Harve Bennett Criticizes Star Trek 2009 + Talks ‘Starfleet Academy’ Movie & More

Last Saturday Harve Bennett, producer of four Star Trek films, did a Q&A at a screening of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home in Ashland Oregon, where he talked about his time on Trek, his never-produced Starfleet Academy movie, and he offered a critical opinion of JJ Abrams 2009 Star Trek movie. Excerpts and video below.   

 

Bennett critiques Star Trek 2009 & talks ‘Starfleet Academy’

Harve Bennett, producer of Star Trek II, III, IV & V, appeared at a screening of Star Trek IV at the Varsity Theater in Ashland on Saturday as part of the Southern Oregon Film and Television Filmmaker series. Bennett spoke about his career in TV and film, and working on Star Trek.

At one point Bennett volunteered an opinion of the 2009 Star Trek movie, mixing his comments into a discussion of his his Starfleet Academy idea (which was rejected to make Star Trek VI):

Did you all see Star Trek recently? Does anyone want to know what I think of it? You now now know enough about me to know I honor tradition, that may make me a conservative film maker. They lost me when they put the Grand Canyon in Iowa.

I must add my bias. The last thing I did at Paramount before I left – wasn’t fired, I just said "no more." We had a script called The Academy Years – it was a prequel. It was Kirk and Spock aged seventeen entering Starfleet Academy. Kirk falls in love for the only time in his life. The cadets save the world. The premise of the film was racial tension. Spock becomes the first green-blood to enter the Academy, which is a red-blooded organization, and he is discriminated against. And there was a planetary cabal against green-bloods and the cadets at the Academy are the ones that save the day. Kirk’s love is killed heroically saving the planet from the ship. We had a great script and we had a location. If you are going to shoot Starfleet Academy in the 23rd century what should it look like? You may disagree with my choice, but the choice that we made and negotiated for was Washington and Lee University in the Shenandoah Valley. An ivy-covered Harvard on a river, and our logic was Harvard, MIT, Stanford – these are universities that have been there for hundreds of years. You can always build a laboratory building, a space hanger, stuff that brings it into the space age. But academically, we wanted it to be forever. Something that will always be there.

And the first sequence of that movie was Jim Kirk in a crop duster biplane, stunting about while his brother and his mother are "Jim, you wild ass – set down!" And he finally ends up crashing into a haystack. And it starts Iowa 2315. This picture starts in Iowa 2315, and then it becomes a crazy futuristic motorcycle thing and a dive into the Grand Canyon, and so that is my response to that movie.

When you blow up Vulcan and kill Spock’s mother, you are making a movie that I would never make, but it did make huge business and it created Star Trek for a new generation that likes big action and special effects and ‘bang bang’. So I think JJ Abrams succeeded in what he was trying to do

If you are wondering, here is what Washington and Lee University looks like:


Bennett’s vision of Starfleet Academy

Bennett talk covered many more issues, including William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, special effects, Wrath of Khan continuity and more. Here is full video broken into 10 segments:

(Video via BurtonDeppHBCfan on YouTube)

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What a bitter man he is…

Get over it, Harve!

Starfleet Academy sounds dumb. That would have killed the franchise years before its peak of DS9 was even thought of.

My biggest problem was with the need to create an alternate reality for the purposes of story telling…I don’t really car about the ‘Grand Canyon’ or if they stole your idea Harve…just the alternate reality bit.

Time to move on mate?

(Nicholas Meyer for Star Trek 2012!!)

i still don’t get why some have difficulty grasping the existence of a 23rd century quarry in Iowa and how that could be a deal breaker.

As for the “Kirk and Spock aged seventeen entering Starfleet Academy. Kirk falls in love for the only time in his life.”

We had people whining endlessly about Abrams making 90210 Trek with actors in their 30s. I wonder how a movie with 17 year olds would have been received. :P

He is so right! Especially the last part about “bang bang”!

He is so right! Especially the last part about “bang bang”! Watched the movie last night and it is not my StarTrek anymore. Just another summer-blockbuster.

You go Harve.

Wouldn’t the year 2315 be after Picard was born?

Anyway, Harve I think that “Grand Canyon” you’re talking about was either a rock quarry or the setup for where the Enterprise was being built. Pretty sure it was the latter.

Iowa 2315?

Is that a misprint, or was it Harve’s mistake?

I’m assuming whoever made the mistake meant 2215.

Wow, what a bitter man. His comments about visual effects and “bang bang” ring particularly hollow considering that his greatest success (as a producer) was TWoK…which was by 1982 standards all VFX and action.

