After visiting London, Cologne and Madrid (see TrekMovie’s reports from the UK, Germany and Spain), Star Trek director JJ Abrams took his Star Trek EuroTour08 to France and Italy, two more countries where Paramount has work to do building an audience for this re-invigoration of the franchise. TrekMovie has another exclusive first hand report from Paris and a summary of some of the media reports out of Italy.
REPORT ON JJ ABRAMS STAR TREK PRESENTATION IN PARIS
By Frank Mikanowski, Jean-Regis de Vanssay & Eric Saussine
For some background, France has long been the Paramount’s black sheep regarding Star Trek, Brent Spiner once stated that he would start worrying if he were popular in France! The Original Series first aired in the early 1980s and the bright colored vision of Trek was already a thing of the past. The show was thus defined by the terms “kitsch” and “pointy ears” and has never been taken seriously. The TOS films did poorly in France, but things changed a little when The Next Generation started to air on cable, where it did grow a bit of an audience. More recently the DVDs have performed pretty well, but Star Trek is still not as big in France as it is elsewhere.
The big movie theater of the Gaumont Champs Elysées was almost full, but few were Trek fans. The event organized by Paramount was to preview and promote three films (Monsters vs Aliens, Watchmen, and Star Trek) and Watchmen was probably the biggest draw for the assembled press and film industry people. When J.J. Abrams came up to introduce the Star Trek footage, he told the crowd how happy be doing this in Paris, a city where he lived for a year. He acknowledged that he was not the biggest Star Trek fan and asked for the people present in the theater to raise their hands if they were not Star Trek fans. He told the crowd that he agreed to direct the film, not to do a big special effects blockbuster, but because he loved the story of these characters, and particularly wanted to to tell their origin story.
Detailed descriptions of the trailer and four scenes being shown have been reported before and don’t need to be repeated, however the big question is, can this trailer and film bring in a new generation of French viewers? I think the answer is a definite YES. The four extracts, undoubtedly carefully chosen by J.J Abrams and Paramount, certainly convinced me. Maybe, J.J Abrams did not make this film for Star Trek fans, but they will find many reasons to be excited in it. But the will not need to read a Trek Encyclopedia to enjoy it.
There was no doubt that we were really facing Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Sulu, Chekov and Scotty. Thumbs up for the cast and the direction of J.J Abrams. At any time it did not feel like an imitation of the original actors. It is also necessary to point the quality of Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman’s script for this respect regarding this four scenes. Moreover these reveal that all the supporting cast will not remain in the shadow of the triumvirate and they will have a substantive part in the story.
Regarding the ships J.J Abrams did not give us much to cut our teeth on with the exception of a shuttle. The Enterprise interior is certainly not as austere as the original but still has the cleanliness of old with a prevailing white bluish lighting. Regarding the costumes, it may be more of a problem. I don’t have trouble watching the uniforms of the original series, but will it be the same for the general audience?
Trek’s French future?
So far media report from this event are very positive and should help begin to build the buzz here in France. For example, the reporter for TF1, the most-watched French channel, said of the film:
Those who always considered that these spacemen in pajamas were kistch and too pointy-eared will find this movie closer to Star Wars. On the other side, the fans will not be disappointed
So has Star Trek got out of the ghetto in France? One thing is certain. If Paramount had no hope to reverse the trend J.J. Abrams would have never come to France. The success of the DVDs and the whole reboot agenda of the new film shows that Paramount is trying to start again from scratch in our country. The six months which separates us from the release of Star Trek in the French theaters will seem quite a long stretch!
Frank Mikanowski, Jean-Regis de Vanssay & Eric Saussine are the treasurer, president and vice-president respectively of Unification France, one of France’s leading Star Trek and sci-fi fan clubs
MEDIA REPORTS FROM JJ ABRAMS IN ITALY
Italy is another country where Star Trek has not played well. For example, even though they have similarly sized populations, Star Trek Nemesis did less than half a million dollars in Italy and $7.6 Million in the UK.
Unfortunately TrekMovie did not have a correspondent inside for the Rome stop on the JJ tour, however the AP reported from the event. They note again how Abrams told the crowd that he wasn’t a fan until he made the film, but he says he is now ‘a Trekker’ and he has "fallen in love with the characters," going on to say:
My goal was to make a movie about the emotional lives of these characters. We’ve seen a million ships fly by the camera, but nobody is going to care about the ship if they don’t care about the people inside.
JJ’s event also got a lot of attention in the local media, spawning over a dozen reports.
More: TrekMovie’s exclusive full coverage of the Abrams Euro Tour: