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‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ Preview Report: Producer Bryan Burk Talks Promo Tour, Franchise Future

Photo of Matt Mueller By Matt Mueller | Thompson on Hollywood March 8, 2013 at 5:46PM

Friday in London, Paramount Pictures screened an extended look at "Star Trek Into Darkness" at the BFI IMAX cinema, introduced by producer Bryan Burk and including the opening 28 minutes of the film plus two other extended sequences. What they showed of J.J. Abrams’ belated sequel, which arrives four years after he rebooted the franchise with 2009’s "Star Trek," was thrilling stuff, even if you don’t count yourself a colossal (or even casual) Trekkie. That, as Burk explained in his intro to the footage, has always been their primary goal with this sequel: to make a film that appeals across the board.

Poster detail from "Star Trek Into Darkness"
Poster detail from "Star Trek Into Darkness"

“It’s fascinating and it’s smart because you’ll often hear people dividing things into ‘domestic’ and ‘international.’ But how is it that the UK, Russia, Japan and Brazil all have the same tastes?” says Burk. “Going around on these tours, you meet the people who see your movies and you understand why certain things work and others don’t, why this poster or trailer may work in this country but not in this one.”

Plastered on the walls around us are the dark, destruction-filled poster for "Star Trek Into Darkness," which features Cumberbatch from behind as he surveys the futuristic London skyline through the wreckage of the structure he’s just laid waste to (possibly the Starfleet research building we saw leveled in the footage). A few web-heads have noted its similarities to the frayed cityscape depicted in "The Dark Knight Rises" poster. “It’s impossible not to see the similarities although it wasn’t something we consciously did,” insists Burk. “It was only when we were pretty far down the line with it that someone pointed that out.”

The budget for "Star Trek In Darkness" is “nominally bigger” than Abrams’ inaugural 2009 outing, which was pegged at $150 million. But having had to start from scratch there and build a new conceptual universe “through trial and error,”,Burk says more money has been funneled into set-pieces this time round. “With that world having been embraced, and particularly by 'Star Trek' fans, now we can make the action scenes that much bigger and the visual effects that much better. Even in four years, you can see the difference.”

This 'Star Trek' adventure will spend a significant amount of time on Earth, which Burk says is simply the result of deciding that 'Into Darkness'’ chief villain would be an Earthling. As for Abrams and Bad Robot’s other science-fiction gig, as the filmmakers entrusted with relaunching the Disney-owned "Star Wars" franchise, Burk insists it’s not an either/or deal and that their involvement with "Star Trek" will continue to be as vital and involved as it is now. “We’re not leaving 'Star Trek;' it’s still a labor of love and passion for us,” he vouches. “'Star Trek' and 'Star Wars' are totally different worlds – the only thing they have in common is the word ‘star.’”

Surely, though, Abrams will be too busy to direct a third 'Trek' and have to step aside into a producer’s role? “All that’s to be discussed,” says Burk. “We’re actively talking about the third one. We’re not going to wait four years for the next one to come out. It’s at the forefront of our minds.”

Is he confident that "Star Trek Into Darkness" will outstrip the $386 million box-office gross they achieved with the 2009 franchise starter? That figure alone outstripped any previous "Star Trek" film but also, crucially, solved the international puzzle in a way the previous franchise entries had failed to do. Even so, it was still a 2:1 box-office split in favor of domestic, another reason why Burk is on his 11-city journey.

“We have a movie that’s bigger and better than the last film,” he says. “We’ve made a film that anyone can jump into and watch – not just 'Star Trek' fans – and for that reason I think we will. We’re trying to reach people who, like I once did, have always said, ‘Star Trek’s not for me.’”

This article is related to: News, Star Trek Into Darkness, J.J. Abrams, J. J. Abrams, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Pine, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, News, Paramount

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.