Star Trek (film)

Star Trek (film)
Star Trek

International poster
Directed by J. J. Abrams
Produced by J. J. Abrams
Damon Lindelof
Written by Roberto Orci
Alex Kurtzman
Based on Star Trek by
Gene Roddenberry
Starring See Cast
Music by Michael Giacchino
Alexander Courage
Cinematography Daniel Mindel
Editing by Mary Jo Markey
Maryann Brandon
Studio Paramount Pictures
Spyglass Entertainment
Bad Robot Productions
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) May 8, 2009 (2009-05-08)
Running time 127 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $150 million[1]
Box office $385,680,446 [2]

Star Trek is a 2009 American science fiction film directed by J. J. Abrams, written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, distributed by Paramount Pictures. It is the eleventh film based on the Star Trek franchise and features the main characters of the original Star Trek television series, portrayed by a new cast. The film follows James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) aboard the USS Enterprise as they combat Nero (Eric Bana), a Romulan from their future who threatens the United Federation of Planets. The story takes place in an alternate reality[3][4] due to time travel by both Nero and the original Spock (Leonard Nimoy). The alternate timeline was created in an effort to free the film and the franchise from established continuity constraints while simultaneously preserving original story elements.

The film earned high critical praise, gained a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is widely considered to be a successful reboot of the series.[1][5][6][7][8][9] It was nominated for four Oscars at the 82nd Academy Awards and won the Academy Award for Best Makeup, making it the first Star Trek film to win an Oscar.



In 2233, the Federation starship USS Kelvin is investigating a "lightning storm" in space. A Romulan ship, the Narada, emerges from the storm, and attacks the Kelvin. Narada's first officer, Ayel, demands that Captain Robau come aboard to discuss a cease fire. Once aboard, Narada's commander Nero kills Robau when he mentions the stardate, and resumes the assault on the Kelvin. The Kelvin's first officer, George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth), orders the ship's personnel evacuated via shuttlecraft, including his pregnant wife, Winona. Kirk sacrifices himself by steering the Kelvin on a collision course, while Winona (Jennifer Morrison) gives birth to their son, James Tiberius Kirk, aboard a shuttlecraft.

On Vulcan, Spock, despite being discriminated against for being half-human, decides to join Starfleet after the Vulcan Science Academy views his human mother Amanda Grayson as a "disadvantage." On Earth, Kirk has become a reckless but intelligent young man. After a bar fight involving friends of Uhura, a Starfleet cadet, Kirk meets Captain Christopher Pike, who encourages him to enlist in Starfleet Academy.

Three years later at the Academy, Commander Spock accuses Cadet Kirk of cheating during his Kobayashi Maru simulation. The disciplinary hearing is interrupted when Starfleet receives a distress signal from Vulcan. With the primary fleet out of range, cadets are mobilized to crew ships waiting in orbit. Leonard McCoy and Kirk board Pike's ship, the Enterprise. Realizing that the "lightning storm" observed by Vulcan is similar to the one when he was born, Kirk convinces Pike to raise the shields and thus be ready for the waiting trap.

The Enterprise arrives at Vulcan to find the rest of the fleet destroyed and the Narada drilling into Vulcan's core. After the Enterprise is attacked by the Narada, Pike surrenders, gives Spock command of the ship and promotes Kirk to first officer. Kirk, Hikaru Sulu, and Chief Engineer Olson perform a space jump[10][11] onto the drilling platform, disabling it. However, Nero launches "red matter" into the core and creates an artificial black hole, destroying the planet and killing most of its inhabitants there. Spock manages to rescue the Vulcan high council and his father Sarek, though his mother falls to her death.

As Nero tortures Pike to gain access to Earth's perimeter defenses, Kirk is stranded on Delta Vega after arguing against Spock's orders. Kirk encounters Ambassador Spock, who explains that he and Nero are from the future. The galaxy is threatened by a volatile supernova 129 years into the future. Spock intended to use the "red matter" to create a black hole to stop the supernova, but failed to stop the supernova's blast from destroying the planet Romulus, killing Nero's wife and family. The Narada attacked Spock's vessel, and both were caught in the event horizon of the black hole, sending them back in time. Nero captured Spock and stranded him on Delta Vega to watch Vulcan's destruction.

Reaching a nearby Starfleet outpost, Kirk and Ambassador Spock meet Montgomery Scott. With Ambassador Spock's help, Kirk and Scott beam onto the Enterprise while it is at warp speed. Following the elder Spock's advice, Kirk mocks Spock's lack of emotion to provoke an emotional response. Spock attacks Kirk, then realizes that he has compromised himself and relinquishes command to Kirk. After talking with his father Sarek, Spock decides to help Kirk carry out a sneak attack on the Narada. While the Enterprise hides itself under the gas clouds of Titan, Kirk and Spock beam aboard the Narada; Kirk rescues Pike while Spock uses Ambassador Spock's ship to destroy the drill. Spock leads the Narada away from Earth and then programs his ship to collide with the Narada. Just before impact, the Enterprise arrives and beams Kirk, Pike, and Spock away. Ambassador Spock's ship and the Narada collide, igniting the "red matter" and creating a black hole. The Enterprise escapes, but the Narada and its crew are destroyed.

On Earth, Kirk is promoted to the rank of Captain and given command of the Enterprise, while Captain Pike is promoted to Rear Admiral. Spock encounters his older self in a Starfleet hangar; Ambassador Spock has selected a planet for the surviving Vulcans to colonize. He persuades his younger self to continue serving Starfleet, encouraging him to do what feels right, instead of what is logical. Spock remains in Starfleet and becomes first officer under Kirk's command. The Enterprise goes to warp as the elder Spock narrates the "where no man has gone before" monologue.


