While director J.J. Abrams is considered the captain of the ship when it comes to the new iteration of the "Star Trek" movie franchise, there is no arguing that his first officers -- producer Bryan Burk and producers/co-writers Damon Lindelof, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci -- are just as pivotal to the success of the new voyages of the Starship Enterprise.
What's even more amazing is that this crew of five put their latest adventure, "Star Trek Into Darkness," together while simultaneously working on several other projects.
"There's a lot of baton-handing off since it's just difficult for any of us to be in one place at one time, so at any given time, there's two or three of us making 'Trek' their full-time job, and the others are going off and focusing their attention on another of our projects," Lindelof, joined by Burk, told me in a recent call from London. "That process is very exciting and very reminiscent of the way it works in television. That collaboration is what made the first movie work and we wanted to make sure we recaptured the same lightning in a bottle this time around."
Opening in IMAX 3D Wednesday and everywhere in 2D and 3D Thursday, "Star Trek Into Darkness" is the hotly anticipated sequel to the 2009 blockbuster reboot of "Star Trek." In this film, Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), First Officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the crew of the Enterprise find a formidable force in John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a deadly new threat hidden within Starfleet.
Burk said in addition to the team's work on other projects and the actors' commitments to other projects, "Star Trek Into Darkness" was a long-time coming because the filmmakers wanted to take their time to get things right.
"We didn't want to do a sequel just to do a sequel, which happens a lot in our industry, where unfortunately, it just feels like the conveyer belt keeps moving. So we wanted to make sure we wanted to do the movie, and not to do for the sake of doing it," Burk told me. "There were a lot of conversations about, 'How do we raise the bar for people who came to watch the last one?' We really wanted to get it right."
Further 'Into Darkness'
Following the destruction of Vulcan in the 2009 film, "Star Trek Into Darkness" continues to venture into dark territory, beginning with a deadly terrorist attack on Starfleet's operations in London.
"What happened in the first movie in terms of the destruction of an entire planet really changed the shape of Starfleet and the idea that Gene Roddenberry created this organization, whose sole purpose was to really just explore and expand the horizons of mankind," Lindelof observed. "We had to ask ourselves, 'What would happen if an entire planet was destroyed and Earth was attacked and almost destroyed, would that perhaps change the entire bearing of Starfleet? Would they become a little more militaristic? Would that give rise to the hawks within? Could the movie really be about the fight for the soul of Starfleet itself, and what side of that fight would our crew fall?'"
Perhaps most affected by the events in "Star Trek Into Darkness" is Kirk, who is devastated by a personal loss and willing to exact revenge on the perpetrator responsible with extreme prejudice.
"In order for it to make sense, our crew had to be tempted by the spirit of vengeance," Lindelof said. "Would they have the moral dilemma if someone killed somebody or provoked an action against somebody who had done something horrible to innocents? We had to explore that and what it would take to bring them back to that original vision of hopefulness, peace and camaraderie. But obviously in order to get there, you have to move to this very, very dark place."
Like the 2009 film, the great thing about "Star Trek Into Darkness" is the ability by filmmakers to make the franchise their own while maintaining the spirit of the classic TV series from the 1960s. They do it from the get-go with an incredibly staged scene to open the movie where the crew is attempting to save the indigenous people of a primitive planet who are unaware their home is gravely threatened by a volcano.
Fans are sure to find everything from the retro look of the inhabitants and their environs, to the action, music and color, are melded together in a way to almost make you feel like you're watching a scene from one of the original TV episodes.
"There's this very primary color feel to the original series -- not just in terms of the uniforms that they're wearing with the yellows and blues and reds -- there's this colorful, extraordinary tone and we really leaned into that palette for the opening of the movie," Lindelof explained. "We in this very, very colorful world, but inside this volcano, very intense things are happening to Spock."
The setting also serves as a proper transition into the heart of the "Into Darkness" storyline.
"Once we pull him out of the volcano, the world shifts into this darker feel as John Harrison begins his machinations in London," Lindelof explained. "Ultimately, though, the goal was to end the movie in the primary-colored world again. That's the gap that the crew is trying to bridge in the movie. The optimistic world doesn't come easy. It's always going to be challenged by these darker forces. That world isn't something you can appreciate unless there's a struggle in maintaining it."
Not surprisingly, Burk and Lindelof have plenty on their plates coming up: Burk is producing "Star Wars: Episode VII" with Abrams at the helm, while Lindelof is writing and producing the George Clooney sci-fi film "Tomorrowland," which will be directed by "Ghost Protocol" filmmaker Brad Bird.
As for what tomorrow holds for "Star Trek," Burk said fans shouldn't be discouraged by the fact that Abrams is diving into another well-established franchise like "Star Wars."
"We are often involved in other things, like when J.J. was off directing 'Super 8' as we were producing 'Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol' and 'Star Trek Into Darkness' was being prepped," Burk said. "The fact is, 'Star Trek' is still the baby for all five of us, so 'Star Wars' is by no means a case of one project replacing another."
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