IIRC, he tried to sue Paramount several years ago over allegations of plagiarism when word leaked out that Abrams’ film would include elements of Starfleet Academy, so it’s not like he was ever going to view the film with anything other than disdain anyway. The mere fact that he continually refers to the obvious quarry as “the grand canyon in Iowa” should underscore this.

Really, he just comes off as a whiny fanboy hater.

Well Harve you didnt get it made. ST09 brought the old girl back to life. The old style ST movies were fantastic stories but so boring to watch. I loved the camera work on ST09, just a little less flurish with the lens flares nxt time JJ and Mr Mindle

“(Nicholas Meyer for Star Trek 2012!!)”

if j.j. cannot direct, i am all for it!

I have to agree with Captain Hackett. Very bitter indeed. For a guy who took Star Trek with Wrath of Khan and helped change it’s style and direction, I find his comments both bitter and slightly spiteful and not at all respectful – seems Harve has become a bitter old man. Generally speaking I don’t understand why people have so much trouble grasping this new direction for Star Trek. Like TNG before it, Star Trek (2009) needed to radically change from the Star Trek as it had been for 18 years so that a new generation, the NEXT generation could get into it. When I was a kid, I grew up with Picard, Riker and co, I had no interest with Kirk and Spock, the original series to me seemed dated and boring, as did the films. “MY” Star Trek was TNG – It’s only as a man have I gone back and appreciated the older TV series and movies. Harve Bennet should realise this, that Star Trek has always first and foremost been about inspiring young people and kids. About His academy idea. It stinks to be honest, whilst conflict in Star Trek should happen (“you better mind your manners” “relax cup cake”), having cadets coming off as purely racist (“we don’t want no green-bloods in our academy”) Is a pathetic and ridiculous idea and isn’t the vision of a utopian society Roddenberry created for Humanity and Earth in the 23rd century other than that the idea is just… Read more »

Three words: Star Trek V. Need I say more?

After reading what Harve had to say, I think that saying ‘Harve Bennett Criticizes Star Trek 2009’ is a little inaccurate. He’s just saying that it isn’t the kind of movie that he would have made, that’s all. As for the overview of his concept, I’m sure it would have been entertaining. Plus it had an interesting message against racism. Sounds like it definitely would have followed in the tradition of Trek making statements on various social problems that afflict our society. Maybe it wouldn’t have been another Wrath of Khan, but it would have been entertaining.

Lens flare aren’t bad, for a certain type of movie. Watch a Hard Days Night and you will see what I mean. It’s raw and the lens flare work. I would have liked to see a little more Academy Days. It just wasn’t romping in the sheets or Kobamashi Maru trials. Special Effects are great, but ONLY if they move the story in a certain direction. That wasn’t the Grand Canyon in Iowa. I thought that the only way that scene worked with Kirk and his Uncle’s Car was that canyon was there because of the Eugenics Wars. That had to be some powerful weapon to leave a crater like that. The Eugenics Wars were mentioned in the original Trek when they met Kahn in the first place.

I am wondering what JJ Abrams is going to do next.

THANKS Harve Bennett!!!!!!!!! I dont understand why people think this new movie is good. They took the star wars story, put it into the trek universe…then they took all the best elements from the other trek movie which “Harve Bennett” worked on… and just added it to that crapy movie….

You people here are the same kind that thinks transformers was a good movie…Harve Bennett is not bitter or sad…you guys are..That movie sucked!!!

Harve Bennetts Academy Years-movie would have been much more of a Star Trek-movie, dealing with problems like racism etc.
The movie we got last year was a good action-movie.
But reading what Academy Years would have been about makes me sad to realize that the new movie is not really that deep. It was a movie that floated on the ocean of Star Trek whereas the other TOS-movies dove really deep into it.
Star Trek should never have been about explosions, plantes blowing up and space battles and special effect…

I think it is sad to see that nowadays action and explosions are much more interesing than a deep philosophical sci-fi-storyline that deals with real problems.

