Exclusive Interview: JJ Abrams Talks Allegories, Design, and Release Date For Star Trek Sequel

Yesterday TrekMovie put up the first part of our exclusive interview with JJ Abrams, talking about his Star Trek movie and the home video release. Today we finish off the the interview, talking to Abrams about the sequel, including his thoughts on “going deeper”, the engineering sets and his best guess at a release date.


Trek Interview: JJ Abrams on Star Trek coming home

TrekMovie: You [and the writers] Bob [Orci] and Alex [Kurtzman] have talked about how you would want to go deeper in the Star Trek sequel, telling an allegorical story like old-school Star Trek. Are you envisioning the next film to have a message, like Star Trek IV had with ‘save the whales?’

J.J. Abrams: It is too early to talk about what the next movie will be or what we are imagining, since we are just getting started. But, I would say that because the first film was about these characters coming together and meeting, there is an inherently more immediate and, in a way, naive quality to that kind of an origin story. I think the key to Star Trek moving forward is that it retain the sense of adventure and fun and excitement, and at the same time, go a little bit deeper. Now that these people know each other, just like any friendships you have, the first month of knowing that person is not going to be the same thing as the first year, or the fifth year or tenth year. No one wants a movie that is a ‘preachy’ film. No one wants a movie that feels like it is moralizing and some manifesto, but I feel like it has to go a little deeper. I don’t think that is something you can really argue. It is not this disparate people meeting for the first time. It is people that have
been together for–whether it is day, weeks or months–this is a group that is no longer just getting to meet each other. It feels like, by default, the movie needs to go deeper. The idea of it being some kind of allegory is not to say that we were looking to make the movie into some kind of message film, but it would be nice if after you leave the theater after seeing the second film, you feel like you have been through something meaningful. We are just trying to offer the story that is as rich as possible and fun as possible, but we are not looking to get on the soap box.

JJ Abrams with his new crew: First film about getting them together, sequel will go ‘deeper’

TrekMovie: One of the–possibly inside Trekkie–controversies has been about some aspects of the look of the Enterprise. You talk about this on the DVD, where you saved money and used the Budweiser plant for the guts of the ship. Do you consider that and other aspects for the look of the ship as locked for the future movies?

J.J. Abrams: So if your question is, would I change the engine room for future films? No, I don’t have any plans. But, I don’t have any plans to keep it the same either, we are not there yet. The Budweiser plant and the power stations served us really well.

JJ Abrams with Simon Pegg on location at Budweiser plant

TrekMovie: Originally Variety reported the plan for the sequel to be a 2011 movie, now Bob and Alex have talked about it maybe being a 2012 movie. You have a million projects going on right now, what is your best guess as to when you think the Star Trek sequel will be released?

 J.J. Abrams: I believe the next Star Trek film will be in 2012.

TrekMovie: Do you, or the studio, have a preference for Summer or Winter?

J.J. Abrams: I don’t. My instinct is that the studio wanted to take Star Trek, which was a winter film and move it to the summer. That is what they wanted to do already, so I would guess they would would thinking that this time too, but no date has been set.

Abrams with Zachary Quinto and Ben Cross on transporter set: JJ thinks next Star Trek movie will beam up in 2012



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JJ rocks

The sooner the better. … and no Khan.

I can see them talk about the morality and ethics behind cloning and genetic engineering. Khan backstory would be cool; who created him, why and the effects it has on humanity and the galaxy. The first 10mins can show who created Khan, where, when and how he and his crew got into space.

That portion of the story could either be plot A or plot B before they intersect each other in the middle or near the end and setup for part 3.

Good stuff.

Summer movies always do better. If they release in the winter they will be disappointed. I distinctly remember TSFS being a summer movie.

NO KHAN! Isnt there a history of one good trek one bad trek movie?

so basically JJ is saying that it’s going to be another popcorn, summer blockbuster film. ssssiiiiggggghhhhh

JJ is great but get me my Trek!!! And with all due respect, I agree with the others, don’t bring back Khan. This is something new, not a remake.

