Yesterday, J.J. Abrams released his new movie, Star Trek, which attempts to breathe new life into one of scifi’s oldest franchises. It is different from other Star Trek films because it’s set before even the earliest episodes in the original series. I can’t say too much more without delivering massive spoilers (it’s just one of those kinds of plots), so there is a spoiler section below with my analysis.
The unspoilery version is this:
- If you ARE a hardcore Star Trek fan, you will like this movie a LOT, even if it doesn’t run perfectly in harmony with some of the central Star Trek dogma. I think I fall into this category…largely because I’ve seen every episode of every series (except that awful mess with Scott Bakula).
- If you don’t have a clue about Star Trek, I think you’ll still find the minute-by-minute story very exciting and the characters very compelling.
[Spoiler Alert!!! – If you haven’t seen the movie, avert your eyes till you have.]
Looking back on Star Trek, I definitely think the most memorable part of the movie are the effects. Despite the rather surreal nature of a Star Trek fantasy, the visual effects require almost no suspension of disbelief on my part. The ships are logical and believable, the images of space are absolutely spectacular, and even the ship’s interior is a good show.
There are a considerable number of “lens flares,” though. Essentially the audience is blinded every so often by some massive shine or explosion. io9 reported earlier that even Abrams himself admits he may have been a bit overzealous with the flares. Even so, if you read the interview, you’ll see they’re there for good reason.
The part of the movie that I love the most is the casting. Each actor does a fantastic job portraying the old characters while not coming off as a caricature or an impression. While the press has already covered the Spock and Uhura characters fairly thoroughly, I was pleasantly surprised by Bones, Scotty, Chekov, and Sulu. These supporting characters served as comic relief mostly, but each of them got their own little vignette (especially Sulu with his awesome sword) to show they could handle some business too.
Kirk and Spock, the obvious foci of the movie, were a bit harder for me to swallow. Their relationship is so fundamental to the original characters that it was very odd at times. I think Zachary Quinto did a great job as a conflicted young Spock, but the Kirk character didn’t convince me. Because of the obvious timeline alterations from the original series, this Kirk is a different man and his strategic genius is hard to see amidst his boyish arrogance. By the end of the movie I wasn’t completely won over by “the new Kirk.”
When you talk about the plot, the only thing you can say is “fast-paced.” I mean the first scene of the movie is an explosive act of heroism wherein George Kirk (Jim’s father) gives his life to save his crew, his wife, and his unborn son. After that we move forward in time and see a young Kirk driving a stolen convertible over a cliff. The action doesn’t let up until Kirk joins up with Star Fleet, to the surprise (but satisfaction) of Captain Pike.
While the rest of the movie involves adventures designed to slowly bring together the familiar gang of heroes, the real thing to discuss is the crazy timeline splintering. With many sequels (or in this case, prequels), time travel is used to allow movie-makers to milk more out of a played out story. I’m interested to see what Abrams and company plan on doing with their newly created timeline. Will the next episode in the series (there are rumored to be 3 more films coming) be centered around relocating the Vulcans, or are they going to avoid discussing the newly-formed black hole whenever possible?
[End Spoiler Warning]
All other things aside, by the end of the movie, I felt resolution and hope. The resolution came from the great ending and the satisfying new direction for the franchise. The hope was more of a continued hope that I feel when I watch the old series. The Star Trek universe is a vast playground for the imagination and it would be a shame if we let it go to waste, just because its creators are aging or have passed away. This movie definitely lives up to their legacy as a definitive space opera.
If you’ve seen the film, what did you think? Agree/disagree with the thought above?