On Friday, “Star Trek” will return to the silver screen for the first time in more than six years, yet, this time around there will be no Patrick Stewart or William Shatner at the helm of the starship Enterprise. What there will be, though, is a massive amount of pressure on director J.J. Abrams (“Mission: Impossible III”) to reboot a classic sci-fi franchise that has been steadily losing gas for years.
The weight also lies on the shoulders of Abrams’ young cast to not only portray some of the most recognizable characters in sci-fi history, but also to face the judgment of the show’s notorious diehard fans. This particularly stands true for Chris Pine (“Smokin’ Aces”) and Zachary Quinto (TV’s “Heroes”), who will play younger versions of Capt. James T. Kirk and Spock in the film. In a recent conference call, Pine and Quinto discussed the challenges involved with portraying sci-fi legends like Kirk and Spock, Tribbles and the infamous question of which is better: “Star Wars” or “Star Trek.”
In what will be the 11th “Star Trek” motion picture, Abrams will boldly go where no man has gone before — into the backstories of Kirk and Spock before they ever step foot aboard the USS Enterprise and unite to combat Nero (Eric Bana, “The Other Boleyn Girl”), a Romulan from the future who threatens to tear apart the United Federation of Planets.
“This version of Spock is definitely a little bit more unsettled,” Quinto said. “He is less in control of the duality that exists within him and is struggling with a lot of deeply felt emotions like passion, fear and anger.”
Pine said the younger Kirk faces similar conflict. “We get to see this character before he becomes the confident commander of the later years, where he is trying to decide whether he wants to face his fears or become a victim to them. He is a bit more brash and arrogant, and this journey is him learning how to mold this angry energy into the form of a polished leader.”??
Although the film features the main characters from the original “Star Trek” series, Pine said his portrayal was not a conscious attempt on his part to make the character more or less like Shatner’s Kirk.
“It was not as if I had a sheet of Shatnerian characteristics that I wanted to keep and a sheet of new things that I wanted to do with the character,” Pine said. “It was more paying attention to the script that I was given and making sure that I did my best to bring the character that I read there to life.”
Quinto, on the other hand, faced a little bit of a different situation. “I feel like there are aspects of the character Spock that are inextricable. You cannot really separate an actor from the character in certain ways, so I had to really connect to his circumstances personally so I could make them my own.”
While Pine and Quinto may not be household names just yet, the film does feature a number of big stars including Bana, John Cho of “Harold & Kumar” fame as Hikaru Sulu, Simon Pegg (“Hot Fuzz”) as Scotty and even Leonard Nimoy, who reprises his role as the aged Spock.
“It is crazy because there are some phenomenal people in this movie,” Quinto said. “Simon Pegg is possibly one of the funniest people on the planet Earth. You know Eric Bana is just badass. Everybody just fits together really well.”
One of the reasons why Pine and Quinto worked so well together was they found it particularly easy to channel the onscreen conflict between Kirk and Spock in their time together off-screen.
“We fought a lot. We would have lots of fist fights and sword fights.” Quinto joked.
“They were actually more like knife fights, ‘West Side Story’ style,” Pine added.
“In reality, Chris and I knew each other before we did the movie,” Quinto said. “We have overlapping social circles and we live in the same neighborhood in L.A., so it was really easy for us, which is good because I think the chemistry element for any sort of duo like Spock and Kirk can only succeed if it is effortless.”
When asked whether their portrayals of Kirk and Spock would win in a fight versus Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, Pine and Quinto did not hesitate to respond.
“We kick their ass,” Quinto said.
“We win all the time, every day,” Pine said.
Quinto did admit, however, he was a huge “Star Wars” fan growing up. “Ewoks were my life, and Jabba the Hutt was like, I could not even wrap my mind around Jabba the Hutt when I was a child. I was definitely rooted in ‘Star Wars.’ I have such visually seared memories of my first experience.”
In the end, both Pine and Quinto agree what makes this film exceptional is it will appeal to both diehard fans and newcomers to the “Star Trek” world, which should help the film continue to bring in big box office numbers during the packed summer blockbuster season.
“There is a Tribble somewhere. It is almost like the ‘Where’s Waldo?’ books,” Quinto said. “So there is stuff like that, that diehard ‘Star Trek’ fans can look forward [to], yet, newcomers can look forward to the fact that this is a movie that is much more about relationships, characters and challenges than it is about planets and starships — although it is about that too.”
“I think our film does have a wonderful sense of optimism,” Pine said. “It shows what people can do when they unify and work together, which is unique in this genre and should serve as a breath of fresh air, especially in a time of such conflict, war and economic crisis.”
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