Karl Urban, Chris Pine, executive producer Bryan Burk, Zachary Quinto, director J. J. Abrams, Eric Bana, and John Cho at the Sydney Opera House premiere of the film on April 7, 2009.
Pine described his first audition as awful, because he could not take himself seriously as a leader.[12] Abrams did not see Pine's first audition, and it was only after Pine's agent met Abrams' wife that the director decided to give him another audition opposite Quinto. Quinto was supportive of Pine's casting because they knew each other as they worked out at the same gym.[13] After getting the part, Pine sent William Shatner a letter and received a reply containing Shatner's approval. Pine watched classic episodes and read encyclopedias about the Star Trek universe, but stopped as he felt weighed down by the feeling he had to copy Shatner. Pine felt he had to show Kirk's "humor, arrogance and decisiveness," but not Shatner's speech pattern, which would have bordered on imitation.[13] Pine said when watching the original series, he was also struck by how Shatner's performance was characterized by humor.[14] Instead, Pine chose to incorporate elements of Tom Cruise from Top Gun and Harrison Ford's portrayals of Indiana Jones and Han Solo.[15]
The younger alternate timeline Spock and Spock as a child, respectively. Quinto expressed interest in the role because of the duality of Spock's half-human, half Vulcan heritage,[12] and how "he is constantly exploring that notion of how to evolve in a responsible way and how to evolve in a respectful way. I think those are all things that we as a society, and certainly the world, could implement."[16] He mentioned he heard about the new film and revealed his interest in the role in a December 2006 interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: the article was widely circulated and he attracted Abrams' interest.[17] For the audition, Quinto wore a blue shirt and flattened his hair down to feel more like Spock.[13] He bound his fingers to practice the Vulcan salute, shaved his eyebrows and grew and dyed his hair for the role.[12] He conveyed many of Spock's attributes, such as his stillness and the way Nimoy would hold his hands behind his back.[13] Quinto commented the physical transformation aided in portraying an alien,[12] joking "I just felt like a nerd. I felt like I was 12 again. You look back at those pictures and you see the bowl cut. There's no question I was born to play the Spock role. I was sporting that look for a good four or five years."[13] Adrien Brody had discussed playing the role with the director before Quinto was cast.[18]
Nimoy reprises the role of the older Spock from the original Star Trek timeline, credited as "Spock Prime". Nimoy befriended Quinto after being cast in the role. Although Quinto watched some episodes of the show during breaks in filming, Nimoy was his main resource in playing Spock.[14] Abrams and the writers met Nimoy at his house; writer Roberto Orci recalled the actor gave a "'Who are you guys and what are you up to?' vibe" before being told how important he was to them. He was silent, and Nimoy's wife Susan Bay told the creative team he had remained in his chair after their conversation, emotionally overwhelmed by his decision after turning down many opportunities to revisit the role.[19] Had Nimoy disliked the script, production would have been delayed for it to be rewritten.[20] He was "genuinely excited" by the script's scope and its detailing of the characters' backstories,[16] saying, "We have dealt with [Spock being half-human, half-Vulcan], but never with quite the overview that this script has of the entire history of the character, the growth of the character, the beginnings of the character and the arrival of the character into the Enterprise crew."[21] Abrams said "it was surreal to direct him as Spock, because what the hell am I doing there? This guy has been doing it for forty years. It's like 'I think Spock would...'"[22]
Like Pine, Urban said of taking on the role that "it is a case of not doing some sort of facsimile or carbon copy, but really taking the very essence of what DeForest Kelley has done and honoring that and bringing something new to the table". Urban has been a fan of the show since he was seven years old and actively pursued the role after rediscovering the series on DVD with his son.[23] Urban was cast at his first audition, which was two months after his initial meeting with Abrams. He said he was happy to play a role with lots of comedy, something he had not done since The Price of Milk, because he was tired of action-oriented roles. When asked why McCoy is so cantankerous, Urban joked the character might be a "little bipolar actually!"[24] Orci and Kurtzman had collaborated with Urban on Xena: Warrior Princess, in which he played Cupid and Caesar.[25]
Abrams had liked her work and requested that she play the role. Saldana never saw the original series, though she had played a Trekkie in The Terminal (2004), but agreed to play the role after Abrams had complimented her. "For an actor, that's all you need, that's all you want. To get the acknowledgment and respect from your peers," she said. She met with Nichelle Nichols, who explained to her how she had created Uhura's background, and also named the character.[26] Saldana's mother was a Star Trek fan and sent her voice mails during filming, giving advice on the part.[27] Sydney Tamiia Poitier also auditioned for the part.[28] The film officially establishes the character's first name, which had never been previously uttered on TV or in film.
Abrams contacted Pegg by e-mail, offering him the part.[29] To perform Scotty's accent, Pegg was assisted by his wife Maureen, who is from Glasgow, although Pegg said Scotty was from Linlithgow and wanted to bring a more East Coast sound to his accent, so his resulting performance is a mix of both accents that leans towards the West sound.[29] He was also aided by James Doohan's son, Chris and Tommy Gormley, the film's Glaswegian first assistant director.[30] Pegg described Scotty as a positive Scottish stereotype, noting "Scots are the first people to laugh at the fact that they drink and fight a bit", and that Scotty comes from a long line of Scots with technical expertise, such as John Logie Baird and Alexander Graham Bell. Years before, Pegg's character in Spaced joked that every odd-numbered Star Trek film being "shit" was a fact of life. Pegg noted, "Fate put me in the movie to show me I was talking out of my ass."[31]
Abrams was concerned about casting a Korean-American as a Japanese character, but George Takei explained to the director that Sulu was meant to represent all of Asia on the Enterprise, so Abrams went ahead with Cho.[32] Cho acknowledged being an Asian-American, "there are certain acting roles that you are never going to get, and one of them is playing a cowboy. [Playing Sulu] is a realization of that dream — going into space." He cited the masculinity of the character as being important to him, and spent two weeks fight training.[33] Cho suffered an injury to his wrist during filming, although a representative assured it was "no big deal".[34] James Kyson Lee was interested in the part, but because Quinto was cast as Spock, the producers of the TV show Heroes did not want to lose another cast member for three months.[35]
As with the rest of the cast, Yelchin was allowed to choose what elements there were from their predecessor's performances. Yelchin decided to carry on Walter Koenig's speech patterns of replacing "v"s with "w"s, although he and Abrams felt this was a trait more common of Polish accents than Russian ones.[36] He described Chekov as an odd character, being a Russian who was brought on to the show "in the middle of the Cold War." He recalled a "scene where they're talking to Apollo [who says], 'I am Apollo.' And Chekov is like, 'And I am the czar of all the Russias.' [...] They gave him these lines. I mean he really is the weirdest, weirdest character."[37]
The film's time-traveling Romulan villain. Bana shot his scenes toward the end of filming. He was "a huge Trekkie when [he] was a kid",[38] but had not seen the films.[39] Even if he were "crazy about the original series", he would not have accepted the role unless he liked the script, which he deemed "awesome" once he read it.[40] Bana knew Abrams because they coincidentally shared the same agent.[41] Bana improvised the character's speech patterns.[42]

