The film breathes exhilarating life into its tired premise, thanks to some dazzling action choreography, stylish visuals and–most importantly–a vintage anti-hero performance from Keanu Reeves.
My colleague, Nell Minow the Movie Mom, noted that Klingons were not making their presence felt at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. That may change thanks to Richard Hatch and a fan film. Saturday night, Hatch and other cast members were at a private screening for the Kickstarter film, “Prelude to Axanar” at the Horton Plaza UA Cinema.
If you read my Demanders piece on “The Captains,” you’ll know that I’m a fan of The Original Series. So is Hatch.
Geeks know Hatch as Captain Apollo in the original “Battlestar Galactica” TV series that only lasted one season (1978-1979), but was revived in a 2003 three-hour mini-series that was followed by a weekly TV series in which Hatch had a recurring role as Tom Zarek, a political leader. With the screening of “Prelude to Axanar,” Hatch joins the Star Trek family and the fan-verse of both series collide.
The 69-year-old Hatch sat down behind me at the “Prelude” premiere, cheerfully and passionately talking Star Trek with fans. His favorite Star Trek series is TOS and he also watched a bit of “Deep Space 9.” Moreover, he approves of the recent reboot believing it stays true to the “chemistry of the original characters” and moves the story lines past the 1960s conventions of the TV series and into this century of movie making.
There was an Apollo in TOS, but that’s not how “Prelude to Axanar” connects with Star Trek. Taking place two decades before James T. Kirk commanded the USS Enterprise on its mission, “Prelude to Axanar” includes one of Kirk’s heroes—Garth of Izar.
Garth of Izar was a highly decorated officer of the Federation Starfleet (full name Kelvar Leonard Garth) during the 23rd century. Garth is the main antagonist in TOS third season episode “Whom Gods Destroy.” Although Garth’s exploits in the Battle of Axanar were required reading at the Starfleet Academy, Garth has become criminally insane and was committed to Elba II asylum after attempting to annihilate the creatures who had helped him recover from serious injuries by gifting him with the ability to shape shift. That episode featured another celebrity of geekdom (Batgirl from the Batman TV series Yvonne Craig as the green-skinned Orion Marta) and allowed Kirk to save his hero through a new drug which cured Garth’s insanity.
Taking over for the late Steve Ihnat, Alec Peters plays Garth of Izar and “Prelude” brings back Gary Graham as Vulcan Ambassador Soval (a character in the 2001-2005 TV series “Star Trek: Enterprise”). “Prelude to Axanar” is a complete movie unto itself, but serves as an introduction to a more ambitious project: The tale of the Battle of Axanar and how the Federation defeated the Klingon Empire. Funded on Kickstarter, the 20-minute “Prelude” introduces us to the characters: Admiral Ramirez (Tony Todd, an actor with multiple connections to the Star Trek family with appearances as Worf’s brother Kurn as well as portraying different characters in different Star Trek series), Captain Sonya Alexander (Kate Vernon who also has Battlestar Galactica connections), Captain Samuel Travis (J.G. Hertzler) and the legendary Klingon warrior General Kharn (Hatch).
Director Christian Gossett commented during the Q & A that followed the screening that he shot this short film like a History Channel documentary, taking inspiration from the 2009 documentary “Facing Ali.” Expect close-ups where the talking heads fill the screen, but don’t allow you to see the entire head. Gossett, who co-wrote the script for “Prelude” with Alec Peters, mixes the retrospective interviews with supposedly archival footage. We see the cities and the destruction of starships as well as the building of better starships: The Battle of Axanar is a war where technology counts, not an arms race, but a race to have better, faster and more powerful ships.
As the fallen hero, Hatch portrays Kharn as a proud, but intelligent Klingon. Hatch commented that after all, this race had command of space and developed high technology. His Kharn is a man of action who has no time for diplomacy because “If words were water, the humans would drown us all.”
If you want to see this production team go where no Star Trek movie has gone before—to the Four Years War and the Battle of Axanar, highlighting the Klingon point of view, then you’ll want to seek out the Kickstarter campaign for “Star Trek: Axanar.” With 26 days to go (ending Sunday, August 24, 2014, the Kickstarter campaign already has met its goal of $100,000 but this is a discrete goal that covers the sound stage and set construction. The overall estimated cost is $650,000, but the Axanar production team has broken this up into “significant milestones.”
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