#5 – I would take issue with your entire statement. “Titanic” was released in Winter, if you’re speaking generically. If you’re speaking to “Trek” only, remember that STV was released in the Summer.

There are many factors that can lead to box office. Time of the release is just one.

I believe the most significant thing they must do in the sequel is to have the story revolve around Kirk/Spock/McCoy. This character triad is, IMO, absolutely necessary for a successful follow-up.

#7 – “so basically JJ is saying that it’s going to be another popcorn, summer blockbuster film.”

Did you actually read the article?

Other than saying “go deeper” half-a-dozen times, he also said, “it would be nice if after you leave the theater after seeing the second film, you feel like you have been through something meaningful.”

Again, did you read the article?

I hope they change the Engine Room. At the very least make it look a little more futuristic.

And I hope he chills out on the lens flairs. A few here and there is great… but in just about every scene? That was overkill, IMHO.

Admit the Budweiser plant was a mistake and just make an engineering section that looks better. You don’t have to have the TOS engineering section or the refit engineering room necessarily. You could combine the two. But the Budgineering plant did not work. Don’t let ego and pride hold you to a failed concept.

And Star Trek worked GREAT as a summer film. I would stay the course there.

I’m totally there with him about the development of the relationships. We’ve got to get to the point where Kirk, Spock and McCoy are best buds.

I love the plant look of the Engineering section. The thinking behind it is right, the engineering section of a ship is the utilitarian section. It had such a realistic feel to it, and all non-trekkies I’ve talked to have said that it was one of the reasons the ship felt so real.

They gotta get rid of the Budgeneering for heavens sake. The rest is okay/good/great

I had no idea that was a real budwieser factory and why would I if I dint work there?

Calling for them to spend a few million on a set when they can reuse the location is asking them to relocate the budget from elsewhere.

So yeah great we got a new engineering set but at the cost of 50 special effect shots.

Nobody comes our the cinema saying hey that was a great movie because they built that great big set on the ship.

Just give us a great script.

Brilliant film and i cant wait for the sequel
Two things though: please please please bring back the original ‘red alert’ klaxon sound from the all the series’ and movies and for the love of god create a proper engine room – parts of it work yes such as the water processing section but there needs to be a focal point like there was in all other versions of the engineering section of the Enterprise ie a core surely the two concepts can be fused together

Honestly, the only time I felt the Bud factory “set” didn’t work was when Kirk and McCoy went to get Uhura from her sensor/communications station. The giant tanks were kind of anamolous.

Otherwise, I didn’t mind.

Summer 2012 is gonna be great:

Star Trek 2 (bag the June 4th – the 30th Anniversary of Trek II)

The Dark Knight Returns (gotta be out for then)

Indy 5 (yeah that too – otherwise when they gonna do it? when Fords 80?)

Battlestar Galactica (sounds like thats when they aiming for)

Wolverine 2? (unless its due 2011, but 2012 is 3 years after the last one – which is in keeping with all of them)

The Avengers (i believe this is the only big summer film that definately confirmed for summer 2012)

Ghostbusters 3? (gotta be out then – otherwise when 2013??)

Superman Rebooted? (might not be 2012 as Warner probably wouldnt want to release a superman the same year as a Batman)

so anyway 2012 looks like it could be one of those great movie summers where there multiple must sees like 1989, 2005 and 2008 (and 2009 thanks to ST & T4)….

theres nothing much im looking foward to in 2010 or 2011….

Love JJ and love Star Trek. I like the go deeper idea very much but I also think the adventure needs to remain. I’m not crazy about repeating Khan although I loved the original version. I think part of the reason the originalt version worked so well was due to Ricardo Montalban, the actor, being terrific. I understand and agree with JJ about more emphasis on the plot but I will be honest and say my main focus will be on the actors. I have never seen a better job of casting ever. To that I have to add that I have noticed that the DVD ads focus on solely on Kirk to my great dismay. Quite honestly, I think Zachary Quinto was the essential reason JJ Star Trek was so successful. I think JJ knew that too. Beyond that, it was a great ensemble. I love Chris Pine but don’t make me choose between him and Zach. It would ruin their camaraderie and ruin the movie for me. It does not have to be either/or. Fans love them both – together.