Supporting and minor roles

Bruce Greenwood plays Christopher Pike, the captain of the Enterprise.[12] Ben Cross and Winona Ryder portray Spock's parents, Sarek and Amanda Grayson. Nero's first officer Ayel is played by Clifton Collins, Jr. Chris Hemsworth plays George Samuel Kirk, Sr., Kirk's father, who dies aboard the USS Kelvin while battling Nero, while Faran Tahir plays Kelvin captain Richard Robau. Winona Kirk, Kirk's mother, is played by Jennifer Morrison. Greg Ellis plays Chief Engineer Olson, the redshirt who is killed during the space jump.[43]

Additional minor roles include Rachel Nichols as Gaila, an Orion Starfleet cadet; Deep Roy as Scotty's assistant Keenser; and Paul McGillion as a Starfleet barracks leader.[44] Chris Doohan, the son of the original Scotty, James Doohan, makes a cameo appearance in the transporter room as Lt. Kyle.[45] Some characters had their scenes substantially or entirely cut from the film, including Brad William Henke as Kirk's stepfather (the character's lines in the film were spoken by Greg Grunberg).[44][46] Spencer Daniels originally played Kirk's older brother, George Samuel "Sam" Kirk, Jr., but the majority of his scenes were cut and the opening car chase scene where James Kirk can be heard calling out to him was overdubbed.[47] Victor Garber plays a Klingon interrogator who tortures Nero during his time on Rura Penthe.

Tyler Perry appears as the head of Starfleet Academy, Admiral Richard Barnett. James Cawley, producer and star of the webseries Star Trek: New Voyages, appears as a Starfleet officer, while Pavel Lychnikoff and Lucia Rijker play Romulans, Lychnikoff a Commander and Rijker a CO. W. Morgan Sheppard, who played a Klingon in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, appears in this film as the head of the Vulcan Science Council. Wil Wheaton, known for portraying Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation, was brought in, through urging by Greg Grunberg, to voice several of the other Romulans in the film.[48] Star Trek fan and Carnegie Mellon University professor Randy Pausch cameoed as a Kelvin crew member, and has a line of dialogue.[49] Majel Barrett, the widow of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, reprised her role as the voice of the Enterprise's computer, which she completed two weeks before her death on December 18, 2008.[50] The film was dedicated to her as well as Gene, to whom the film was always going to be commemorated as a sign of respect.[51]

Orci and Kurtzman wrote a scene for William Shatner, where old Spock gives his younger self a recorded message by Kirk from the previous timeline. "It was basically a Happy Birthday wish knowing that Spock was going to go off to Romulus, and Kirk would probably be dead by the time," and it would have transitioned into Shatner reciting "Where no man has gone before".[52] But Shatner wanted to share Nimoy's major role, and did not want a cameo,[53] despite his character's death in Star Trek Generations. He suggested the film canonize his novels where Kirk is resurrected,[54] but Abrams decided if his character was accompanying Nimoy's, it would have become a film about the resurrection of Kirk, and not about introducing the new versions of the characters.[51] Nimoy disliked the character's death in Generations, but also felt resurrecting Kirk would be detrimental to this film.[20]



At the 1968 World Science Fiction Convention, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry declared he would make a film prequel to the television series.[55] This idea eventually turned into the TV series Star Trek: Phase II which itself was later turned into first motion picture. The prequel concept resurfaced in the late 1980s with Ralph Winter and Harve Bennett during development of the fourth film. Roddenberry opposed Harve Bennett's prequel proposal in 1991 after the completion of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.[56] For the latter, David Loughery wrote a script entitled The Academy Years, but it was shelved in light of objections from the Roddenberry and the fan base. The film that was commissioned instead ended up being the sixth Trek film. In February 2005, following the financial failure of the tenth film, Star Trek Nemesis (2002), and the cancellation of the television series Star Trek: Enterprise, the franchise's executive producer Rick Berman and screenwriter Erik Jendresen were developing a new film entitled Star Trek: The Beginning. It was to revolve around a new set of characters, led by Kirk's ancestor Tiberius Chase. It would take place after Enterprise but before the original series, during the Earth-Romulan War.[57]

In 2005, Viacom, which owned Paramount Pictures, split from CBS Corporation, which retained Paramount's television properties, including ownership of the Star Trek brand. Gail Berman, then president of Paramount, convinced CBS' chief executive, Leslie Moonves, to allow them eighteen months to develop a new Star Trek film before CBS would re-earn the rights to develop a new television series (in return, CBS would keep merchandising rights). Berman approached Mission: Impossible III writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman for ideas on the new film, and after the film had completed shooting she asked their director, J. J. Abrams, to produce it.[58] Abrams, Orci and Kurtzman, plus producers Damon Lindelof and Bryan Burk, felt the franchise had explored enough of what took place after the series,[59] Orci and Lindelof consider themselves trekkies,[60] and feel some of the Star Trek novels have canonical value, although Gene Roddenberry never considered the novels to be canon.[61] Kurtzman is a casual fan, while Burk was not.[12] Abrams' company, Bad Robot Productions produced the film with Paramount, marking the first time another company had financed a Star Trek film.[62] Bill Todman, Jr.'s Level 1 Entertainment also co-produced the film, but during 2008 Spyglass Entertainment replaced them as financial partner.[63]

