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Star Trek XI: The Search for Box Office

Frank Ahrens

So, William Shatner confirmed the rumors swirling around the next "Star Trek" movie, to be directed by "Lost" creator J.J. Abrams and due out next year: The next film installment of the venerated franchise will focus on the early years of Capt. James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock, set before the original Star Trek TV series, which ran from 1966-69.

In an interview with SciFi Wire, the news arm of the SciFi Channel, Shatner said: "Yes, we know the story is based on young Kirk."

The so-called "prequel" has been a trend in movies recently. Moviemakers pretend that an entire series of movies never happened and start over at the beginning. "Batman Begins" ignored the Keaton/Kilmer/Clooney films and showed us how Bruce Wayne became Batman. "Casino Royale," the just-released Bond movie, did the same, showing us how James Bond became 007.

Both films have been hits and Paramount Studios hopes the formula will work for Star Trek franchise, which has moved into its own undiscovered country: irrelevency. The fifth installment of the TV series, "Star Trek: Enterprise," barely made it past a third season and was canceled after a fourth, three years short of its expected run. The most recent film, "Star Trek: Nemesis," the 10th in the series, cost $60 million to make and booked only $43 million domestically. Talk about a black hole.

Speculation had floated around that Matt Damon might play the young Kirk. Though there is a resemblance and Damon is a fine action hero (the "Bourne" movies), his age is problematic: At 36, Damon is now older than Shatner was when the show debuted in 1966.

Shatner also said that Abrams wants him to somehow appear in the movie, but acknowledged it could be tricky. But given that the Trek canon has always made time travel look as difficult as a trip to the 7-Eleven, I am confident they will be able to work in the 75-year-old Shatner.

By Frank Ahrens  |  January 12, 2007; 3:41 PM ET  | Category:  Frank Ahrens
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

"Damon is now old, which is already older than Shatner was"

That's some interesting phrasing, there.

I say they should get James Franco for Kirk.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 12, 2007 7:19 PM

Thank you. Offending phrase now fixed.

Posted by: Frank Ahrens | January 12, 2007 7:32 PM

What worried me MUCH more than the flawed idea of having OTHER actors try to play Kirk and Spock (which risks alienating a bunch of Trek fans already) and more than the stupid idea that Kirk and Spock had ANYTHING to do with each other in the Academy (they didn't)... is Mr. Abrams predilection for justifying the use of torture in his TV shows (see Alias and Lost). Abrams had BETTER understand that no matter what "new audience" he is trying to gain for Paramount, this is still Star Trek and such flawed ideals don't fit into what is STILL gene Roddenberry's vision of the future. In fact, we want some assurances from him and the studio NOW or this movie is doomed even before it starts.

Posted by: Paul Paz y Mino | January 12, 2007 8:34 PM

I don't know...I think the whole reason Star Trek slipped into "irrelevancy" is because Paramount didn't consistently put money behind the franchise to make it appeal to a wider audience. Spending $60 million to make a movie is nothing these days and Paramount constantly cut corners by using stock footage from other Trek movies in the new ones. "First Contact" showed they could do it right if they really tried. Production values matter.

Posted by: Chris Curry | January 12, 2007 8:46 PM

Shatner is repeating what he told Craig Ferguson (CBS Late Late Show) almost two months ago...

Posted by: Lee Reid | January 12, 2007 9:35 PM

I enjoy Star Trek. Although the Federation is Communistic in nature, I believe the overall messsage of the show is positive and I find it highly entertaining and optimistic as to humanities future. I hope this movie lives up to the standards of the previous shows, and movies. I am skeptical but hopefuly.

Posted by: Star Trek Fan | January 12, 2007 9:51 PM

Communistic?? ROFL!!

Posted by: Paul Paz y Mino | January 13, 2007 4:36 AM

Matt Damon as Kirk would be pretty ridiculous. He looks nothing like a young Shatner in the first place. The Trek franchise was blown when they canceled TNG at the height of its popularity, and completely blew the opportunity they had for new ground with STV. They didn't do nearly enough. DS9 was a whole different animal, but likeable. Enterprise was frankly a step backward and disappointing. I completely agree with the comment above on production values, but what else has been lost is the idealism and dedication that was portrayed in the original series and TNG. EXPLORATION. *NOT* soap operas. New ground, new thinking, new possibilities, new technologies, the highest ideals. Sci-Fi is missing its heavy hitters these days. Trek is completely relevant in history, but they have some tall shoes to fill before they'll come up with something that can hit the mark for new work.

