The Star Trek sequel countdown is back and there is a lot to go over, including some spoiler images from location shooting. Due to the spoiler nature of these images, they are down at the bottom of this article, so you can read the whole countdown column and remain spoiler-free...if you can resist.
Star Trek in production now - with a bigger budget!
The Star Trek sequel, due in theaters on May 17th 2013, has now entered its 8th week of production. Director J.J. Abrams is shooting on the Paramount lot, the Sony lot and locations around Southern California. All reports are that things are going well on the set and according to Zachary Quinto (Spock) and Zoe Saldana (Uhura), the hours are "exhausting." The team still has over two months of shooting to go, but they have already wrapped all their shots on the bridge of the USS Enterprise.
One production bit we have learned from co-writer/producer Roberto Orci is that this new film has a bigger budget than the 2009 Star Trek feature. At around $145 million, that earlier film had already set a franchise record. The cast and crew often talk about how the new film is "bigger" and "bolder" and "more ambitious" than their first outing -- and apparently those adjectives add up to "more expensive." One thing we have confirmed for the sequel's shopping list is more sets, including parts of the Enterprise not shown in the 2009 movie. Another set of new costs for this film is a conversion to 3-D and portions being shot in IMAX. Bigger and bolder indeed.
With a bigger (and more expensive) sequel - expect to see more of this ship in 2013
Cast & Crew Talk Trek Sequel - But avoid spilling many secrets
While the cast and crew of the Star Trek sequel are tight-lipped about anything to do with the plot of the film, some have talked about the process. Most interestingly has been comments from Quinto, who caused a bit of a stir when he discussed how he was enjoying working with the writers to help "evolve" the script. Some fans wondered if the film was being changed, however writer Orci clarified that while some "character interactions" have received a "polish" or "fine tune," he noted "the story hasn't changed." Of course if you remember back to early 2008, Hollywood was under a Writers Guild strike while the last film was being shot, so in that case the actors didn't get the chance to see any changes to the script.
One of the biggest open questions for the sequel is: who is Benedict Cumberbatch (aka TV's Sherlock) playing? On TrekMovie I reported that he is playing a villain (something also reported in Variety), but so far there is no official confirmation from the actor or anyone working on the film. The only thing of possible substance Cumberbatch has said is that he was "working out non-stop" to prepare for the role. Chris Pine (the new Captain Kirk) talked a bit about Cumberbatch, praising the actor's abilities and noting that he "has got this intensity about him." So maybe he is some intense guy who is also in really good shape? Unfortunately for spoiler-hunters, those are the kind of tea leaves that we have to deal with (although the spoiler images at the bottom of this article do offer something stronger than tea).
Even with all the secrecy, there has been a couple of little tidbits that have dribbled out of the secretive set. First up, Orci revealed that even though there is a four-year gap between the two Trek movies, "the time past in real life is different than the amount of time passed in the movie world." We don't know how long the in-movie time gap will be, but we do know that the sequel will not jump off right after the end of the 2009 film. A good guess would be somewhere between one to three years, which gives the new Enterprise crew enough time to have a few adventures; and some of those adventures are being illustrated in the new Star Trek comics (see previous article) and upcoming video game (see below). Another morsel comes from Saldana, who hinted that we will see more of Uhura and Spock's romance, something that came as a big surprise to a lot of fans back in 2009. Saldana now notes "if you put all the time and energy and wit into setting these two characters together in the first movie and didn’t follow through, it would be a shame."
Saldana hints that we should seem more Uhura/Spock in 2013
Hasbro to make Star Trek sequel toys + Namco/Bandai to publish movie-universe game
The new movie is already making some merchandising news with a couple of big names stepping in. First , Paramount announced that giant toymaker Hasbro has signed on to Star Trek. In fact, I confirmed Hasbro has a license that covers all Star Trek, including classic Kirk, Picard, and all the rest. So far the only specifics announced is a line of KRE-O Star Trek building sets (KRE-O is Hasbro's version of LEGO). Hasbro is also promising some figures and role play toys, but haven't yet provided any details. The first Hasbro Trek toys should probably start showing up around the time sequel's release (May 17, 2013).
Hasbro is on board for the "Star Trek" sequel
Another cool bit of merch news is the announcement that Namco/Bandai has signed on to publish the "Star Trek" co-op console game currently in development for PlayStation 3 and X-Box 360. The new game set in the new Star Trek movie universe (with a story that takes place between the first film and the sequel) made a big splash at last year's E3 gaming show. I had a chance to see a demo of the game and it blew me away. If you haven't seen it yet, check out the E3 preview trailer below.
In other Star Trek news...cool stuff for TNG's 25th anniversary
While this column mainly focuses on the Star Trek sequel currently in production, there is lots more stuff happening in the world of Trek. This week I am doing an overview of some of the cool things going on for a big Star Trek birthday. And if you are looking for those movie spoilers...keep on scrolling.
Believe it or not, 2012 is the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation. And in honor of the occasion, CBS is currently working on remastering the show in HD. It is a huge project where they are painstakingly redoing post-production on each episode. The Blu-ray for season one is due later this year and CBS is promising to do two seasons a year, which will wrap up with the seventh season some time in 2015. And to give you a taste of what is to come, CBS has recently released "Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Level," a sampler Blu-ray disc with four episodes: "Encounter at Farpoint" (Parts 1 & 2), "Sins of the Father," and "The Inner Light." The set is selling at Amazon for $14.99. Here is a video comparing the HD and original version of the show.
