After the critical and commercial success of the Star Trek reboot, moving forward with a sequel was probably an easy decision. Determining exactly what Star Trek 2 would be about has turned into a more complicated matter.
Screenwriters Alex Kurtzman, Robert Orci, and Damon Lindelof have been mulling over story ideas since this past summer, but so far they've given the impression that in these early stages there's still quite a bit that's up in the air.
With a franchise that has spanned five television series (the canon status of the cartoon is debatable) and ten previous films, there's certainly no shortage of inspiration available - but there's also the challenge of delivering something audiences haven't seen before. They've wisely decided not to use Khan as Star Trek 2's villain and last we heard, they were instead considering bringing back another well-known adversary from the original series.
In addition to settling on the film's villain, the plot for Star Trek 2 has evidently taken shape at last. Kurtzman and Orci recently chatted with Geoff Boucher from Hero Complex and Kurtzman explained:
"Well, we have broken the story, which is very exciting. I think one of the weird challenges that we’re facing on this one is that in many ways, with the first movie, I don’t think people knew what to expect, so when we were in the writing process, Bob and I really spent our time going to things that we loved about “Trek” and it was a very unfiltered process. It felt intimate and small. There weren’t a lot of voices other than [producer] Damon [Lindelof], J.J. and [executive producer] Bryan Burke. Now, that first movie has come up and did well and everyone wants to know what happens next. We didn’t have that pressure, exactly, on the first one."
The duo is well-known for keeping a finger on the pulse of Star Trek's passionate fan base and listening to their ideas and concerns. However, Kurtzman acknowledges that ultimately he and Orci have to filter out all of those expectations when they sit down to write the script:
"Part of what we have to do is listen to it all, ask a lot of questions about what people’s expectations are — and then let all of that go when we sit down to write. We need to find our way back to the same kind of vibe that we had when we wrote the first one: What do we want to see here? What moved us about “Trek”? Where can we go from where we left off?"
Orci admits that with the first Star Trek being an origin story, finding a meaningful role for each member of the ensemble was a little bit easier. The challenge with Star Trek 2 was not just finding a compelling premise, but giving each of the returning characters something worthy to do:
"So now you want the character stories to be good for everybody but also not just be there to be stories but also fit into the plot and be organic. We’re looking at a lot of the old episodes for inspiration, still. Whereas the last movie was all about breaking free from “Star Trek” and its canon, now that we can do whatever we want, we still want it to feel like good ol’ “Star Trek” even though it’s a new story."
Honestly, this is something every Star Trek film has struggled with. Inevitably, some members of the supporting cast are reduced to window dressing as the movie centers itself around the three or four most popular characters. The duo acknowledge what an amazing group they've managed to assemble and it's reassuring to know they have no intention of shortchanging any of them.
The Empire Strikes Back always seems to get mentioned in any discussion about successful sequels, particularly within the sci-fi genre. Boucher wonders if - like Empire- Star Trek 2 might be designed as the second act in a potential trilogy, but Kurtzman indicates they're developing it as a standalone entry:
"I don’t know that we’ve ever thought of it in terms of a trilogy. We thought of the first one as, “How do we tell how this happened the first time and how do we free it so that it can go on forever without stepping on what came before.” So, if you were thinking of this movie as a second act, yeah, you would think of it as an “Empire Strikes Back” sort of story, but I’m not sure we’re thinking of it as a second act. I can’t speak for everybody on that, though."
Orci adds that Empire isn't necessarily successful because it's a cliffhanger or the second part in a larger story, but because first and foremost it was an engaging film:
"The movies you’re talking about are movies that we’re still talking about, what, 25 or 30 years later, because they have such emotional impact not just on us as viewers but because they put the characters through the mill in a way that was so primal and visceral. Good sequels do that; they find ways to challenge their characters in ways that they couldn’t have necessarily been challenged with in the first movie because, as Bob said, the first is always, ultimately, an origin story. So now [with the second] it becomes about this family that’s together, so now it becomes about the thing that shakes them up and challenges them."
These statements, coupled with Lindelof's desire to see Star Trek 2 infused with a great deal of thematic substance, leave me incredibly optimistic about the film. I know many Star Trek fans felt that the first movie favored spectacle over story, but to me it really sounds like they understand what made the best entries in this franchise so memorable.
We'll find out when Star Trek 2 hits theaters on its recently announced release date - June 29th, 2012.
Source: Hero Complex.