Note to new readers: Sometimes we review movies here. Don’t ask why. Just go with it.
My first contact (ho ho! nerd pun!) with Star Trek came at the age of 9 years old. Because of my indoctrination in Star Wars from a young age, I had a voracious appetite for anything related to space or science fiction. In fact, my first two oral reports in grade school were on the planet Saturn and in the fourth grade, Star Trek. Fox 59 played an episode every day at 5 pm sharp, and I was planted in front of the TV every night. I even kept a check list of every one of the original 79 episodes, and diligently sought to see them all. Around that same time, Star Trek: The Next Generation came out, and the first episode was appointment TV. Unfortunately, they went on to spend most of the first three seasons making peace with everyone instead of shooting them, and I finally gave up on the new series and its geriatric captain. I’m comfortable with that choice, as it allowed more time for pursuits like sports and girls instead of losing myself of an endless string of spinoffs. Still, my love for the original series never waned, and I invested time reading the books and watching the movies. My geekdom goes so far that my son’s name is Ewan Scott. Fortunately, it didn’t go far enough to prevent me from having had the sex that produced that son.
Obviously, when I heard that JJ Abrams was rebooting the franchise by recasting the original cast and erasing the familiar time line, I was suspicious. Abrams is responsible for Lost (which I love), Regarding Henry, Alias, and Mission: Impossible 3 (all of which I violently hated) Then, little by little, an incredible (positive) buzz began about the film. Suspicion turned to hope. Tonight, those hopes came to fruition.
I thoroughly loved Star Trek: The JJ Abrams Experience. The movie uses classic Sci-Fi nonsense to completely rewrite the history of the Star Trek Universe and allows us to get to know the characters from the classic series all over again. Honestly, I was surprised at how much a thorough knowledge of the classics was necessary to totally enjoy this movie. I was somehow expecting something more…accessible. I saw it with two friends. One was a Trek fan; the other wasn’t. We all enjoyed the movie, but the friend with little Trek experience felt like he wasn’t quite catching it all. This movie reminded me a lot of X-Men 1. The plot was basically a shallow device to introduce us to the principle characters and set up more movies. That being said, this was still a gratifying cinematic experience. If the sequel, which has already been green-lit, is as amazing as X-Men 2 (one of the best comic book movies ever), fans will be thrilled.
The key to the movie was Chris Pine owning the character of James T. Kirk. Kirk has always been at the heart of my love for Star Trek, and this iteration of him does not disappoint. In fact, perhaps the best part of this movie is that it completely undoes the ridiculous death of Kirk in the travesty of a film Star Trek: Generations. For that alone, I am eternally grateful. It would have easy to play Kirk as a caricature of Shatner; hell, Ol’ Billy has been doing that himself for years. Instead, Pine infuses the character with life, and makes the whole movie work. Everything Brandon Routh wasn’t as Superman, Pine is as Kirk. The other principles are stellar including Zach Quinto as Spock. The characters I was most concerned about (McCoy and Scott, favorites of mine as a kid) were totally up to snuff.
Perhaps my only complaint is that the plot of the film was hurt by the excellent special effects. There is a sense in which it was an utterly faithful Star Trek movie. The plot was just as absurd as any you would fine in a typical episode. However, when the effects were from 1968, I had to use my imagination to supply what was lacking visually. That allows the viewer to swallow the medicine of absurdities like Spock’s Brain. When the effects are pristine, however, the eyes say, ‘it’s real!’, but the mind says, ‘it’s barely even internally consistent! It’s utter nonsense!’. Ultimately, to argue the quality of the plot of a Star Trek movie is to miss the point entirely. The core idea of the movie (time travel can rewrite history) certainly makes one wonder if we can gain some clue into where Abrams is ultimately going with Lost (which is currently exploring an identical theme).
This is not the best Star Trek movie; that title still belongs to Wrath of Khan. This is, however, on par with the best hopes of fans. The future possibilities for the franchise are limitless. For one night, I was 10 years old, all over again. My wife said to me the other day, “When did we become the grown-ups and who put us in charge?”. It was nice to lay down that mantle for a few hours and remember what it felt like to be a kid. This movie accomplished that as thoroughly as any I can remember.
For that, I’m in the debt of Mr. Abrams.
Personal note: For those who care (both of you), work on the book is going well. Today, I passed the unofficial half-way point of 40,000 words. Considering that it’s a project that is strictly relegated to my free time and competes heavily with this blog for my remaining shreds of attention, I’m pleased. I’m still on target for rough draft completion by August 1st. Depending on the eventual distribution method (anyone know a literary agent they care to recommend?), I hope it will be ready (if not available) for public consumption before the end of the year. Anyway, I’d put the odds on me actually at least finishing it at about 90%. Whether or not it ever sees the light of day…that’s a whole different question.