Abrams had not seen Star Trek Nemesis because the franchise had "disconnected" for him,[64] explaining that for him, Star Trek was about Kirk and Spock, and the other series were like "separate space adventure[s] with the name Star Trek". Abrams also preferred Star Wars as a child.[65] He noted his general knowledge of Star Trek made him suitable to making a film to introduce the franchise to newcomers though,[66] and being an optimistic person, he felt the optimistic nature of Star Trek would be a refreshing contrast to the likes of The Dark Knight.[12] He continued that he loved the focus on exploration in Star Trek and the idea of the Prime Directive, which forbids Starfleet to interfere in the development of primitive worlds. However, Abrams disliked that the budgetary limitations of the original show meant they "never had the resources to actually show the adventure".[67] He noted he only became involved with the project as producer initially because he wanted to help Orci, Kurtzman and Lindelof.[58]

On February 23, 2007, Abrams accepted Paramount's offer to direct the film, having been only attached as producer.[68] After reading the script, he had decided "I would be so agonizingly envious of whoever stepped in and directed the movie."[69] Orci and Kurtzman felt their aim had been to impress a casual fan like Abrams with their story.[70] Even when filming, Abrams was nervous "with all these tattooed faces and pointy ears, bizarre weaponry and Romulan linguists, with dialogue about 'Neutral Zones' and 'Starfleet' [but] I knew this would work, because the script Alex and Bob wrote was so emotional and so relatable. I didn't love Kirk and Spock when I began this journey – but I love them now."[12]


"We're from different worlds, Alex [Kurtzman] was born here, and I was born in Mexico City and lived there until I was nine. Kirk and Spock are opposites from two worlds. That's us in a nutshell. We're drawn to each by what each of us lacks. The story of this film is about two guys who are such opposites that they might end up strangling each other but instead they bond and thrive together. That's us. We can go warp speed together."

Roberto Orci on the film's emotional context.[19]

Orci said creating a clean reboot would have been disrespectful,[71] and getting Leonard Nimoy in the film was very important. "Having him sitting around a camp fire sharing his memories was never gonna cut it" though, and time travel was going to be included in the film from the beginning.[72] Kurtzman added the time travel creates jeopardy, unlike other prequels where viewers "know how they all died".[73] The writers acknowledged time travel had been overused in the other series, but it served a good purpose in creating a new set of adventures for the original characters before they could completely do away with it in other films.[74] Abrams selected the Romulans as the villains because they had been featured less than the Klingons in the show, and thought it was "fun" to have them meet Kirk before he does in the show.[75] Orci and Kurtzman noted it would feel backward to demonize the Klingons again after they had become heroes in later Star Trek series, and the Romulan presence continues Spock's story from his last chronological appearance in "Unification", an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation set in 2368.[74] The episode of the original continuity in which Kirk becomes the first human to ever see a Romulan, "Balance of Terror", served as one of the influences for the film.[60] Orci said it was difficult giving a good explanation for the time travel without being gimmicky, like having Nero specifically seeking to assassinate Kirk.[76]

Orci noted while the time travel story allowed them to alter some backstory elements such as Kirk's first encounter with the Romulans, they could not use it as a crutch to change everything and they tried to approach the film as a prequel as much as possible. Kirk's service on the Farragut, a major backstory point to the original episode "Obsession", was left out because it was deemed irrelevant to the story of Kirk meeting Spock, although Orci felt nothing in his script precluded it from the new film's backstory.[72] There was a scene involving Kirk meeting Carol Marcus, who becomes the mother of his son in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, as a child, but it was dropped because the film needed more time to introduce the core characters.[52][77] Figuring out ways to get the crew together required some contrivances, which Orci and Kurtzman wanted to explain from old Spock as a way of the timeline mending itself, highlighting the theme of destiny. The line was very difficult to write and was ultimately cut out.[74][78]

The filmmakers sought inspiration from novels such as Prime Directive, Spock's World, and Best Destiny to fill in gaps unexplained by canon; Best Destiny particularly explores Kirk's childhood and names his parents.[60][72][79] One idea that was justified through information from the novels was having the Enterprise built on Earth, which was inspired by a piece of fan art of the Enterprise being built in a ship yard. Orci had sent the fan art to Abrams to show how realistic the film could be.[80] Orci explained parts of the ship would have to be constructed on Earth because of the artificial gravity employed on the ship and its requirement for sustaining warp speed, and therefore the calibration of the ship's machinery would be best done in the exact gravity well which is to be simulated.[81] They felt free to have the ship built in Iowa because canon is ambiguous as to whether it was built in San Francisco, but this is a result of the time travel rather than something intended to overlap with the original timeline.[73] Abrams noted the continuity of the original show itself was inconsistent at times.[14]

Orci and Kurtzman said they wanted the general audience to like the film as much as the fans, by stripping away "Treknobabble", making it action-packed and giving it the simple title of Star Trek (to indicate to newcomers they would not need to watch any of the other films).[82] Abrams saw humor and sex appeal as two integral and popular elements of the show that needed to be maintained.[66] Orci stated being realistic and being serious were not the same thing.[80] Abrams, Burk, Lindelof, Orci and Kurtzman were fans of The Wrath of Khan, and also cited The Next Generation episode "Yesterday's Enterprise" as an influence.[60] Abrams's wife Katie was regularly consulted on the script, as were Orci, Kurtzman and Lindelof's wives, to make the female characters as strong as possible.[71] Katie Abrams's approval of the strong female characters was partly why Abrams signed on to direct.[83]

Orci and Kurtzman read graduate school dissertations on the series for inspiration;[59] they noted comparisons of Kirk, Spock and McCoy to Shakespearian archetypes, and Kirk and Spock's friendship echoing that of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.[60] They also noted that, in the creation of this film, they were influenced by Star Wars, particularly in terms of pacing. "I want to feel the space, I want to feel speed and I want to feel all the things that can become a little bit lost when Star Trek becomes very stately" said Orci.[70] Star Wars permeated in the way they wrote the action sequences,[73] while Burk noted Kirk and Spock's initially cold relationship mirrors how "Han Solo wasn't friends with anyone when they started on their journey."[84] Spock and Uhura were put in an actual relationship as a nod to early episodes highlighting her interest in him.[78] Orci wanted to introduce strong Starfleet captains, concurring with an interviewer that most captains in other films were "patsies" included to make Kirk look greater by comparison.[71]