There are a few things I agree with Bennett on, but not his overall opinion of Star Trek (2009). I thought the story and the actors were good. I was not as happy with set design being inconsistent with prior Star Trek and the special effects were taken right out of Star Wars. I agree with Harve that todays filmaking (not just JJ Abrams) involves making films look like they were filmed by a news photojournalist on the run. I much prefer steady cameras myself. He sounds bitter to me too about his academy idea. I was never a fan of it, even when I first heard of it. I am not any more turned on by it after reading his synopsis. Starfleet being a human only club in the 23rd century makes no sense. Even by the time of Star Trek V, it was well known that the Federation had several founding members. There would had to have been other aliens in Starfleet by the time Kirk entered the Academy. Racism in humanity in the 23rd century would have flown in the face of what Roddenberry envisioned. His years are also off. 2215 (assuming 2315 was a misprint) would have been too early for Kirk to be in the Academy (even discounting Kirks birthdate in the new movie). Finally, I think it was generally assumed the Kirk and Spock did not meet until Kirk took command of the Enterprise. My thanks to Harve Bennett for a number of excellent… Read more »
Capt Mike of the Terran Empire

As a Hard Core Trek fan and and as much as I respect Harve Bennet I completly disagree with him. I though Trek 09 was fantastic. it was not just about FX. It had a great comming together story that was well told. Maybe a couple of things could have been changed but all in all it was a great movie and I have seen it at the theather 10 times and I lost count how many times on Bluray. Harve you have a lot of respect but even you made some mistakes. Like you did with the Shat on Trek 5. But even to me a hard core fan I found some great things about Trek 5. Even though it is the worst of the 11 Movies.

Lads, the man is entitled to his opinion.

Whether or not we agree, its still his opinion and he in entitled to it.

I, for one, am not a big fan of the new movie, I think it has glaring and unbelievable problems, but I wont hate someone for liking it.

Without Harve Bennett, there wouldnt be the Star Trek we have today…so if he wants to vent, so be it!

Good on Ya Harve.

We really dodged a bullet on that one. Most of his arguments about the film only show his age and inability to understand what was happening (admittedly, pretty fast) on the screen. It was a quarry, Harve.

Funny, just the other day I had just posted an article on my blog where Walter Koenig spilled the beans about the Starfleet Academy plans to the public… synchronicity!

http://mystartrekscrapbook.blogspot.com/2010/10/starfleet-acedemy-article.html

Though the film Harve would have made might have had an intriguing concept, the film ultimately made, was far braver.

…And all the more a remarkable success for having been so.

Harve was treated incredibly rudely by Paramount if you read Nick Meyer’s book. They basically strung him along for a year developing Starfleet Academy then said screw it we’re doing another original cast movie instead. And then he quit in a huff.

That said, it’s obvious Harve never let that go and is somehow convinced the JJ Abrams movie has something to do with him. Well sorry Harve, but you didn’t invent the concept of Star Trek and you didn’t invent the concept of prequels. So any ownership you feel now is about you and not about reality.

I don’t see how ST09 is any more of a Star Wars meets Star Trek than Nemesis is. Or DS9.

I”M GLAD Bennett didn’t get his idea to film. I didn’t like what I knew about it then & I dislike it even more now. Sounds like sour grapes to me. I never even like alot of what he did with TOS movies. Those changes to the brown unforms were the first mistake he ok’d.

Author of "The Vulcan Neck Pinch for Fathers"

Wait a sec – Bennett was asked his opinion, and simply says he had a differing vision, disagreeing with the kind of Trek movie that Abrams made.

And that makes him a “bitter man?” Good grief, you people are harsh.

If you don’t think there’s at least a ring of truth to what he says, you’re fooling yourselves.

Heck, I liked Abrams’ Trek as much as anyone, but I still find the destruction of Vulcan as arbitrary and gratuitous.

Do I think his Academy script would have worked? Frankly, no; consider how the canonistas tore apart Abrams’ trek; think how they would have shredded the notion that Spock and Kirk were similarly aged at the Academy.

Bennett figured out how to make Trek viable and workable after the TMP disaster nearly put the franchise to bed forever. We might want to give the guy a break.

WTF is with all this Harve Bennet hate? He was quite critical of the film and didnt slag it off in the slightest.

He’s an old man, and JJ’s film was not designed for an audience of his age. I think he accepts that, and is simply stating its not what HE would have done, he isnt saying it SHOULD have been like this or that.

Besides, there are more than passing similarities between his idea and JJ’s. Im not saying JJ and the supreme court copied him, far from it – but they are very similar ideas, and one who was unceremoniously booted from the franchise like he was is being far more gracious than I would be if I were in his position. Well done to the man.

Well it’s his loss if he didn’t like Trek 09

Harve sounds like so many of the other traditionalists who cant seem to grasp the idea that Trek had and needed to change in order to connect with the next generation of new fans. The traditional ways were good, but like all things in time, they must change. Trek was old and dying plain and simple. The Trek franchise had two options, retire or change to appeal to a younger and tek savy audience.

I am not saying that we had to completely do away with old trek and its traditions, but old trek had and has to compromise a little to allow the younger audience the opportunity to become interested in trek. Now, thanks to JJ and his team, there is a new generation of individuals who are so interested in Trek that they are even going back and viewing the previous movies and shows. Trek Will Live On.

I praise JJ and his team for the new vision and direction and I will be in line for my ticket when the next feature comes out.

Why do people say that TMP “nearly put the franchise to bed”? It made a lot of money. Why not do another more in line with TMP instead of going all militaristic in TWOK?

So will I be in line for the next film :)

Not sure I like Harve’s idea, but I am with #6. I enjoyed the JJ Version of Star Trek but to me it wasn’t Star Trek. It was just a good science fiction movie. I miss the Horatio Hornblower nautical elements of the original shows and movies. But we are in a new generation of fans and this is what they want. As long as it helps keep Star Trek alive I am for it, even if it is not my Star Trek.

meassage for Harve – take your SFA script over to IDW and lets have a comic adapation…

id buy it

#32 I agree with you! I actually liked TMP.

If you’re reading this Harve: thanks for the awesome II, III and IV Star Trek FIlms! You don’t sound bitter all, don’t worry what people say here. I agree with you JJTrek wasn’t too hot, but what do you know right? At least you never where called the ”Supreme Court of Star Trek”, jeez, what egos these guys have.

Why is it anyone who says they did not like the new movie is called bitter but yet its ok to have people criticised the other stuff.

Its called an opinion and it seems you are bitter if you don’t like Abrams movie on this site.

#36 Well I don’t, TMP was trash. NImoy was right when he called a beached whale.

I’m just assuming the Xindi came back and whacked Iowa.

Author of "The Vulcan Neck Pinch for Fathers"

@36 – I liked TMP as well, but it was a commercial and critical failure despite what it generated at the box office. It had something on the order of a $50M budget *in 1978 dollars*. Paramount was ready to consider it “one-and-done” until they brought in Bennet et al to give it “one last shot,” and that was TWOK. Bennet brought in Nicholas Meyer to direct, and the rest as they say is history.

Ironically, Bennett could be thought of as the Abrams of 1982, who took Trek from the cerebral TMP to the comparatively action-packed, battle-filled TWOK…

Still amazed at the myopia here that accuses Bennett of being a “hater” just because he didn’t share the mainstream opinion of Abrams’ Trek. That, to borrow a phrase, isn’t logical….

“ST09 brought the old girl back to life.” With genocide, bickering and no realistic character interactions or relationships! “The old style ST movies were fantastic stories but so boring to watch.” So skip Star Trek: The Motion Picture and have a blast. “I loved the camera work on ST09” Yes, that’s why Robert Wise and Nicholas Meyer failed as directors, because they didn’t constantly bang on the camera to make everything look shaky. Everything looks better when you can’t focus on anything. And let’s not forget that Harve was the guy who brought Star Trek (not a Star Trek) back into the mainstream without turning it into something that even remotely resembled Star Wars. Star Trek II, for all it’s awesomeness, didn’t have that many action sequences or dialogue devoted to character nods that Trek 09 suckered to like crazy. Bones didn’t say “I’m a doctor, not a ___”, Scotty didn’t say “I’m giving it all she’s got Captain!”, Bones wasn’t always shouting and arguing, and Kirk wasn’t flirting around. The characters acted like responsible adults who, even at their age could still go through a change in character, not rank. Kirk in Trek 09 didn’t have any of that. He started as an a&$hole, and he stayed an a#%hole. Oh, and if you want to bring up Star Trek V, I’ll bring up Transformers Revenge of the Fallen. At least Harve was man enough to say that it had problems both in the story and production department. You try… Read more »

AWW CMON Harve and harve Sympathizers……sheesh….Starfleet Academy racially pure as a plot device???? With Racial conflict???
This is the FUTURE so why does that sound like the past? Did Starfleet move from Liberal SAN FRAN to the deep south or something??? Who was Governer?? Maybe a future relative of Wallace?

Talk about a dumb idea…get the pitchforks and KKK Costumes we got a green blood to lynch boys! And Starfleet academys dean is ADOLF HITLER! WOW what a story…NOT

The first five minutes of the new Trek movie has a better plot than Harves whole story….

And I agree someone else already mentioned Trek should appeal to the young of whatever generation its in….JJ and Roberto et al had to update and change Treks surface to make it glossier less plodding and more relevant to todays audiences and they did a great job….

