Let me preface this reaction by saying I am not a huge Star Trek fan. I have not seen every episode of any of the television series although I have watched and enjoyed quite a few. I’ve also never read a Star Trek novel in my entire life, but I’m pretty sure my uncle has written at least one. That being said, I’ve had several discussions about the Prime Directive over the dinner table but I’m not an Über Trek geek. It’s that same geekdom that kept the majority of intelligent people from experiencing Star Trek for the good part of a decade despite a strong interest in science fiction. JJ Abrams‘ new film took Star Trek back and made it accessible again.
Whenever I’ve watched an episode of Star Trek [pick a crew, any crew] on television, it was almost never because I intended to do so. I’d be flipping through the channels, waiting on the commercials to end on another program I was watching. This casual practice usually ended in me not changing the channel back. Therefore I’ve consumed about two-thirds of all Trek entertainment in syndication because initially, there was never anything pulling me into it the way Battlestar Galactica did.
To put it in simpler terms, there was always a humanity element lacking from the Trek fiction. That’s crucial for most people to connect with the characters and thus, enhance the storytelling.
Honestly, hiring JJ Abrams to direct the “revamped” Star Trek movie was probably the greatest move anyone could have ever hoped for. I know that going into production there were criticisms that he had never done a large special effects oriented movie, but it just goes to show you that if you understand how to tell a story, everything else will fall into place.
I’m not going to expend too much effort going into detail about the film but as fair warning, ****SPOILERS AHEAD****. Don’t read past here if you don’t want to find anything out about the movie prior to seeing it.
(Seriously, I’m not playing around, there be spoilers ahead matey.)
This movie is not based on a tyrannical “villain” or a logically sound explanation of science intertwining with a story, although both of those elements are present. What this movie is about is James T. Kirk and Spock — their ambitions, their motivations their flaws and their friendship. But it never once wasted my time, as most “origin” explanations do [See: Daredevil; See also: all the X-Men movies, including the latest, Wolverine].
The film begins in the past with a Federation starship investigating an irregularity near their current vicinity. The ship’s first mate happens to be George Kirk, father of James T. If you’ve seen Mission: Impossible 3, then you’ll know Abrams likes to make a big crazy splash to get your attention at the very beginning of the movie. This rule applies here as well. A Romulan ship from the future emerges and begins an unmerciful attack that only briefly pauses when the Romulan captain, Nero (Eric Bana), demands the Starfleet captain be transported to his ship. George Kirk takes command just as his wife is hurried from a medical bay in the middle of trying to deliver their child (James/Jim).
This is central to the heart of James Kirk’s character, not to mention probably making many of the Über Trek geeks scream “WTF?!?” inside their heads since it breaks from the classic timeline. We get to see snipets of Jim’s childhood, which again, don’t waste time by trying to explain but rather entertain with moments in his past that do the same job. The same is done with young Spock with the scenes involving his human mother (Winona Ryder) and again when he prepares for the first step in his higher education.
You get a sense of the world these people live in.
Abrams doesn’t allow himself to be limited to a small number of studio sets (as was the case in the original television series) nor does he take the easy way out by revealing these characters’ traits within the confines of a holodeck or a tavern aboard a spaceship. He also doesn’t rush the introductions of the remaining crew members. The audience meets them when Kirk does. There is no lame attempt to write in a “since this is the first day all of you have worked as a crew we’re going to stand up and each say our names and what we do…” scene. I hate those fucking scenes, especially if I’m not at all familiar with the characters because I will not remember their names and I’m positive the lazy ass writer won’t make mention of them in dialogue from that point on anyways.
And as a huge fan of William Shatner, I thought it would be harder to convince myself that anyone else in the world was Captain Kirk, but Chris Pine nailed it. If anything Shatner should be flattered that someone could take what he made famous and recreate it. Also, he gets it on (kinda) with a green-skinned Rachel Nichols. I suspect the same won’t be said of Zachary Quinto‘s portrayal of Spock but most casual fans will probably be satisfied.
The last crewman introduced is Scotty played by Simon Pegg, but it was also the one I’d been the most curious to see. Pegg in my opinion can make anything funny and it was such an odd choice for a science fiction movie. But the movie doesn’t just suddenly get comical with his appearance. I heard plenty of laughter throughout the film, but Pegg’s performance was icing on the cake. Pegg might not have his usual movie partner, the equally funny Nick Frost, to play off of, but he does have a sidekick: A reptile Ewok — I shit you not. Those scenes are worth the price of admission alone.
Since the movie began with a timeline that doesn’t follow the classic version, no one really knows what could happen. All the rules could have changed — namely an intense hatred between Kirk and Spock. It isn’t until an hour or so after you’ve been watching do you find out the motive behind this, which is explained by the elder Spock (Leonard Nimoy). This is also the part of the movie that actually “takes” the Trek universe back from the uber geeks and breathes new life and new possibilities into it. The entirety of the movie was excellent so I doubt it’ll come off as a big “hey fuck you” to people who were very into the last 50 years of stories. Most of the inherent knowledge of the Trek-verse has not changed. I’m sure the phasers still calibrate the same way they did for Jean-Luc and Shatner. The only thing that really changed from this film is that it’s now possible to tell several fresh new stories without losing the core identity.
When I walked out of the theater I said to myself, “OK, I’d go see another six sequels based on that one.” The audience’s reaction was generally positive from what I could observe. So go watch this flick. The new Trek is good, like I-already-purchased-tickets-to-the-IMAX-show-this-weekend good.