BEVERLY HILLS, California — Stardate, 2002: After the double failures of the movie "Nemesis" and recently launched, little-watched TV show "Enterprise," [movie id="305755"]"Star Trek"[/movie] is pronounced dead by critics and fans alike. The franchise goes into a deep hibernation, licking its wounds.
Stardate, 2009: Like Spock in the third "Trek" film, the series has defied the odds and been remarkably resurrected.
How did one of the most beloved franchises in science-fiction history fall into such a rut? And how did director [movieperson id="206514"]J.J. Abrams[/movieperson] manage to pull victory from the jaws of defeat? Recently, we took the question straight to the talents behind this weekend's buzz-heavy "Star Trek" reboot.
"I never doubted J.J.," said [movieperson id="190230"]John Cho[/movieperson], the film's new Sulu. "As soon as I heard he was tackling this, I said, 'OK, it's a home run!,' and I was really onboard. He's just really a filmmaker operating at the top of his game right now — much like an athlete entering his prime years — and it's really dazzling to be on set while it's going on."
"Of course, [the success of the reboot is credited to] J.J. more than any of us," agreed [movieperson id="243106"]Anton Yelchin[/movieperson], who takes over the role of Pavel Chekov. "It's his vision. He's an intelligent, bright human being, and he has such a distinct vision for everything that he does.
"Everyone obviously realizes the history of 'Star Trek' — and ... the decline of 'Star Trek,' " Yelchin added of the series' dark days at the beginning of this decade. "But, like John said, it's J.J. — so he must know what he's doing."
Although Abrams' movie-directing career doesn't go any deeper than "Mission: Impossible III," the 42-year-old icon took on the "Trek" gig in the midst of an unparalleled hot streak that has seen him follow up older TV hits "Felicity" and "Alias" with his stamp on "Lost" and "Fringe" and the box-office hit "Cloverfield." And as Abrams himself has explained, his lack of "Trek" knowledge allowed him to avoid some of the series' old pitfalls.
"The original series had not been revisited in a while, and J.J. not being a fan was helpful," screenwriter Roberto Orci agreed. "If we could come up with a story that would attract him, we knew that then we might have a chance with the general audience that didn't know anything about 'Star Trek.' "
In doing so, Orci and writing partner Alex Kurtzman became convinced that they could sidestep the geek-friendly in-jokes and scientific stiffness that had limited the franchise's audience. "We had heard a lot [of theories about the series' problems] and talked to people," he remembered. "[They told us] that 'Trek' represented a cold sci-fi, that women felt alienated by it, and that because there was a long continuum of 'Star Trek,' you couldn't come into it if you hadn't already become a huge fan.
"We felt like, 'Well, wait a minute. There's no reason that it should be alienating,' " Orci added of their game plan. "There is so much warmth, so many great positive things in 'Star Trek.' It's an adventure that is for everybody — men, women, kids, adults, it doesn't matter. [Ours] is just a huge, fun space adventure."
Will the vampires grab more trophies than the slumdog? What was the year's ultimate onscreen WTF moment? It's up to you to decide the winners of the 2009 MTV Movie Awards. Vote now, and tune in on May 31 at 9 p.m. ET, when the big show airs live from the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City, California.
Check out everything we've got on "Star Trek."
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