A little more than four years ago, the J.J. Abrams–directed, franchise-rebooting Star Trek arrived in theaters to the breathless anticipation of a millions-strong fan community simultaneously filled with the hope they'd found themselves an energized, engaged custodian willing to respect Gene Roddenberry's sacrosanct vision, and the palpable fear that a big-timing Hollywood interloper was about to ruin everything they'd ever cared about, then escape through a wormhole made of money before they could exact their revenge for the appalling desecration. But Abrams said all the right things (except, you know, for letting it slip that he was always a Star Wars guy) and delivered blockbuster entertainment enjoyable by both the hard-core Trekker and the casual summer blow-’em-up-real-good moviegoer. The new, revitalized Star Trek opened to $75 million at the American box office and eventually finished its domestic run with a phaser-engorging $257 million. A franchise was reborn.
And so we fast-forward to stardate 05.16.2013 (note: not a valid stardate), four summers hence, and Abrams has returned to deliver the inevitable sequel, in fulfillment of the contractual prophecy etched into the wall of a Spock-sheltering ice cave by an advanced race of business-affairs aliens. Can Abrams once again pull off the massively profitable trick of satisfying both the core and summer audiences before tearing off his loosely affixed latex Vulcan ears, slipping into a Jedi robe, and taking stewardship of his childhood obsession? And, most important of all, should you support this latest Trek adventure with your ticket purchase? We're here to answer some questions and help you make the best-informed decision possible.
Every January, the five broadcast networks place orders for roughly 100 new projects — two-thirds of which will never be aired — in hopes of finding a couple of shows that can plug holes in their prime-time schedules, and a few more to which they can affix the ignominious title of “midseason replacement.” It’s called pilot season, and it's kind of like the draft, but for TV. All the networks are flush with optimism, feeling great about their new pickups' potential — still months away from the harsh realities that come with the start of the fall season, when they learn that their veterans have nothing left in the tank, their promising rookies can't stay on the court, and that project they passed on is averaging a triple-double in the ratings for a rival.
Of course, at this point there’s not much to go on, since few details about the project are released to the press. For the vast majority of pilots, the only info we get is the log line — a one- or two-sentence summary of the plot that is often vague and sometimes downright perplexing — and the names of the writers and producers. Casting is now under way on nearly all pilots, and the caliber of talent a project attracts can be a major clue as to the quality of the script. But that's pretty much it. By the end of this month, most pilots will be in production, plodding inexorably toward failure.
When I wrote about George Lucas last year, I called up J.J. Abrams. There wasn’t a hint that Abrams was going to be directing the next Star Wars movie, as The Wrap reported yesterday. There wasn’t even that much of known relationship between Abrams and Lucas. In the movie world, Lucas doesn’t do hands-on, Spielbergian mentorships. But, as Abrams explained, he’d recently sat at Lucas’s knee, like Luke with Yoda, and had learned from the master.
Well, the wait is over: The Wrap (followed by pretty much everyone else in the entertainment press) has just reported that J.J. Abrams will be your Star Wars Episode VII director. After a volley of intriguing (David Fincher?), eyebrow-raising (Ben Affleck!?), and straight-up geek-bait (Brad Bird?!?!) names took their turns dancing around the Internet rumor Tilt-a-Whirl, the ride has come to a complete stop and we've arrived just about where we started.
You thought you had been adequately enticed by the prospect of J.J. Abrams's Star Trek sequel by its first trailer? You thought wrong! Above: the teaser trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness, which provides seconds upon seconds of footage we had not yet seen. The bwaaaangs from Inception are still with us, as is the general air of calamity and doom. But we also get a nice little tour of the Enterprise, somberly folded flags over coffins, an extremely tricky Baumgartner-esque space jump, hellfire, and Captain Pike delivering a heavy voice-over lashing out, vis-à-vis Kirk's humanity-threatening hubris. By the way, if you're here for the heavy nerding, you should know there's still no definitive answer as to which villain Benedict Cumberbatch is playing. As EW's highly helpful deep dive into the question explains, it could be the monolith of Star Trek bad dudes — Khan! It could also be a lesser-known figure from the original series, one with "God-like abilities" — Gary Mitchell! It could also be a proto-electro pop hero — Gary Numan! (It could not be Gary Numan.) Anyway, here it is. Bwaaaang!
Yeah, Inception bwaaaangs could make just about anything seem hella dramatic, but the trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness — J.J. Abrams's follow-up to his 2009 smash-hit big-screen reboot of the franchise — provides some pyrotechnics even with the sound off. A villainous Benedict Cumberbatch provides the voice-over and all the plot explanation we need: He was wronged, he's here for vengeance, let's get it popping. And then it's all a giant blur of guns and fire and face-kicks and shrieks and a cliff jump possibly nabbed from leftover Lost footage and dudes running through windows, and then, bwaaaaang, a spaceship crashing to Earth. By the way, the name of the villain that Benedict Cumberbatch is playing hasn't yet been revealed. If they're still sussing that out, I think one good option would be "Benedict Cumberbatch."
Shia LaBeouf has joined an untitled indie project from new production house Lava Bear Films. Wait, ready for this? The movie revolves around a troubled girl who encounters a 20-foot-tall next-door neighbor, played by LaBeouf. Just that plot description has already entertained us more than Transformers, Transformers 2, and large swaths of Transformers 3. Grade: B+ [Showblitz]