I don’t think that anyone had a problem with the pipes in Engineering, per se. I liked the idea overall. But, I think that most (many) of us felt it was just too overwhelming, and that they’d like to see the pipes toned back a notch. You couldn’t really make heads of tails of anything in there. You had no sense of where you were, no frame of reference. Just need to pull back on all the pipes just a tad, and mix in some recognizable and familiar Engineering consoles/stations in there. Engineering was always something fans looked forward to ‘visiting’ every week. But, with so many pipes, it didn’t feel like a familiar “place” that you’d like to come back to. It needs to feel like a place. not a pipe chase, or a janitor’s utility closet.


Kidding. Not even close.

Any idea where there’s a larger copy of the picture used in the icon for this story?

I am fine with the pipe chase engineering. As long as I think of it as the below decks engineering. With our beloved engineering maybe a deck up or as an anteroom to pipe chase portion.

I think if the story revolves around Kirk, Spock and McCoy boldy going where no one has gone before then it should be entertaining.

Go for the great story, great character moments, and then hang the sfx — or Budgineering on that.

2012 is a long time to wait, but I guess we’ll just have to.

The only big things that are officially ‘on deck’ for summer 2012 that I can think of are Star Trek and Ghostbusters. Others that could make their way on the list would be Batman (although I last heard fall 2011 was more possible), Bond (with the whole situation going on at MGM, plus that year’s a big milestone for that series), two Pixar live action film- John Carter of Mars and Brad Bird’s 1906. As someone else mentioned there might be a rebooted Superman, but I doubt it.

Now I can’t wait for the Blu-ray tomorrow, gonna be first in line at my local HMV to get the one with the pins.

Again, you “Bud set” guys are serious?? Really?? That killed the movie for you??

I’d guess that 95% of the movie-going public didn’t even notice. I’d also guess that 75% of the Trek fans didn’t care. As a 40 year trek fan I found it refreshing to show the actual guts of a starship, unglamorized.

Though i’m a sci-fi fan, I try to live in reality. Study up on matter/anti-matter, or the power necessary to produce Warp Drive. Then tell me it can be produced in a room the size of a great-room, with only a big, glowing, mysterious flourescent tube and some panels with flashy buttons. Even in 300 years…..

I can’t wait to see it, but I agree with abrams/orci/kurtzman and think it should go deeper but not try to force a message down people’s throats.

Some trek fans that call this a ‘dumbed down version’ and claim it should deal with bigger issues and morality tales also forget that the quality of a movie is not equal to the message it attempts to tackle i.e. Star Trek V. They were dealing with a huge concept as they were trying to find what they believed could be God… but was just a malevolent force trying to imitate a god. Very grand concept, but the movie was notably bad (and that’s putting it rather nicely). ‘The Motionless Picture’ also falls under this category.

I want the next film to be smarter too, but you can’t expect them to sacrifice a good story (and overall good movie) for trying to be preachy and tackle an overly ambitious message. I would rather see an exciting fast paced yet contemplative journey with our favorite characters on a very grand scale. Give me a reason that this is a cinematic presentation and not on my tv at home. The problem with a morality tale star trek film is it can easily become an extended episode type movie… which TNG crew showed us blows monkey chunks.

As a writer I started thinking how I would handle a sequel to ST09 if it were in my hands. And ideally, I realized that I would like to see another exciting mystery like Star Trek VI. There was nothing like the ‘wtf’ moment when the enterprise started firing on the klingon bird of prey and the entire crew couldn’t figure out what the hell was happening. The rest of the movie had me hooked from that inciting incident that came out of nowhere. That was the last GREAT trek film (first contact was alright, just cause it was exciting and used the borg to make a ‘space zombie’ movie).

— mike

hope they release it before December 12th 2012… lol.

Realistically, the ship’s got to have water pipes somewhere, so water can get to taps, toilets and so on. Having to use power to run replicators is a waste of resources and, if there’s a power outage, you can’t have everyone die of thirst.

