In an interview with Film Journal International, Star Trek Beyond director Justin Lin revealed a lot about the process of coming to work on Star Trek, saying it was “a rescue mission” after Orci left the production. He also reveals plans to honor late Leonard Nimoy in the upcoming film and why, for him, Trek lives on television. Plus, Roberto Orci responds to Justin Lin’s comments here on TrekMovie.
The Justin Lin interview is currently available only in the print edition of Film Journal International, but a scanned version of the article is up at TrekCore.
When long-time JJ Abrams collaborator Roberto Orci stepped down from the production of the upcoming Star Trek Beyond (at the time only known as ‘Star Trek 3’), new blood was sought out to complete the film.
Brought in to fill the director’s chair was Justin Lin of Fast and Furious fame. Lin says it was Abrams who convinced him to take the job.
“It was definitely not a project I sought out. I got the call from J.J. and he kind of laid out the mission.
It was J.J.’s call that jarred something in my head, and I realized that Star Trek is a big part of me. Our business is one where commerce and art collide, and this was a personal choice, not a business choice. It was something I was invited to do, and I was happy to accept.”
According to Lin, Paramount wanted a totally clean slate. He would come into the project with a very short amount of time to make film essentially from scratch, with all previous plans for the film having been scrapped.
“For lack of a better term – and I think this is out in the open – it was a bit of a rescue mission. I think something had gone wrong and they wanted to start over.
After The Fast and The Furious, I was kind of done coming in on the third film in a franchise, but if there was going to be a franchise where I’d do it, it would be this one.
I’ll be very clear: I don’t know what came before me. We basically had to start over, and that was one of the selling points for me. That was the mission and the challenge, and once Simon [Pegg] and Doug [Jung] came on to write the script, we started completely from scratch. A clean-up mission wouldn’t have excited me. Even though this was going to be a very compact schedule, it was one where I knew I’d be going in contributing to what the next chapter would be.”
J.J. Abrams has publicly confessed to not being a Star Trek fan, to the dismay of Trekkies everywhere. Roberto Orci is known to be a superfan – someone who grew up with the franchise and held a special place in his heart for all things Trek, which is probably why we got so many nods to The Original Series in the first two Abrams films. Justin Lin seems to fall somewhere in between these two extremes.
“Well, there are levels of fandom, I guess. I don’t want to offend anybody, but I’m not a Trekkie or a Trekker. It was part of my life, though. I grew up watching the original series in reruns with my dad and family. Channel 13 in L.A. at 11 pm every night – that’s what I grew up on.
You can’t just give me the number of an episode, and I’ll know the title; I’m not that level of Trek fan! But a lot of the journey of making Beyond was getting to the core of why I love Star Trek and why I hope people love Star Trek. It was important to me to reach in there and realize why this franchise has been around for 50 years.”
Knowing that Lin is indeed a fan of the show – at least, he is fan enough to be familiar with TOS from an early age – Film Journal International dove in head on to address the one and only plot point of Beyond we’ve been privy to thus far: the early destruction of the Enterprise.
FJI: “It’s been revealed that the Enterprise is destroyed early on in Beyond. Was that a plot point you and the writers hit upon right away?”
Lin: “No, I didn’t come in saying, ‘Let’s destroy.’ It was more like, ‘Let’s deconstruct.’ Talking with Simon and Doug, one of the things we felt was that with this being the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, let’s deconstruct it and hopefully rebuild it in a way that reaffirms why we’ve loved it for half a century.
That conversation went a lot of different places, and one of the most interesting places was the Enterprise itself. I remember watching Star Trek as a kid and saying, ‘That’s a cool looking space ship, but it looks really lanky. Is it built for combat?’ It took me a while to realize that they’re not out there to fight. It’s an explorer’s ship, so of course it looks like that. Just having that discourse about what it means to be on the Enterprise provides us with issues we can explore on a character level.”
Lin went on to give us a glimpse of what we can expect the holy trifecta – Kirk, Spock, and McCoy – to get up to in this 13th Trek film.
“As the movie begins, we’re two and a half years into their five year mission, so they’ve been together for some time since we last saw them. It’s interesting that we’re working in this kind of parallel [universe], where we have the resources of the TV show in terms of their relationships, but we’re creating our own canon.
Bones is my favorite character, because I’ve always viewed him as the curmudgeonly uncle I never had. So it was fun to talk with Karl [Urban] about where McCoy is going and where he is right now. I almost feel like I’m making the biggest-budgeted fan film!
We got to have Bones and Spock have the conversation I’ve always wanted them to have. And I’ve always wanted to see Sulu get off the bridge more. To get to contribute to that is exciting.