The USS Kelvin, the ship Kirk's father serves on, is named after J. J. Abrams' grandfather, as well as the physicist and engineer Lord Kelvin (William Thomson). The Kelvin's captain, Richard Robau (Faran Tahir), is named after Orci's Cuban uncle: Orci theorized the fictional character was born in Cuba and grew up in the Middle East.[80] Another reference to Abrams' previous works is Slusho, which Uhura orders at the bar where she meets Kirk. Abrams created the fictitious drink for Alias and it reappeared in viral marketing for Cloverfield. Its owners, Tagruato, is also from Cloverfield and appears on a building in San Francisco.[44] The red matter in the film is in the shape of a red ball, an Abrams motif dating back to the pilot of Alias.[85]


The film's production designer was Scott Chambliss, a longtime collaborator with J.J. Abrams. Chambliss worked with a large group of concept illustrators, including James Clyne, Ryan Church, creature designer Neville Page, and Star Trek veteran John Eaves.[86] Abrams stated the difficulty of depicting the future was that much of modern technology was inspired by the original show, and made it seem outdated. Thus the production design had to be consistent with the television series but also feel more advanced than the real world technology developed after it.[59] "We all have the iPhone that does more than the communicator," said Abrams. "I feel like there's a certain thing that you can't really hold onto, which is kind of the kitschy quality. That must go if it's going to be something that you believe is real."[87] Prop master Russell Bobbitt collaborated with Nokia on recreating the original communicator, creating a $50,000 prototype. Another prop recreated for the film was the tricorder. Bobbitt brought the original prop to the set, but the actors found it too large to carry when filming action scenes, so technical advisor Doug Brody redesigned it to be smaller.[88] The phaser props were designed as spring-triggered barrels that revolve and glow as the setting switches from "stun" to "kill".[12] An Aptera Typ-1 prototype car was used on location.[89]

Panorama of the Enterprise's redesigned bridge

Production designer Scott Chambliss maintained the layout of the original bridge, but aesthetically altered it with brighter colors to reflect the optimism of Star Trek. The viewscreen was made into a window that could have images projected on it to make the space environment palpable. Abrams compared the redesign to the sleek modernist work of Pierre Cardin and the sets from 2001: A Space Odyssey, which were from the 1960s.[90] He joked the redesigned bridge made the Apple Store look "uncool". At the director's behest, more railings were added to the bridge to make it look safer,[12] and the set was built on gimbals so its rocking motions when the ship accelerates and is attacked was more realistic.[90] To emphasize the size of the ship, Abrams chose to give the engine room a highly industrial appearance: he explained to Simon Pegg that he was inspired by RMS Titanic, a sleek ship in which there was an "incredible gut".[91]

Abrams selected Michael Kaplan to design the costumes because he had not seen any of the films, meaning he would approach the costumes with a new angle. For the Starfleet uniforms, Kaplan followed the show's original color coding, with dark gray (almost black) undershirts and pants and colored overshirts showing each crew member's position. Command officers wear gold shirts, science and medical officers wear blue, and operations (technicians, engineers, and security personnel) wear red. Kaplan wanted the shirts to be more sophisticated than the originals and selected to have the Starfleet symbol patterned on them.[90] Kirk wears only the undershirt because he is a cadet.[12] Kaplan modelled the uniforms on the Kelvin on science fiction films of the 1940s and 1950s, to contrast with the Enterprise-era uniforms based on the ones created in the 1960s.[90] For Abrams, "The costumes were a microcosm of the entire project, which was how to take something that's kind of silly and make it feel real. But how do you make legitimate those near-primary color costumes?"[92]

Lindelof compared the film's Romulan faction to pirates with their bald, tattooed heads and disorganized costuming. Their ship, the Narada, is purely practical with visible mechanics as it is a "working ship", unlike the Enterprise crew who give a respectable presentation on behalf of the Federation.[93] Chambliss was heavily influenced by the architecture of Antoni Gaudí for the Narada, who created buildings that appeared to be inside out: by making the ship's exposed wires appear like bones or ligaments, it would create a foreboding atmosphere. The ship's interior was made of six pieces that could be rearranged to create a different room.[90] The Romulan actors had three prosthetics applied to their ears and foreheads, while Bana had a fourth prosthetic for the bitemark on his ear that extends to the back of his character's head.[94] The film's Romulans lacked the 'V'-shaped ridges on the foreheads, which had been present in all of their depictions outside the original series. Neville Page wanted to honor that by having Nero's crew ritually scar themselves too, forming keloids reminiscent of the 'V'-ridges. It was abandoned as they did not pursue the idea enough.[95] Kaplan wanted aged, worn and rugged clothes for the Romulans because of their mining backgrounds, and found some greasy looking fabrics at a flea market. Kaplan tracked down the makers of those clothes, who were discovered to be based in Bali, and commissioned them to create his designs.[12]

Barney Burman supervised the makeup for the other aliens: his team had to rush the creation of many of the aliens, because originally the majority of them were to feature in one scene towards the end of filming. Abrams deemed the scene too similar to the cantina sequence in Star Wars, and decided to dot the designs around the film.[94] A tribble was placed in the background of Scotty's introduction.[44] Both digital and physical makeup was used for aliens.[96]


Filming began on November 7, 2007,[97] and finished on March 27, 2008,[98] although second unit filming took place during early April in Bakersfield, California, which stood in for Kirk's childhood home in Iowa.[99] Filming was also done at the City Hall of Long Beach, California;[100] the San Rafael Swell in Utah;[101] and the California State University, Northridge (which was used for establishing shots of students at Starfleet Academy).[102] A parking lot outside Dodger Stadium was used for the ice planet of Delta Vega and the Romulan drilling rig on Vulcan.[51] The filmmakers had been interested in filming in Iceland for scenes on Delta Vega, but decided against it: Chambliss enjoyed the challenge of filming scenes with snow in southern California. The drilling rig was built 16 feet into the air. Other Vulcan exteriors were shot at Vasquez Rocks, a location that was used in various episodes of the original show. A Budweiser plant in Van Nuys was used for the Enterprise's engine room, while a Long Beach power plant was used for the Kelvin's engine room.[90]

