Yesterday JJ Abrams was in Seoul, South Korea kicking off a brief tour in Asia to promote the new Star Trek movie, like he did in the Fall in Europe. This time he brought Chris Pine (Kirk) and Zoe Saldana (Uhura) with him. See below for excerpts and quotes from a report of his visit, plus a little context on the state of Trek in Asia.
Star Trek Begins in Korea
Although Asia has grown to become one of the more important markets for films, Star Trek has not performed well there in the past, so Abrams had his work cut out for him. He and his cast were there to preview 20 minutes of the film to journalists and distributors, like he did in Europe last Fall. According to a report from the Korea Herald the film will be called ‘Star Trek: The Beginning’ in Korea, and Abrams went out of his way to emphasize to the crowd his Star Trek his for a general audience, telling the crowd:
We made this film not for Trekkies but for future fans of Star Trek. The studio wanted to give the film a fresh start and I was originally brought in as a producer, but upon reading the script, I saw so much potential and possibility that the original had failed to realize due to technological constraints so I got very greedy and I decided to direct it myself.
Chris Pine also talked about making this new Star Trek noting how he was not doing an impersonation:
I began watching the original series pretty feverishly cause I knew I only had a limited amount of time to prepare for the role and after getting half way through the first and second season I wasn’t doing myself any favors by trying to pick up on the mannerisms of William Shatner and the minutiae of the Star Trek world. I would have created a character that was more impersonation than an original incarnation. JJ’s prescription for realizing the role and this goes for all of us- was to create our own and not worry too much about obeying the laws of the original Star Trek world.
For her part, Saldana talked about how she relates to the character of Uhura
I do have a gravitational pull towards characters that are strong. I think there are similarities between Uhura and myself. It is conceivable to believe that some of you leaks into the roles actors play and I certainly hope that the things that did manage to leak in … complimented my interpretation of my character in the film – the way she’s able to command herself with so much discipline and strength in a setting that’s mainly masculine and still hold court and fulfill her job in an androgynous manner – I love women that are like that.
Star Trek opens in Korea on May 7th.
Abrams with Saldana and Pine talk to the press in Seoul, S. Korea (Wire Image)
Trek’s challenge in Asia
JJ Abrams tour of Asia will be taking him to Japan later in the week. It is interesting to see how Paramount is working hard to make this new Trek film into a global event, something unprecedented in Trek’s history. The last Star Trek movie (Nemesis) only made $564,650 in Japan and opened on only 26 screens. Nemesis opened in Korea nine months after the US premiere, but there is no box office data available (it is likely less than Japan). In comparison, Abrams first feature film, Mission: Impossible: III, made over $44 million in Japan alone, and almost $38 Million in Korea, but that film did have the advantage of Tom Cruise, who is a big star overseas. The film that is often held up as a model for the new Trek is Batman Begins. That ‘reboot’ of the Batman franchise brought in $6.5 million in S. Korea and $12.4 million in Japan.
For the return of Trek to work as well as the return of Batman, it is going to need a lot of ‘new’ fans. So before Trek fans get too worked up over Abrams comments about the new Trek film being for new fans, bear in mind that Star Trek has not performed well in non-English speaking markets (with the exception of Germany). For the film to succeed in Asia, it needs an audience comprised almost entirely of ‘new fans’ so it makes sense for Abrams and Paramount to market the film as being for that audience.
Abrams comments about fans are not new and something he has said before, particularly in his Trip to Europe. In a recent interview with TrekMovie, Star Trek co-writer Bob Orci talked about Abrams overseas comments and offered this advice to his fellow Trekkies:
We can liken almost anything to something that happened on The Next Generation, because The Next Generation covered almost every story that there is. As fans – when JJ is out there saying things that prickled our pointy ears, we just think of him like Riker in the episode ["A Matter of Honor"] which he had to go be the first officer on board a Klingon ship in an exchange program. On that ship when someone talks back to you, you would have to beat them down or you lose the respect of your crew, which is protocol, whereas on a Federation ship that would be a crime. So we have to give JJ a little bit of leeway, when he is traveling the galaxy over there where they don’t know Trek, to say the things that need to be said in order to get people onto our side.
Hey if it works, then all the better for Star Trek going forward.
Abrams with Saldana and Pine in Seoul, S. Korea (Wire Image)
[Source: Korea Herald – note site may contain viruses, not recommended to visit]