to be a historic performer for the franchise. It would be unsurprising if this movie makes as much on opening weekend as most of the titles have made during their domestic runs. Star Trek has been carefully recreated with loving attention to detail, and it is poised to be one of the true heavyweights of the summer of 2009. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Vital statistics for Star Trek
Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, John Cho, Ben Cross
Simon Pegg, Winona Ryder, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Eric Bana, Leonard Nimoy, Marlene Forte, Jimmy Bennett, Bruce Greenwood
Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman
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