Following the commencement of the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike on November 5, 2007, Abrams, himself a WGA member, told Variety that while he would not render writing services for the film and intended to walk the picket line, he did not expect the strike to impact his directing of the production.[103] In the final few weeks before the strike and start of production, Abrams and Lindelof polished the script a final time.[104] Abrams was frustrated that he was unable to alter lines during the strike, whereas normally they would have been able to improvise new ideas during rehearsal, although Lindelof acknowledged they could dub some lines in post-production.[105] Orci and Kurtzman were able to stay on set without strikebreaking because they were also executive producers on the film; they could "make funny eyes and faces at the actors whenever they had a problem with the line and sort of nod when they had something better".[106] Abrams was able to alter a scene where Spock combats six Romulans from a fistfight to a gunfight, having decided there were too many physical brawls in the film.[17]

The production team maintained heavily enforced security around the film. Karl Urban revealed, "[There is a] level of security and secrecy that we have all been forced to adopt. I mean, it's really kind of paranoid crazy, but sort of justified. We're not allowed to walk around in public in our costumes and we have to be herded around everywhere in these golf carts that are completely concealed and covered in black canvas. The security of it is immense. You feel your freedom is a big challenge."[107] Actors like Jennifer Morrison were only given the scripts of their scenes.[108] The film's shooting script was fiercely protected even with the main cast. Simon Pegg said, "I read [the script] with a security guard near me – it's that secretive."[109] The film used the fake working title of Corporate Headquarters.[110] Some of the few outside of the production allowed to visit the set included Rod Roddenberry,[111] Ronald D. Moore,[112] Jonathan Frakes,[113] Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Ben Stiller, Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg (who had partially convinced Abrams to direct because he liked the script, and he even advised the action scenes during his visit).[83]

Abrams chose to shoot the film in the anamorphic format on 35 mm film after discussions about whether the film should be shot in high-definition digital video. Cinematographer Dan Mindel and Abrams agreed the choice gave the film a big-screen feel and the realistic, organic look they wanted for the film setting.[114] Abrams and Mindel used lens flares throughout filming to create an optimistic atmosphere and a feeling activity was taking place off-camera, making the Star Trek universe feel more real. "There's something about those flares, especially in a movie that potentially could be incredibly sterile and CG and overly controlled. There’s just something incredibly unpredictable and gorgeous about them." Mindel would create more flares by shining a flashlight or pointing a mirror at the camera lens, or using two cameras simultaneously and therefore two lighting set-ups.[51]

When the shoot ended, Abrams gave the cast small boxes containing little telescopes, which allowed them to read the name of each constellation it was pointed at. "I think he just wanted each of us to look at the stars a little differently," said John Cho.[67] After the shoot, Abrams cut out some scenes of Kirk and Spock as children, including seeing the latter as a baby, as well as a subplot involving Nero being imprisoned by the Klingons and his escape: this explanation for his absence during Kirk's life confused many to whom Abrams screened the film.[51] Other scenes cut out explained the teenage Kirk stole his stepfather's antique car because he had forced him to clean it before an auction; and that the Orion he seduced at the Academy worked in the operations division. Afterwards, she agrees to open the e-mail containing his patch that allows him to pass the Kobayashi Maru test.[78]


Industrial Light & Magic and Digital Domain were among several companies that created over 1,000 special effect shots.[115] The visual effects supervisors were Roger Guyett, who collaborated with Abrams on Mission: Impossible III and also served as second unit director, and Russell Earl. Abrams avoided shooting only against bluescreen and greenscreen, because it "makes me insane", using them instead to extend the scale of sets and locations.[59] The Delta Vega sequence required the mixing of digital snow with real snow.[116]

Star Trek was the first film ILM worked on using entirely digital ships.[116] The Enterprise was intended by Abrams to be a merging of its design in the show and the refitted version from the original film. Abrams had fond memories of the reveal of the Enterprise's refit in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, because it was the first time the ship felt tangible and real to him.[117] The iridescent pattern on the ship from The Motion Picture was maintained to give the ship depth, while model maker Roger Goodson also applied the "Aztec" pattern from The Next Generation. Goodson recalled Abrams also wanted to bring a "hot rod" aesthetic to the ship. Effects supervisor Roger Guyett wanted the ship to have more moving parts, which stemmed from his childhood dissatisfaction with the ship's design: The new Enterprise's dish can expand and move, while the fins on its engines split slightly when they begin warping.[118] The Enterprise was originally redesigned by Ryan Church using features of the original, at 1,200 feet (370 m) long,[119] but was later scaled up by a factor of two to 2,357 feet (718 m) long to make it seem "grander",[119] while the Romulan Narada is five miles long and several miles wide.[90][120] The filmmakers had to simulate lens flares on the ships in keeping with the film's cinematography.[116]

Carolyn Porco of NASA was consulted on the planetary science and imagery.[121] The animators realistically recreated what an explosion would look like in space: short blasts, which suck inward and leave debris from a ship floating. For shots of an imploding planet, the same explosion program was used to simulate it breaking up, while the animators could manually composite multiple layers of rocks and wind sucking into the planet.[116] Unlike other Star Trek films and shows, the transporter beam effects swirl rather than speckle.[36] Abrams conceived the redesign to emphasize the notion of transporters as beams that can pick up and move people, rather than a signal composed of scrambled atoms.[115]

Lola Visual Effects worked on 48 shots, including some animation to Eric Bana and Leonard Nimoy. Bana required extensive damage to his teeth, which was significant enough to completely replace his mouth in some shots. Nimoy's mouth was reanimated in his first scene with Kirk following a rerecording session. The filmmakers had filmed Nimoy when he rerecorded his lines so they could rotoscope his mouth into the film, even recreating the lighting conditions, but they realized they had to digitally recreate his lips because of the bouncing light created by the camp fire.[115]