I didn’t realize how much the franchise was a part of me until we played with putting characters in these different situations. And the cast is so great. They’re so respectful of what came before them with the characters, but are also talented and hard-working. I couldn’t ask for a better group of collaborators.”
Although Leonard Nimoy played an important role in rebooting the franchise and appeared in the first two JJ Treks, he passed away before filming of Beyond ever began. Justin Lin says that Beyond will honor the original Mr. Spock.
“It’s something you’ll see in the film. [Nimoy’s death] obviously affected everybody, because he’s been a big part of our lives. There’s an attempt [in Beyond] to acknowledge that in some way.”
When asked about whether or not we’ll be getting lots of callbacks to the original Star Trek, Lin suggested that we’ll be getting original characters, species, and storylines in Beyond.
“Let’s get them out into space! J.J. was able to explore a lot in the first two movies, but the Enterprise still hadn’t really gone on a mission. So that’s what was driving it more than anything else.
As a kid, one of the coolest things about Star Trek was that they’d be discovering new planets and species. So that became the driving force for the movie. Let’s bring in things you haven’t seen in the Star Trek universe.
When I walked in, I thought there was going to be a rulebook, but I think part of what J.J. did was to not have a rulebook. He wanted to explore, and that’s where Simon, Doug, and I went, too.”
Not unlike the villain in Star Trek Into Darkness, Lin says that Beyond‘s villain has “a valid point of view” and will make us examine what the Federation is and why it exists.
“The challenge with a big ensemble like this is there’s not always a lot of real estate. So I needed someone with a lot of presence, and Idris [Elba] was really my first choice. When I spoke with him over the phone… I felt we had a connection. I remember us riffing about the character and talking about his philosophy.
His character has a very valid point of view, and it goes back to our original concept of deconstructing Star Trek and the Federation itself. And to do that, we have to question what the Federation is about, why it exists, and is it truly a good thing?”
With a new television* series launching on CBS All Access in January 2017, FJI asked Lin whether he thought Beyond would play into a combined vision for the franchise as a whole. Parroting CBS’s original press release for the All Access series, Lin denied any connection between the upcoming small screen and silver screen incarnations of Trek.
Notably, Lin implied that, for him, Trek is best suited to the medium of television, and that tentpole films like Beyond are secondary to the adventures we see on TV.
“What I learned making Beyond is that the Star Trek I loved growing up lives on TV.
It had a TV format. For a little while, there was another story idea that we really liked, but I felt that the specific idea didn’t fit the medium this film would be. And that’s why I can’t wait for the new TV show, because they’re going to have people who can tell those kinds of stories in that medium.
With Beyond, we’re hoping to find the appropriate journey for the characters that fits into a tentpole [movie]. What I think is so exciting about the future of Star Trek is that it has crossed into multiple mediums. My greatest hope is that in a few years you’ll be able to watch Star Trek on TV, and if you want to see a [tentpole version] there’s a movie. Or you could have a virtual reality experience!”
When asked wether he would continue working on Trek after Beyond, Lin indicated not.
“I feel like this is probably it for me. Fast and Furious was different; I was trying to build something. I feel like when I’m done with this film, I’ll be excited to see where the franchise goes. To be able to be a part of this and not wear out my welcome is great, as well as to be able to contribute something to the franchise. Because I know Star Trek is going to be there when I’m gone.”
Roberto Orci responds
Right here on the TrekMovie comment boards, Roberto Orci has responded to Lin’s comments and allegations by some fans that Orci was removed from Beyond after a poor performance of Star Trek Into Darkness:
“When a movie destroys a franchise, they don’t continue it. They reboot or start over. So [your] analysis of [Into Darknesss] continues to be wrong.
As for the rest, I agree. They brought [Justin Lin] in to start over because I was only willing and able to tell the story we had generated”
Orci’s story lines up with comments made by Beyond‘s co-writer and co-star Simon Pegg that Paramount saw Orci’s story as “too Star Trek-y”.
Responding to Justin Lin’s comment that his work on Beyond was a “rescue mission”, Orci says that this was not in reference to salvaging the franchise after Into Darkness but rather that starting from scratch on a script for Trek 3 gave the new director and writers a very short timeframe in which to complete the film.
I don’t read [Lin’s comments] the same way. He’s not referring to STID, he’s referring to the fact that Lin has to mount a movie by a certain deadline that is very hard to make.
More from CinemaCon 2016
This interview comes out in tandem with an appearance by J.J. Abrams and Simon Pegg at this week’s CinemaCon in Las Vegas. TrekMovie will be bringing you any breaking news from that event.