For me, the engineering section looked like a proper engine room. It doesn’t matter if we’re in the year 1950 or 2250: somehow you’re going to have to pipe gas, water or whatever from one place to the next. Pipes are pipes and they’ll never change! And, actually, watching the Blu-ray today it doesn’t seem so different from the engineering decks we saw in TMP through to TUC.

The Engineering section felt honest. It nicely offset the gleaming futuristic feel of the upper decks. This is a new Star Trek, freed of the original show’s limitations and set apart from the history of the spin-off shows, so why shouldn’t it take a different approach?

As for allegories, that’s fine, as long as they aren’t heavy-handed. The TNG-ENT spin-off shows were way too preachy and self-righteous: a Trek movie needs to avoid that. to me, adventure is the main point of Star Trek, with a healthy dose of sex, violence and philosophy thrown in.

More than anything, if it’s going to be three years until the next Trek film, let’s have the next film set three years after the most recent one with the whole crew now experienced and working together as the team we loved in the 1960s version.

#22 – I think we’re on the same page here. The movie showed the guts, the underbelly of the ship. I don’t think it ever pretended, or implied, that it was Main Engineering. There would be a seperate Main Engineering Station, but without the glowing flourescent Warp Core. It would be illogical to place it there. That’s a result of the abomination of TNG.

Engineering was gorgeous. Keep it, for verisimilitude’s sake, do not downscale as some here ardently implore. Maintaining the scope is essential to continue exploring the unprecedented realism of this new series. STAY ORIGINAL, guys. Print this out and staple it over the lintel of your production offices:


–Gene Roddenberry

OK. For those who thought the Budweiser plant engineering was realistic on the Enterprise:

NO IT WAS NOT!! In fact, I have a friend who has been on naval vessels and he himself cannot stand those sets. I’m not saying there should not be pipes, though I do think a better job could be done. Go to Sci-Fi meshes and look up that USS Akula or whatever it is on the 3D WIPs on how pipes SHOULD BE done. The choice was laughably bad.

I do agree that the next movie shouldn’t shove a message down people’s thorats. But I also don’t want it to be as dumbed down. I mean, the plot from the previous movie didn’t make much sense. I mean, when Kirk takes the chair after he “relieves” Spock, I bet there would be many bridge crew wondering “who does this person think he is?” I mean, there was a lot of weak in the story, and in some cases like that one it fails.

As with adding another female crewmember: I said this one and I will SAY IT AGAIN: She shouldn’t be Rand or Chapel, but someone new. Have her be someone of command grade (lieutenant commander or commander), and put her in charge of something like security. Also put her in long sleeves and trousers (no miniskirt for her), so that the audience won’t look upon her as a sex object, and won’t throw herself at any male crewmembers. (Let’s just say if Kirk groped her or advanced upon her, she’d make sure Kirk was bloodied up big time). I was thinking of someone with the attitude of Number One aka Tessa Halloran from “Babylon 5,” a recurring Mars resistance leader (no relation to the Trek Number One). Perhaps have Ali Larter portray her? Or maybe have Jennifer Morrisson do it (if she wants another Trek role).

I don’t really care about the lens flares, one way or the other.

32. Brian Kirsch

Agreed. There’s probably an Engineering master control centre somewhere, but we simply didn’t see it in this film! I liked being among the pipes and steam and dirt in this film.

Certainly it was illogical in TNG that the senior engineering staff would casually be working right next to what is essentially a big-f***-off nuclear reactor!!

Multiply the number of lens flares by ten!
“Star Trek: Return of the Lens Flares”

Yeah, that’ll work.

32. No, that was the result of all the movies from TMP forward.

5 words JJ: Khan! Khan! Khan! Khan! Khaaaaannnnn! Put Khan in ST2 and I’ll be happy! I just want a movie that I can compare to a past film and see the good and bad qualaties!