Michael Giacchino, Abrams' most frequent collaborator, composed the music for Star Trek. He kept the original theme by Alexander Courage for the end credits, which Abrams said symbolized the momentum of the crew coming together.[51] Giacchino admitted personal pressure in scoring the film, as "I grew up listening to all of that great [Trek] music, and that's part of what inspired me to do what I'm doing [...] You just go in scared. You just hope you do your best. It's one of those things where the film will tell me what to do."[122] Scoring took place at the Sony Scoring Stage with a 107-piece orchestra and 40-person choir. An erhu, performed by Karen Han, was used for the Vulcan themes. A distorted recording was used for the Romulans.[123] Varèse Sarabande, the record label responsible for releasing albums of Giacchino's previous scores for Alias, Lost, Mission: Impossible III, and Speed Racer, released the soundtrack for the film on May 5.[124] The music for the theatrical trailers were composed by Two Steps From Hell.[125]

Sound effects

The sound effects were designed by Star Wars veteran Ben Burtt. Whereas the phaser blast noises from the television series were derived from The War of the Worlds (1953), Burtt made his phaser sounds more like his blasters from Star Wars, because Abrams' depiction of phasers were closer to the blasters' bullet-like fire, rather than the steady beams of energy in previous Star Trek films. Burtt reproduced the classic photon torpedo and warp drive sounds: he tapped a long spring against a contact microphone, and combined that with cannon fire. Burtt used a 1960s oscillator to create a musical and emotional hum to the warping and transporting sounds.[126]


In February 2008, Paramount announced they would move Star Trek from its December 25, 2008 release date to May 8, 2009, as the studio felt more people would see the film during summer than winter. The film was practically finished by the end of 2008.[127] Paramount's decision came about after visiting the set and watching dailies, as they realized the film could appeal to a much broader audience. Even though the filmmakers liked the Christmas release date, Damon Lindelof acknowledged it would allow more time to perfect the visual effects.[105] The months-long gap between the completion of the production and release meant Alan Dean Foster was allowed to watch the whole film before writing the novelization, although the novel would contain scenes absent from the final edit.[128] Quinto narrated the audiobook.[129]

Eric Bana with U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, for the April 11, 2009 screening of Star Trek.

A surprise public screening was held on April 6, 2009, at the Alamo Drafthouse theater in Austin, Texas, hosted by writers Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and producer Damon Lindelof. The showing was publicized as a screening of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, followed by a ten-minute preview of the new Star Trek film. A few minutes into Khan, the film appeared to melt and Leonard Nimoy appeared on stage with Orci, Kurtzman and Lindelof, asking the audience, "wouldn't you rather see the new movie?"[130] Following the surprise screening in Texas, the first of many premieres across the world was held at the Sydney Opera House on April 7, 2009.[131] For almost two years, the town of Vulcan, Alberta had campaigned to have the film premiere there, but because it had no theater, Paramount arranged instead a lottery where 300 winning residents would be taken to a prerelease screening in Calgary.[132] The film was requested by astronaut Michael R. Barratt, before boarding the International Space Station. Paramount provided NASA with a copy that was uploaded to the International Space Station on May 14, 2009.[133]


The first teaser trailer debuted in theaters with Cloverfield on January 18, 2008, which showed the Enterprise under construction. Abrams himself directed the first part of the trailer, where a welder removes his goggles. Professional welders were hired for the teaser.[134] The voices of the 1960s played over the trailer were intended to link the film to the present day; John F. Kennedy in particular was chosen because of similarities with the character of James T. Kirk and because he is seen to have "kicked off" the Space Race. Orci explained that: "If we do indeed have a Federation, I think Kennedy’s words will be inscribed in there someplace."[81] Star Trek's later trailers would win four awards, including Best in Show, in the tenth annual Golden Trailer Awards.[135][136]

Paramount faced two obstacles in promoting the film: the unfamiliarity of the "MySpace generation" with the franchise and the relatively weak international performance of the films. Six months before the film's release, Abrams toured Rome; Cologne; Madrid; Paris; London; New York City and Los Angeles with 25 minutes of footage. Abrams noted the large-scale campaign started unusually early, but this was because the release delay allowed him to show more completed scenes than normal. The director preferred promoting his projects quietly, but concurred Paramount needed to remove Star Trek's stigma.[137] Abrams would exaggerate his preference for other shows to Star Trek as a child to the press, with statements like "I'm not a Star Trek fan" and "this movie is not made for Star Trek fans necessarily". Orci compared Abrams' approach to The Next Generation episode "A Matter of Honor", where William Riker is stationed aboard a Klingon vessel. "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."[80]

Promotional partners on the film include Nokia, Verizon Wireless, Esurance, Kellogg's, Burger King and Intel Corporation, as well as various companies specializing in home decorating, apparel, jewelry, gift items and "Tiberius", "Pon Farr" and "Red Shirt" fragrances.[138][139] Playmates Toys, who owned the Star Trek toy license until 2000, also held the merchandise rights for the new film.[140] The first wave was released in March and April 2009. Playmates hope to continue their toy line into 2010.[141] The first wave consists of 3.75", 6" and 12" action figures, an Enterprise replica, prop toys and play sets. In order to recreate the whole bridge, one would have to buy more 3.75" figures, which come with chairs and consoles to add to the main set consisting of Kirk's chair, the floor, the main console and the viewscreen.[142] Master Replicas,[143] Mattel, Hasbro and Fundex Games will promote the film via playing cards, Monopoly, UNO, Scrabble, Magic 8-Ball, Hot Wheels, Tyco R/C, 20Q, Scene It? and Barbie lines. Some of these are based on previous Star Trek iterations rather than the film.[139][144] CBS also created a merchandising line based around Star Trek caricatures named "Quogs".[145]

The story of the film is complemented with two comic books by IDW Publishing. The first, titled Star Trek: Countdown, takes place in the Prime Star Trek universe, after the events of Nemesis and before the back story of Star Trek Online. The second one, Star Trek: Nero, covers the gap between the destruction of the USS Kelvin and the reappearance of the Narada in the new timeline.

