Abrams beams down to Rome

ROME — Trekkies, perk up your ears, both pointy and regular: We are about to reveal how it all started.

Director and producer J.J. Abrams visited the Eternal City on Friday to give a sneak peek of the early years of Capt. James T. Kirk and the other characters who warp around the galaxy in the upcoming "Star Trek" movie.

The prequel, set to open worldwide in May 2009, explores how the starship Enterprise and its iconic crew set out on their interstellar journey, adding a good dose of space battles and dastardly aliens.

"My goal was to make a movie about the emotional lives of these characters," Abrams told reporters. "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."

Abrams hopes the movie, which is aimed at revitalizing the 42-year-old franchise, will appeal not only to die-hard fans but to people who didn't follow the original 1960s adventures of Kirk, the logical alien Spock and their fellow explorers.

"I want fans of Star Trek to come watch it, but the truth is I made the movie for future fans," Abrams said at the presentation in a Rome theater. He and his footage made similar appearances across Europe this week.

"Star Trek" fans — and they are legion — have been eagerly anticipating the movie for more than a year. As excited as they are, however, many have expressed trepidations that the film will be a "reboot" and will reconfigure the fictional history of the "Trek" universe they have followed so ardently.

Abrams and his writers have promised to be faithful to the spirit of "Star Trek" and its fan base. Still, the director of "Mission: Impossible III" and creator of TV's "Lost" and "Alias" acknowledged that he was no Trekkie before starting the project.

"It was never my thing," he said. "I have become a trekker having fallen in love with the characters."

The preview and four "Star Trek" scenes were strictly controlled, with security keeping out cameras and other recording devices.

This much we can say: The brash and womanizing Kirk had a less than glorious start to his career, since the film introduces him as a bar-brawling biker in 23rd-century Iowa.

The movie follows the young troublemaker, played by actor Chris Pine, as he meets up with his future crew, getting off to a rocky start with most of them, including Zachary Quinto's edgy and hostile Spock.

The peek given Friday also featured plenty of action sequences, including a hair-raising space dive and a sword duel at high altitude above an alien planet as the crew battle the villains led by Eric Bana.

The movie is also likely to enthrall fans with inside jokes, including a scene that pokes fun at the accent of Russian character Chekov, as well as a cameo by Leonard Nimoy, who reprises his original role appearing as an aging, time-traveling Spock. The original Kirk, actor William Shatner, will not appear in the movie.

In its first incarnation, "Star Trek" ran from 1966 to 1969 before it was canceled. An animated series was made in the 1970s, followed by four sequel series between 1987 and 2005.

The original cast reunited for six feature films between 1979 and 1991 before yielding the big screen to the younger cast of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." But popularity waned, and no "Trek" feature film has been released since 2002.

On the Net:www.startrekmovie.com

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