37. The Angry Klingon (without a trenchcoat)

We never really saw an Engineering master control centre in the TOS films, as Scotty was always among the ‘pipes’ in those. In TOS, the thing they called Engineering was essentially a nuclear reactor control centre. The TNG designers merged the pipes and the control centre in that show, which I suspect was budget-friendly, but doesn’t make a lot of sense. Certainly, given the pastel shades, glossy lighting and beige carpets, you wouldn’t know the characters were sat right next to a potential space Chernobyl!!

27 – if Bond is out 2012 too then all theyd need is another Back to the Future film and itd be 1989 all over again (2008 came close to that too but they moved Trek)

just kidding – the BTTF remake will no doubt be out in 2015

that pic at the top with Pine, Abrams, Nimoy etc looks like an out take still from one of the Pilots…think its the way Pines shirt is riding up his collar makes him look like ‘WNMHGB’ Shatner

Maybe there will be some compromising on the engineering sets for the next one: they’ll still film it at the Bud plant but incorporate more Trek tech, like maybe the warp core, etc.

I do hope that JJ keeps the spirit of fun that the first one had in the sequal. I do NOT want a dark second chapter, but a still fun, heart-lifting, adventurous story. There is too much dark in the real world already.

Abrams certainly speaks the right concept. Given the helter-skelter, hyper paced montage that was his first Trek movie, it is not at all clear he could deliver such a film.

What did Abrams’ Trek say? What did it mean? It’s hard to know as it had no focus and too many ideas to develop any one of them. It was truly the jack of all trades, master of none. Yet let it be said, it dazzled, whatever that is worth.

C.S. Lewis

There are a lot of things I’d like for the new movie, but it should definitely have the same tone as XI did. Also, they need to get rid of the Spock/Uhura romance, it doesn’t work at all. And they need to add more to Uhura’s character, because I felt that in XI she was nothing more than a sex object, and that’s a step back from TOS.

The Budweiser Engineering area made no sense to me – a brand new ship, but the engineering section looked decades older. There seems to be no way to justify it.

For the sequel, I respectfully request that they create an engineering section that fits the rest of the ship.


34, I couldn’t agree more with your analysis. I think one thing you said should be repeated a million times for those who love the Budweiser plant engineering:

“…I have a friend who has been on naval vessels and he himself cannot stand those sets.”

Indeed, the engineering on this Enterprise looked like it came from the Titanic, a ship that sailed 100 years ago!! Engineering sections of ships of today are much more modern. Remember folks, starships are not run on oil, grease or any other messy slimy things, and engineering should not look like a complete mess. I agree that pipes of some sort can have its place but not a Budweiser plant. Remember this is the future, not the past. Just look at how things look today compared to even a decade ago. The more advanced a culture, the more slim lined, sleek, and aerodynamic things look, not less. Star Trek set in the original, unaltered, proper universe had the right idea and can be summed up in two words: “Starfleet clean!” The bridge of this new, alternate universe reboot ship Enterprise had the “Starfleet clean” look, the shuttlebay/engineering did not. Also remember, starships are not aircraft carriers, their shuttles are not fighter craft and they don’t need hundreds of them. Starships should have shuttle compliments similar to aircraft compliments on naval destroyers/cruisers; a handful, no more.

So, my two cents on the next film: fix engineering/shuttlebay, do not have Khan, tell a good story with an important message, no more destruction of important planets (i.e. don’t have Qo’noS blow up or something stupid like that, enough damage has been done along those lines – this suggestion is probably my most important one), introduce a security chief (this can be either Lt. Cdr. Anton Giotto or an original character, perhaps a female security chief as suggested in post 34), keep the uniforms and actors from the previous film, fix the viewscreen so when it is activated there is no longer a distortion (it can stay a window when it’s not activated but the distortion when it’s active needs to be fixed), and last but perhaps my second most important suggestion: kill the lens flares (they are distracting, they look like bad photography, are a complete and total waste of time and a very, very bad idea.)