Box office

The film's first normal US screenings were at 7 p.m. on May 7, 2009,[146] grossing $4 million on its opening day. By the end of the weekend, Star Trek had opened with $79,204,300, as well as $35,500,000 from other countries. Adjusted and unadjusted for inflation, it beat Star Trek: First Contact for the largest US opening for a Star Trek film. The film made $8.5 million from its IMAX screenings, breaking The Dark Knight's $6.3 million IMAX opening record.[147] The film is the highest-grossing in the United States and Canada from the entire Star Trek film franchise, eclipsing the previous leader, The Voyage Home (which made $109,713,100 unadjusted for inflation), and adjusted for inflation, Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Its opening weekend numbers alone outgross the entire individual runs of The Undiscovered Country, The Final Frontier, Insurrection and Nemesis.[148] Star Trek ended its United States theatrical run on October 1, 2009, with a box office total of $257,730,019, which currently places it as the seventh highest-grossing film for 2009 behind The Hangover.[1] The film's total international gross is $127,764,536,[149] for a total worldwide gross of $385,494,555, ranking it currently thirteenth behind Sherlock Holmes.[150] While foreign grosses represent only 31% of the total box office receipts, Paramount is happy with the international sales, as Star Trek historically was a movie franchise that never has been a big draw overseas.[151]


Upon release, the film received near-universal critical acclaim. As of November 11, 2011, the film holds a 94% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes (RT) with 279 out of 290 critics giving it a positive review with an average rating of 8.1/10, surpassing all other feature films in the franchise. RT's consensus is that "Star Trek reignites a classic franchise with action, humor, a strong story, and brilliant visuals, and will please traditional Trekkies and new fans alike." Among Rotten Tomatoes' "Top Critics", which consists of popular and notable critics from the top newspapers, websites, television and radio programs, the film holds an overall approval rating of 94% (8.1/10), based on a sample of 42 reviews.[152] The film also holds a score of 83 based on 37 reviews as of 14 December 2009 on the review aggregator website Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from film critics, tying for ninth of The Best-Reviewed Movies in 2009.[153][154]

Ty Burr of The Boston Globe gave it 4/4 stars, describing it as "ridiculously satisfying", and the "best prequel ever".[155] Owen Gleiberman from Entertainment Weekly gave the film an A-, commenting that: "But in Star Trek, the clever and infectious reboot of the amazingly enduring sci-fi classic, director J.J. Abrams crafts an origin story that avoids any hint of the origin doldrums." The film also received positive reviews from The New York Times, Slate Magazine and Rolling Stone.[156][157][158]

Although only two reviews were categorized by Metacritic as "yellow", or mixed, a recurring critical complaint held that the franchise's tradition of providing morally challenging stories had been neglected or even violated. The A.V. Club gave the film a "green" B+, but asserted that it was "a reconsideration of what constitutes Star Trek, one that deemphasizes heady concepts and plainly stated humanist virtues in favor of breathless action punctuated by bursts of emotion. It might not even be immediately recognizable to veteran fans."[159] Roger Ebert agreed, lamenting in his 2.5/4 star-review that "the Gene Roddenberry years, when stories might play with questions of science, ideals or philosophy, have been replaced by stories reduced to loud and colorful action."[160] Non-review articles also echoed this concern: Marc Bain asked in Newsweek if the franchise had "lost its moral relevance",[161] and Juliet Lapidos argued on Slate that the new film, with its "standard Hollywood torture scene", failed to live up to the intellectual standard set by the 1992 Next Generation episode "Chain of Command", whose treatment of the issue she found both more sophisticated and pertinent to the ongoing debate over the United States' use of enhanced interrogation techniques.[162]


On December 2, 2009, Star Trek was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Score Soundtrack Album category, but did not win. On November 10, 2009, the People’s Choice Awards nominated the film for 4 awards: Breakout Actress, Breakout Actor, Favorite Franchise, and Favorite Movie. In October, 2009, Star Trek won the Hollywood Award for Best Movie. That same month, it also won 6 Scream Awards for Ultimate Scream, Best Science Fiction Movie, Best Director, Best Science Fiction Actor, Best Cameo, and Best Fight Scene. On June 15, 2009, the film was nominated for 5 Teen Choice Awards. It won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture. The film also received several peer-reviewed guild awards for Asst. Location Manager of the year and Outstanding Achievement in Casting – Big Budget Feature. On December 14, 2009, the Broadcast Film Critics Association – Critics Choice Awards nominated it for Best Action Movie, Best Acting Ensemble, Best Makeup, Best Visual Effects and Best Sound. On December 9, 2009, the film was also named one of the top 10 films of the year by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. In addition it has appeared on several local film critics' top 10 lists, including St. Louis, Las Vegas, Boston and Washington DC.[163]

In 2010, Star Trek was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Visual Effects, and winning the franchise's first Oscar for Best Makeup. The film was also nominated for three Empire Awards, and it won in the best sci-fi/fantasy category.[164]

Home release

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on November 17, 2009 in North America,[165] November 16 in the UK[166] and October 26 in Australia and New Zealand.[167] In Sweden and Germany, it was released on November 4.[168] First week sales stand at 5.7 million DVDs along with 1.1 million Blu-ray Discs[169] giving Paramount Pictures their third chart topping release in five weeks following Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.[170]


The film's major cast members have signed on for two sequels.[171] J. J. Abrams and Bryan Burk will produce, and Abrams will direct.[172][173] When speaking on the alternate reality[3] established in the 2009 film, Abrams commented that it would be "ridiculous to not be open" to ideas like resurrecting William Shatner's James T. Kirk or recasting Khan Noonien Singh.[4] Orci and Kurtzman explained the dilemma for the sequel was whether to pit the crew against another villain, or to have an "exploration sci-fi plot where the unknown and nature itself is somehow an adversary".[174][175] On 2nd of October 2011 it was confirmed by screenwriter Roberto Orci that location scouting was underway.[176] Zachary Quinto, while in an interview for his movie Margin Call, stated "Star Trek 2 is on the imminent horizon, I go back to L.A. after this trip to start to prep for it" - "everyone is gearing up". In the interview he also confirmed that he had yet to read the script.[177] Benicio del Toro is reportedly being considered as the villain of the film.[178]


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