Another exciting thing for the 25th anniversary of Next Gen is coming from IDW in May. Captain Picard and crew are going to be hooking up with The Doctor, and I don't mean Crusher. IDW comics has announced the first-ever Star Trek/Doctor Who crossover with the series "Assimilation2," which will (predictably) feature Who's Cybermen and Trek's Borg working together.
TNG meets Doctor who in new comic series coming in May
One cool TNG anniversary element comes in the form of conventions, with the coolest bit (fittingly) coming from Canada. In another first, the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo (calgaryexpo.com) will be bringing together the entire principle cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. That means Sir Patrick Stewart (Captain Jean-Luc Picard), Jonathan Frakes (Commander William Riker), Brent Spiner (Lt. Commander Data), Marina Sirtis (Counselor Deanna Troi), Denise Crosby (Security Chief Tasha Yar), LeVar Burton (Chief of Engineering Geordi La Forge), Gates McFadden (Chief Medical Officer Beverly Crusher), Michael Dorn (Lt. Commander Worf) and Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher) will all be in Calgary, Alberta Canada on the weekend of April 27-29. And if you can't make it to Canada, Phoenix Comic Con (phoenixcomicon.com) will have a subset of TNG stars (Stewart, Spiner, Dorn and Sirtis) on Memorial Day weekend. And the big official Star Trek con in Las Vegas (creationent.com/cal/st_lasvegas) held on the second weekend of August will have six TNG stars (Frakes, Spiner, Dorn, Burton, McFadden, and Sirtis).
Entire TNG cast beaming to Calgary in April
One final bit of TNG 25th anniversary fun comes from Diamond Select Toys. In recent years the company has been recreating some of the classic MEGO cloth figures from the original Star Trek series. So far they have released eight sets of two figures, almost completing a new collection of the toys released in the 1970s. But for their ninth wave they are honoring this year's anniversary by interpreting what a 70s retro cloth figure set might have looked like for TNG. The set priced at $32.99 includes Captain Picard and (of course) a Borg drone. The TNG retro set should be available this summer (you can pre-order it at Entertainment Earth).
Picard and Borg retro cloth figures
OK, so if you don't want to be spoiled you should probably stop reading now
Seriously, there are spoilers below so stop scrolling if you don't want to see them!
SPOILERS: Location shooting spots Spock & Uhura v Villain fight scene + Trekkie speculation
OK. The big, big news is that a number of spy images from a location shoot for the Star Trek sequel have emerged. These all come from the same photo agency source, but were published by a number of different sites, including MTV, PopSugar, TooFab, and Yahoo. The images depict Benedict Cumberbatch's character fighting Zachary Quinto's Spock. Here are a couple of examples:
Benedict Cumberbatch and Zachary Quinto spotted on
location shooting the "Star Trek" sequel in Los Angeles
Benedict Cumberbatch and Zachary Quinto spotted on
location shooting the "Star Trek" sequel in Los Angeles
Zoe Saldana (Uhura) was also spotted aiming (and apparently firing) a phaser at Cumberbatch. As a side note, Saldana lobbied JJ Abrams to get an action scene, so apparently he acquiesced. Anyway, check out the Uhura action!
Zoe Saldana spotted on location shooting the "Star Trek" sequel in Los Angeles
Zoe Saldana and Benedict Cumberbatch spotted on location shooting the "Star Trek" sequel in Los Angeles
While we still don't know the plot of the film, or even have a confirmed character for Cumberbatch, the photos do reveal some key points. First up, it is now clear that Cumberbatch is a bad guy, which I have previously reported on, but that is not something that had been officially confirmed. It is also clear that Cumberbatch is not playing a latex-laden alien. His character appears human, or at least humanoid. And more interestingly, he appears to be able to hold his own in a hand-to-hand fight with Mr. Spock, who has super-human strength. The photos and report also reveal that Cumberbatch's character was able to evade a Vulcan nerve pinch. And if you look closely, you can see that Cumberbatch's shirt has a Starfleet logo on it.
All of this has lead to quite a bit of speculation on the part of the Trekkies and others in the geekosphere. Some have taken the images as proof that Cumberbatch is playing Khan, the genetically enhanced superman from the EuegenicsWars who is probably Trek's most famous villain. However, others look at the pictures and are convinced that Cumberbatch cannot be Khan, noting the Starfleet outfit and that he is a few shades paler than the original actor, Ricardo Montalban. Some of these fans have speculated the character could be Gary Mitchell, who appeared in the pilot for the Star Trek TV series. Mitchell, a human, was a friend of Kirk's who became a god-like megalomaniac after crossing through the galactic barrier. But then there are those who point out that Mitchell has already been featured in one of the new ongoing Star Trek comic books set in the new movie universe (and as those are overseen by Orci).
Other famous Star Trek characters that have been suggested include Khan's right-hand man Juaquim, the time-traveling Gary 7, and the Klingon agent surgically altered to look human Arne Darvin. Then again, it could be an entirely new character. As of now, there is no consensus, and certainly no confirmation from the notoriously tight-lipped Star Trek team. In fact, Saldana and Quinto have both said that Abrams is "very upset" about the leaks, so don't expect any official announcements anytime soon.
Trekkies are speculating that Benedict Cumberbatch may be playing a character previously seen on Star Trek, possibly (L-R) Khan, Gary Mitchell, Juaquim, Gary 7, or Arne Darvin
Well that's it for this countdown to the Star Trek sequel. Join me again in a couple weeks to get caught up on all things Trek!
The Star Trek Sequel Warps Into Theaters In 438 Days
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.