Posted by: Dan Stafford | January 13, 2007 4:58 AM

Personally, I think Horation Sanz would make an excellent young Kirk. Why not try making the new movie intentionally funny, rather than just camp and ironical.

Posted by: Rob Stewart | January 13, 2007 10:35 AM

This film would not be a restart as stated in the article. Batman Begins was a restart because it will go on to deal with characters that exsisted in the previous franchise. However this film will just tell a story about Kirk before his days that took place in TOS. They are not going to restart the franchise but just another story. And to the commenter that said Kirk and Spock had nothing to do with each other in the academy, well I don't think we know that. They seem to be close friends already when Kirk came into TOS. I don't know though maybe I will look it up.

Posted by: Ron | January 13, 2007 11:41 AM

They should have been making Star Trek movies with Shatner and Nimoy for the past 20 years. Shatner is an American Master, and some day we'll be sorry he was wasting his time playing T.J.Hooker and such. These characters have laid out the frame work for a viable and progressive future, just as Kubrick and Clarke did with 2001.

God bless America and William Shatner. We need Captin James T. Kirk to kick G. W. Bush the hell out!!!

Posted by: John Emr | January 13, 2007 11:50 AM

Given Shatner's penchant for the tongue and cheek, I think Owen Wilson (Kirk) and Ben Stiller (Spock) would be awesome! Even though they are (a-hem) old!

Posted by: Jeff in DC | January 13, 2007 12:53 PM

To james emr: Have god bless america all you want but Shatner is Canadian.

Posted by: gooney | January 13, 2007 3:56 PM

I'm a Trek fan and I think the franchise needs a reboot.

ST:ENT was not a bad idea (regardless of whether you like Rick Berman or not) but it was poorly cast.

As captain, Scott Bakula acted like piloting an interstellar startship was about as much fun as getting his back waxed.

If Paramount really wanted to capture the early days of space travel in a "Right Stuff" way, as they said, Connor Trinneer should have been captain, not Bakula. Trip was much more of a Chuck Yeager, get-'er-done character. Bakula was grave. Even Janeway had more fun, and that's saying a lot.

The problem that ENT faced, and that Abrams's movie will face, is: How do you protray technology in a convincing way specific to the time period?

For instance, when ENT debuted in 2001, real-world cell phones were smaller and better-looking than Capt. Kirk's communicator, and ENT was set 100 years before Kirk. The bridge of TOS Enterprise looked bereft of technology. It looked like a Desliu set, which is exactly what it was. Budget was a problem, but the main problem was that it was 1966 and cell phones had yet to be invented or really even imagined.

How will Abrams's and the production designers of the next Star Trek film portray technology in the year 2254, when Kirk graduated from Starfleet Academy, in a way that looks believeable to us but doesn't look more advanced than what we saw in TOS, TNG, VOY, etc.?

Posted by: Frank Ahrens | January 13, 2007 6:41 PM

I love Star Trek, but what the HECK does this have to do with IT ?!?!
Or is it now "I"ntertainment Technology. This has got to be the weakest set of blogs I've ever read.

First, don't insult true IT professionals by calling yourself IT and then go around talking about entertainment issues, or choosing topics that perpetuate the never-ending Apple vs. Microsoft battles.

I've tried giving you all a chance, but you're all just IT wanna-be's. I've not read anything substantial since you've started. I've read all of your bio's. Just because you use a computer, doesn't make you qualified to speak with any authority about IT. Please consider changing your blog's name. - Thanks!

Posted by: Alan | January 13, 2007 8:05 PM

Both Movie Series: James Bond and Batman are prime examples of series which make change of faces of the main actors a cornerstone of their concept. There have over 5 Bonds and 3 Batsmen before the present lot came around.

The character of Kirk is so entwined with William Shatner, that any other face would do great injustice to the franchise and the fandom.

Secondly both Bond and Batman do not have any basis in chronology. Each film is an episode, independent of any reference to a point in the timeline.

Star Trek on the other hand has a chronology and canon built into it, which people should not take lightly.

Besides Kirk and Spock at the Academy is just a very stupid idea.

Posted by: Rajesh | January 14, 2007 9:24 AM

Check out the comments in Raw Story. Paramount should use a storyline that covers several years, thus using good lookalikes which may include children or relatives of the original cast to play their younger selves in the storyline set-up, then bring in the original cast for the second part. Fans will be interested in seeing relatives of the original cast. Also, funny/romantic sub plots around a political/religious cautionary adventure would fit ST's successful tradition.

Posted by: C. | January 14, 2007 9:32 AM

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