No movie is perfect, trek 09 isnt either but it did what it needed to and was a great start for Trek yet again….proving the old gal still has life in it….And without Trek there would have been no Star Wars….so I think its ok to borrow some elements for todays audiences—and Trek 09 paid great homage to what has gone before with much love and affection….

I Trekprincess will also be standing in line for the next film…Thanks to JJ, and all involved for making Trek relevant again….Harves story sadly would not have done that….it might have set us back about 200 years though haha…

I must disagree with Harve. Star Trek 2009 succeeds in its key aims: it introduces and reintroduces Star Trek for the 21st Century. It’s fun, exciting, sometimes funny, and takes you through the full spectrum of emotions. In many ways, it’s the best Star Trek film. However, overall, I rank it 4th behind TWOK, TVH, and TUC. The reason why I rank it 4th is that its story is its Achilles’ heel. TWOK has a great story – deriving its structure, and even quoting and paraphrasing, from literary masterpieces such as Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, and A Tale of Two Cities – with timeless themes such as age, purpose and meaning, life, death, friendship, revenge, and sacrifice. I can’t see this one ever being topped. TVH is a genuinely funny story with a good moral message and, remarkably, without a single bad guy or space battle. TUC is about the braking down of barriers, echoing the real life events of the Berlin Wall, and overcoming long standing prejudices; there’s also a good mystery sub-plot. All three of these films, but especially TWOK and TUC, have lots of action, great acting, and fantastic music. Star Trek 2009, in contrast, had a pretty weak story overall. Instead of deriving its structure from literary masterpieces, it derives it from films such as Galaxy quest (the greatest influence?) and Star Wars. Of course, there were a great many Trek references, which I appreciated. Unfortunately, though, Nero was a rehashed, shallow villain. And there was… Read more »

@41: “Ironically, Bennett could be thought of as the Abrams of 1982, who took Trek from the cerebral TMP to the comparatively action-packed, battle-filled TWOK…”

action-packed, battle-filed TWOK? Are you serious? There are only two action sequences in that whole entire movie and they only accumulate about 15 minutes out of the 116 minutes running time. TWOK is NOT action packed!

I hate sounding like a broken record, but I loved Herve Bennet’s Trek movies, for the most part, and to me the nuTrek is neither Trek nor good SF. It was speeded up and dumbed down and the destruction of Vulcan was as gratuitous as it was ridiculous (and a total rip of Star Wars, which was always another kind of story altogether than Trek in the good old days when movies tried to be original.) Kirk being made into a bonehead jock and Spock into an emotional mess and Uhura being demoted to love interest just threw who these characters were under the bus in my opinion too. Am I happy this movie breathed new life into the franchise and gained new fans? I don’t know. I would certainly have preferred to do that with a better movie.

Also not saying Xenophobia wouldnt have been relevant at some time like Archers time for instance….before the academy and all that it did make sense for some to fear aliens and the rapid changes once Warp Drive brought other worlds to earth….but by Starfleet academy days one would think they would be more accepting of the new world view—and nowhere would that view be more accepting than at Starfleet Academy whose very existance relies on space travel, interactions with other worlds and assisting/learning from these other worlds….those entering Starfleet Academy would not be of the Xenophobe variety….quite the opposite….they would be MOST accepting of a new race…..why else would they be there?

#44 Alec This is a point some fans make about Star Trek 09 and one I simply cant agree with “It has a weak plot”. I and quite a few others have pointed out the Theme (and “sub-Themes”) in this movie that are quite strong IMO. The big one obviously being the main one, Two people, opposites in many ways, starting off as enemies, coming together to fight a major threat, and in doing so begin a strong friendship that will last a lifetime. To me, thats pretty potent suff, human relations, its actually dynamite and it this film had it big time.

It seems people think fast paced/action packed = No Plot or weak themed, And sloooow paced/little action = Strong Plot and Big Theme. Its not true IMO, Star Trek had a very solid plot, and themes in the finest tradition of TOS/TNG.

Bennet is right about the radical timeline change in the 2009 movie.

Completely unnecessary for a good story. The origin could easily have been a trilogy:

1. Academy story (Kirk’s youth) / Pike crew adventure (the Cage)
2. Farragut adventure.
3. Kirk’s Enterprise story

No derived timeline change, plenty of adventure and character development, no need to rape canon.

The 2009 movie is just a well funded fan film. A good one, but deranged.

And although I like every TOS movie, including 5, I found the much beloved Star Trek TUC at times to be a little obvious, with a lot of “nudges” to let you know theres a conspiracy going on, and who’s in it. Its not my favorite by far, but see, thats just my personal tast, I still like it, but I dont think its the greatest thing since sliced bread either.

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