My list of ST movies from favorite to least favorite with ratings:
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered County (10/10)
Star Trek: First Contact (9.5/10)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (9.5/10)
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (9/10)
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (8.5/10)
Star Trek: Insurrection (8/10)
Star Trek: Nemesis (7.5/10)
Star Trek: Generations (7/10)
Star Trek (2009) (5/10)
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (5/10)
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (2/10)

Had my suggestions above been followed in the 2009 film, it might score better. For those who remember my review of the film, it got a higher rating but that was an initial impression. As you can see, my opinion of the film as soured quite a bit, especially as I go back and watch the other Star Trek films in the original, unaltered universe. Star Trek may have been made popular again in 2009, but it is significantly different from the Star Trek I grew up on and love and therefore is nowhere near the best Trek film ever. Despite that it is still better than the boring TMP and the dumb plot of Star Trek V (although not much when it comes to STV). I miss the Standard Universe Star Trek.

Are you joking? The Spock/Uhura romance was one of the great parts of the film! Why should it be taken out? It was just one of many differences that this new Trek timeline has produced…this isn’t the original show, why hold the writers to anything that’s gone before? As for Khan, no. This isn’t a “let’s remake everything with new people” game here, folks. I for one don’t want to see ANY of the TOS/movie adversaries in the sequel. Why look back when the whole point is to make a NEW Trek?

#5: “Summer movies always do better.”

Both ‘Star Trek The Motion Picture’ and ‘Star Trek The Voyage Home’ would contradict your statement.

Both did VERY well and were late fall releases (December and November respectively).

With all that said in post 46, I did find several things I did like:

I was deeply concerned that with the attempt to make Star Trek popular the new film wouldn’t be even recognizable as Star Trek, fortunately my concerns along those lines were unfounded; it was definitely Star Trek, just not the Star Trek I’m used to and love. Further the 2009 film wasn’t all bad; the actors had their characters spot on, there were many good Star Trek moments and nods (Admiral Archer, for one), and while the ship was significantly redesigned it was still a beautiful Star Trek ship, not some ugly sci-fi ship from Star Wars or the Earth Alliance ships from B5. As the result this film is a mixed bag, hence the 5/10 rating. They hit the mark about half the time and missed it the other half. Now the question becomes if the glass is half empty of half full, and I’ll say the glass if half full because it did make Trek popular again (which will hopefully transcend to the standard universe Treks and STO, proudly set in the Standard, unaltered timeline where no reboot is required!), and because I hope the next film will be better. The reboot is already done so there will be no need to further “shake up” the Star Trek universe.

Now here’s an interesting analysis on the new film that I’d like to get people’s opinion on. A friend of mine introduced a theory to me that I, as a fan of the Romulans (I like them about as much as I like the Klingons, but not as much as I like the Federation of course) really like. He proposed that the entire film, including the 2387 Spock came from, was all an alternate universe from the rest of Star Trek. He cited the difference in stardates and the enlarged, industrial USS Kelvin (which were supposed to be unaltered from the standard universe because it was before Nero’s time travel antics took place) as proof. The stardates and the Kelvin (with a crew of 800 and an industrial hanger bay) are very different from the rest of Star Trek and yet were supposed to be before the AltUni was created. However, they’re already different which would be impossible, further Star Trek has always relied on the theory that if you change the past you would then change the future. This theory is still valid in Quantum Mechanics, therefore, in order for the new film to be in an Alternate Universe, everything, including the destruction of Romulus in 2387 and the USS Kelvin would have to be in the alternate universe also and thus the entire film would take place in an alternate universe. Now he knows, and I know, that that was not the writers original concept but I like the idea as I hated the idea of Romulus, and most likely the Romulan Star Empire, being destroyed and the fact that a supernova from sectors away would never behave like the one in the movie as it is a violation of the laws of physics as we know them for the shockwave to travel all those lightyears to a whole different solar system. So, that is how I’m going to think of this new film, from beginning to end, an alternate universe.

Now, that the theory is out there (and knowing that I know that’s not what the writers had in mind) I was curious what you guys think of the idea? Let the civil debate begin!

Get rid of the lens flares. This is more important than anything else.

Get rid of the budwiser plant. I’m sorry but industrial piping doesn’t say faster than light.

no old villians, no star trek prime actors. Be original.

Do all of that and it will be the best star trek movie ever even better than khan and first contact.