Now that Iron Man 3 has officially kicked off the summer movie season, all eyes have turned to the next highly-anticipated blockbuster on the horizon, namely Star Trek Into Darkness.

The J.J. Abrams directed sequel has been on fans’ radar ever since the 2009 reboot introduced a new version of the Enterprise crew. Throughout its development, much of the talk has centered on the mysterious villain played by Benedict Cumberbatch, as well as how the dynamic with Captain Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the rest of the crew would evolve in the sequel.

Early Star Trek 2 reviews indicate that Into Darkness should appeal to both longtime Trek devotees as well as newer fans. Now, in a new interview with Star Trek Magazine, Abrams talks about his approach to making the film and how he aimed to achieve that balance. Here’s what he had to say:

“I think certainly [producers] Bob [Orci], Damon [Lindelof] and Alex [Kurtzman] are in tune with what the fans are saying and what they want. While I am as well, I feel like those guys are more wired, or wireless, than I am. I feel like anecdotally I hear what certain people are saying. I came to this [franchise] as more of an outsider. I entered this world really intrigued by it, but not really a pre-existing fan. … While people were [suggesting] things, none of that really mattered much to me, because I felt I was coming from the point of the moviegoer who just wants to be entertained, understand, and care about the world and the characters.  I will say nothing matters more to us than the fans, and making sure they are getting something they love. But having said that, we can’t make a movie for pre-existing Star Trek fans, we have to make a movie for moviegoers, and if you happen to be a Star Trek fan, you’ll benefit because we are looking out for you, and we respect what you are bringing to the film.”

Seeing how Abrams’ first Trek effort managed to expand the series’ fanbase, it’s difficult to argue with the director’s take on the franchise. Some hardcore fans may have balked at the narrative similarities between the 2009 Trek and the Star Wars saga (not a surprise considering Abrams’ acknowledged admiration of that series) as well as the broader, more action-packed style Abrams brought to the Trek world. However, writer/producer Lindelof has already gone on record as saying that Into Darkness honors the canon.

One example of this may be Cumberbatch’s John Harrison, whom may or may not represent a throwback to a classic Trek villain. Abrams explained that the main purpose of the Into Darkness villain is how he affects Kirk and his crew.

“We needed someone who would get under their skin, and challenge them in a way they could have never survived when they first came together. We always knew it was going to be more of an extreme story, pushing limits dramatically and emotionally. There would be more questions of who to trust, and of manipulation and difficulty, rather than just a raving, lunatic Romulan [as in the 2009 Trek]. We were going to have someone who could push the buttons of the crew, and test the mettle of their relationships. So we always knew we would go darker, deeper, and really see what it’s like for these people to experience that, and can they get through that gauntlet alive. … And ultimately, because of the story of Benedict’s character, Kirk ends up being challenged in a way that is very specific to his story. I think it ends up being something that does push Kirk to a place he’s never been before.”

Pine has already talked about how Kirk would “earn” his command in the sequel, and while Abrams’ second Trek film has yet to be released, discussion has already turned to how this may play out in the inevitable follow-up. As of now, it’s undetermined if Abrams would return to the director’s chair for the third film (which may center on Klingons), especially considering his commitment to Star Wars: Episode VII.

“I wouldn’t say there has been a [Star Trek] trilogy planned. … We really are taking this journey one step at a time, and while there are a lot of ideas we have now for what might be a third movie, it’s really up to the audience to determine if that is something that comes to pass. … I would say I have put too much of myself – we all have – into this world and these characters, that my involvement in the next film is without question. I love this whole universe, and these people, too much. If I end up directing another movie, that remains to be seen. We’ll finish this one first then we can talk about the next one, if we get so lucky.”

Abrams’ producing partner Bryan Burk has already mentioned that a third film would likely be aiming for a 2016 release to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise. If Star Wars truly does stick to its targeted summer 2015 date, it’s unlikely that Abrams would be able to direct that film and a third Trek back to back, given the massive scope of both projects.

Do you think Into Darkness will satisfy both longtime Trek fans as well as newbies, and do you think Abrams can effectively balance a third film with Star Wars? Let us know in the comments.

Star Trek Into Darkness opens in select (U.S.) theaters in 3D/IMAX on May 15, 2013. It begins a regular theatrical release on May 17.

Source: Star Trek Magazine (via Collider)