Anthony Pascale is the owner/editor-in-chief of the number one independent Star Trek site: TrekMovie.com. You can find his Star Trek Sequel column here at Movies.com every other Monday. Follow Anthony on Twitter @TrekMovie.
Star Trek sequel (finally) goes into production this week & the gang's all back
Trekkies had it rough in 2011 when they learned that the sequel to J.J. Abrams 2009 Star Trek film was not going to make its June 29, 2012 release date. But late in the year things looked up when J.J. Abrams confirmed he would return to the director's chair and the still-not-named sequel was given a new release date of May 17, 2013.
Joining Abrams is the same core creative team behind the 2009 movie. Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman have penned the script, this time joined by Damon Lindelof. All three along with Abrams and Bryan Burk are also producers on the film. In addition, many of the other big names are returning including Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino and production designer Scott Chambliss.
Abrams Shooting his 2009 Star Trek movie - sequel starts shooting this week
And of course the entire main cast is returning with Chris Pine as Capt. James T. Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, Karl Urban as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy, Simon Pegg as Scotty, John Cho as Sulu and Anton Yelchin as Chekov. Also expected to return is Bruce Greenwood, now playing Admiral Pike (promoted at the end of the 2009 film). And for this outing, reports suggest that we should not expect any of the original Star Trek cast (like Leonard Nimoy or William Shatner) to be joining the young cast. It is time for this crew to stand on their own.
According to Abrams, filming will commence this week - specifically on Thursday January 12th - and he is expecting production to last four months.
Benedict Cumberbatch leads British invasion to Star Trek
In addition to all the returning stars, there are a few new faces headed to the final frontier, and there seems to be a lot coming from across the pond. The big news for last week was the addition of Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch, who is reported to be playing the main villain in the film. Originally Benicio Del Toro was in talks for the part, but those broke down in early December. Abrams is all enthusiasm for his new bad boy (although he wont confirm that), and he has talked about Cumberbatch being a "genius" and how they were "lucky" to get him.
Joining Cumberbunch will be fellow Brit Alice Eve. The 29 year-old She's Out of My League star has been tapped for a major role which is reportedly "new to the canon," but beyond that nothing is known...except that she is very hot. Another UK import for the film is Noel Clarke, better known to Doctor Who fans as Mickey Smith. Clarke has been cast as "a family man with a wife and young daughter," with Canadian actress Nazneen Contractor (24) playing the wife.
Rounding out the known guest cast is another familiar face - Peter Weller. The veteran actor is perhaps best known as Robocop is playing a major role in the film, which is rumored to be a "CEO" and possibly linked to the villain. This is actually not Weller's first time in Star Trek. He had a role as a bad guy for a two-part episode of Star Trek Enterprise during its final season in 2005.
Plot details? - None, but hints are in the comics
This is a J.J. Abrams production, which means that secrecy reigns supreme. Besides the persistent Khan rumors, the Bad Robot Cone of Silence has proven to keep this movie essentially leak-free so far. Let's see how that holds up once shooting starts this week.
And apparently there is a place you can be looking for hints. In September IDW Publishing launched a new ongoing Star Trek comic book series set in the new movie universe (Star Trek has two now: the movie universe timeline and the original "prime universe" timeline...did I lose you? Well just trust me).
Anyway these new movie-universe comic books are overseen by Star Trek sequel co-writer/producer (and genuine Trekkie) Roberto Orci. According to comics writer Mike Johnson, subtle hints are being dropped into the new series. Apparently there was one if the first issue in September and the fourth issue which came out in December. But don't expect anything obvious; the clues are said to be subtle. More hints are said to be forthcoming and eventually IDW will publish a specific prequel set of comics in 2013.
Star Trek going 3D for the first time
One of the most talked-about subjects for movies these days is 3D. The 2009 Star Trek film was released before Avatar changed the studio calculus on big action movies and so it was just an old-fashioned 2D film. For the sequel, which is reportedly going to be bigger in scope, Paramount wanted 3D, which is still popular overseas and if you want to be a blockbuster action movie you need to do well internationally these days.
So Abrams went along with the studio, but he has decided to go with a 3D conversion. Apparently testing has already been done on parts of the 2009 movie, including assuring that the director's trademark lens flares don't cause retina damage when seen in 3D. Abrams has also assured fans that the film will be released in both 2D and 3D. Abrams is also considering shooting portions of the film in IMAX as well, something that was done for the recently-released Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, which he produced.
Get ready for 3D lens flares in JJ Abrams' 2013 "Star Trek" sequel
JJ-Prise flies the Rose Parade
And we end this first Countdown article with a bit of fun. At last week's Rose Parade Paramount Pictures had their first-ever float - celebrating "100 Years of Movie Magic." And soaring above the float, made of rice, silver leaf protea and black seaweed, was the USS Enterprise from JJ Abrams Star Trek. Check out this video of NBC's coverage (and if you listen closely you can catch Al Roker's brief Shatner/Kirk impression).
Over the next couple of weeks we should get some more casting news on some of the smaller guest parts and more details on the movie. Of course, with filming starting we are expecting to hear (and see) more about the film, but nothing is for sure with a JJ Abrams production.
And of course, there is lots more going on in the world of Star Trek outside the movie, and so look forward to updates on Trek merchandise, comics, conventions/events and home video in upcoming Countdown articles.
And if you have any questions or requests for future columns, please let me know in the comments section below.
Until then, Live Long and Prosper.
The Star Trek Sequel Warps Into Theaters In 494 Days.