Huffpost Entertainment

"Star Trek" Director Talks Franchise Reinvention

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LOS ANGELES — J.J. Abrams grew up more a fan of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo than of James Kirk and his Vulcan buddy Spock. So why is a self-professed "Star Wars" kid directing "Star Trek"?

"It was an opportunity to take what I think has been a maligned world _ to sound crass, a franchise _ and treat it in a way that made it something that I wanted to see," said Abrams, who recently finished shooting on "Star Trek," due in theaters May 8, 2009. "To take the characters, the thoughtfulness, the personalities, the sense of adventure, the idea of humanity working together, the sense of social commentary and innovation, all that stuff. To take it and apply it in a way that felt genuinely thrilling."

Abrams, creator of TV's "Lost" and "Alias" whose big-screen credits include "Mission: Impossible III," shared some "Trek" thoughts with The Associated Press in an interview to promote the DVD release of his monster movie "Cloverfield."

While he enjoyed the TV show about Capt. Kirk, First Officer Spock and their Enterprise crew mates, Abrams said he was not a rabid fan.

In this age of make-or-break opening weekends, the revival of the franchise seven years after the last movie ("Star Trek: Nemesis") flopped may depend on introducing a new generation to the exploits of the 23rd century explorers rather than just hooking old fans.

"The whole point was to try to make this movie for fans of movies, not fans of `Star Trek,' necessarily,'" Abrams said. "If you're a fan, we've got one of the writers who's a devout Trekker, so we were able to make sure we were serving the people who are completely enamored with `Star Trek.' But we are not making the movie for that contingent alone.

"You can't really make a movie for them. As soon as you start to guess what you think they are going to want to see, you're in trouble. You have to make the movie in many ways for what you want to see yourself, make a movie you believe in. Then you're not second-guessing an audience you don't really have an understanding of."

After the 1960s TV show went off the air, it remained alive in syndication, and the original cast led by William Shatner as Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Spock was reunited for six big-screen movies.

Four more movies followed starring Patrick Stewart and the cast of the 1980s and '90s update "Star Trek: The Next Generation," while the "Trek" universe expanded to include three other TV series.

Abrams' "Star Trek" takes the franchise back to its beginning, with a young cast re-creating the Enterprise crew: Chris Pine as Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy, Simon Pegg as engineer Scott, John Cho as helmsman Sulu, Zoe Saldana as communications officer Uhura and Anton Yelchin as navigator Chekov.

"It's a chance to see what Kirk and Spock would look like done now," Abrams said. "What's thrilling about it is how great the cast is, how remarkably talented and funny and just spot-on they all are."

Nimoy also reprises his role as the older Spock, though Shatner _ whose Kirk was killed at the end of the seventh movie, "Star Trek: Generations" _ does not appear.

Abrams would not share plot details, saying only that the movie would remain faithful to the original while breaking new ground in action, drama and visual effects, which are being crafted by "Star Wars" creator George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic outfit.

"I feel like this is so unlike what you expect, so unlike the `Star Trek' you've seen. At the same time, it's being true to what's come before, honoring it," Abrams said. "I can say the effects for `Star Trek' have never, ever been done like this. ... I can only tell you the idea of the universe of `Star Trek' has never been given this kind of treatment."