I’ve never been a ‘fan’ of Star Trek. I’m certainly not a hater, and I’ve probably seen more than 60% of the episodes in any of the different settings other than the Enterprise final one. It was sci-fi, and so kinda of my thing, and so I watched. I cringed a lot because to me it always felt twee. The movies were something I sort of watched if they were on, other than the first couple when I was young and really interested. Some of the ones in the middle I’ve never seen end-to-end, only cringeworthy scenes of twee-thigh-slapping moral-delivering tweeness.
Hmm, maybe I am a hater.
Anyway, suffice to say, Star Trek was okay, I know the stuff at a superficial level and TNG is the one I’ve seen most of. So I was kind of curious about what JJ Abrams would deliver with his reboot. I thought Cloverfield was an excellent movie which I didn’t enjoy because of the camera work, but the direction and production were excellent. After watching Fringe and hearing about Lost I know that JJ’s attention to detail is beyond incredible, and knowing he was a Star Trek fan, I was curious to see how much he kept and how much he ditched.
I was very surprised at the small size of the release in the UK, and I read it was the same in the US. Over here, Wolverine and State of Play are the films in the Premier seating screens and Director’s Lounge, not Star Trek. Only on two screens at a time in the Showcase. I was a little nervous. Anyway, we grabbed our tickets and sat with the unwashed masses (normally, we hide in the premier seats), ready for our two hour Trek experience.
And wow. What an experience. Spoilers follow, probably.
I was emotionally engaged from the outset, at the destruction of the Kelvin, Kirk’s father, his mother, his birth. Breathtaking introduction. It didn’t let up from there at all. Star Trek is a character movie with pace, a little depth, action and some really funny moments. The characters are like meeting old friends but without the smell of mothballs. There was nothing cheesy about the story or the dialogue (I know one person who will disagree, upset at Pegg and his sidekick, but it felt okay to me). Pine has the essence of Kirk without turning it into a caricature, Zachary’s Spock is sublime and the rest of the crew pull a blinder (McCoy is the least obviously McCoy of the bunch, until he comes out with a couple of iconic phrases, and in turn becomes one of the most underused and best played characters).
JJ reboots the franchise by forcing a parallel universe through the intervention of time travel. He lets the characters know it’s happened, they know their destiny has been changed, and so we as viewers learn it as well. It’s cheese free (I know, I’ll say this again). Some might argue the involvement of Spock Prime is pointless, but his presence gives a solid link to the previous Trekverse, a baton handover, the gravitas to make sure we all remember how we got here, without the blubber of sentimentality. The story is light on Sci- and heavy on -fi but this is Trek, when was it ever scientific? Trek for me has always been character driven. The plot is there, tying things together, giving the characters a reason for being, presenting the danger that forces their hand, but it’s not the central element of the movie.
The relationship between Spock and Kirk, Spock’s journey and acceptance of his human-side, the forging of a team, that’s the central aspect of the film. You may levy the charge that it’s similar to the first X-Men movie in that respect, more of an introduction than a real movie and yet I think it avoids the problems the first X-Men film had. There’s more depth, more character progression, plain old more content and so it’s better rounded and able to stand on it’s own.
And JJ does not disappoint with the inclusion of Trek details. As a single example, from the IMDB trivia page,
- In the scene where Kirk is taking the Kobayashi Maru test, he is eating an apple, which is also what he is eating while recounting his tale of taking the Kobayashi Maru test in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982).
The whole thing is full of that, from mentions of previous captains and plot lines from other parts of the franchise. There’s enough detail to keep any Trekophile digging for weeks. When Kirk, Sulu and the dude in red space-jumped onto the platform below, well, we all knew who was going to die. Knowing didn’t ruin it, knowing made you feel part of it. You felt like your Star Trek heritage was being valued, you were being welcomed back into the gang. Here’s a guy in red, you know how this is going to go. Those folk in the audience who’ve never seen Trek might not know, but you do, welcome aboard.
Along with the memories comes a new look, a new pace and a new feel. It was shiny and fast, there were no long periods of deliberation and debate. No stalemates, no long periods of self reflection. Fights looked like fights, monsters looked monstrous and Kirk had. more. than. one. emotional. response.
So, I loved it. It was a superb movie-going experience. The two hours shot by, I would have happily watched it immediately again. It didn’t leave a lasting impression on me like The Matrix, but it certainly erased a lot of bitter memories of previous Trek movies. It was good quality, well paced, funny, entertaining and well worth seeing. Roll on the next one – they have a lot to live up to.