I began watching Star Trek as a wee lassie when the original series aired on summer afternoons. Back then the monsters were scary, the dilemmas terribly deep and the whole thing very exciting. I went on to become something of a middle management level Trek geek. Saw all of the episodes of the original series and Next Generation, all of the movies and most of Deep Space Nine and Voyager. I gave up at Enterprise and have never gotten into the novelizations and own no action figures. So I'm at the liaison geek level between the hardcore Trekker and the casual viewer. I understand both, but could never be either. I suspect I am one of many. We love our Trek, but have not chosen to make it into a lifestyle. I sincerely (want to) believe that JJ Abrams created Star Trek specifically for me and my kind. I think I love him.
Star Trek is a reboot. I knew that going in - that's all the rage now, taking series that have worn out and giving them a truly fresh start rather than a hasty paint job of the old carcass. Batman got a reboot, so did Superman. Why not do the same for Gene Roddenberry's epic creation? It has, after all, spawned four TV series, umpteen movies and more rabid fanboys (and girls) than any other series in TV history. But what would director JJ Abrams of Alias and LOST fame bring to the table? Let's just say that Abrams doesn't kid around with the term "reboot". Star Trek takes us back to the birth of Kirk, then mixes everything up in a time travel blender and gives us a brand new palette on which the franchise can thrive once again.
I don't want to give a lot of plot information - that's why you go to the movie; you don't need me wrecking it for you. But you need to know a little bit. We do begin at the beginning, with the rather traumatic birth of James Tiberius Kirk. We spend a little time in his childhood, as well as in that of Spock, but in short order we are with the young adult versions of both as their paths become first parallel and then intersecting. Our two main heroes, joined by young actors filling every role from the original series, are thrust into fierce battle with little experience - picture perfect Trek. Kirk is a rogue and Spock an uptight as........piring captain. Battle is launched with the Romulans, headed up by uber-meanie Nero (Eric Bana - unrecognizable, so cool!) and our inexperienced crew must save the day as well as salvage some bit of the space-time continuum.
All you really need to know is that we go back to the beginning, even before the beginning, and start all over with new actors, a new reality and a whole new set of dynamics. The way the story is written, the series has a clean slate and is no longer weighed down by five TV series and eleventy-seven movies worth of continuity baggage. They're free to fly. Yeah, hardcore Trekkers might not be happy about this, but here in middle management I cheer with giddy glee. The old continuity was simply worn out. It had become too convoluted, the original series too dated and the whole thing a muddled mess. To try and work within that sullied framework would just have resulted in another lame two hour episode of whichever dead series they tried to milk one more time. No - we needed fresh, we needed new and we needed it all with a super high energy level to get our blood pumping and our imaginations flowing again with these characters and this universe. It's a great set of people and a fabulous concept - but it had died a slow and painful death with the final installments of the old continuity struggling just to stay awake through their own turgid machinations. We needed new blood!
And we get it! Whee! We get it in spades and then some. This fresh young cast is fabulous, from Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock to the fabulously funny Simon Pegg as Scottie and Karl Urban (who I admit to having a small crush on ever since he was Eomer in Lord of the Rings - sue me, I'm a geek of many passions) as McCoy. Uhura (Zoe Saldana) gets an update with a slightly meatier part, but this is still the boys' show. Sulu (John Cho) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin) pull in with new and better versions of their old, bit-part selves. Each gives a performance worthy of the series creator and it's all new and fun for a new generation of Star Trek viewers. I like these people - Kirk is brazen and street-smart, Spock is less wooden, Uhura is book-smart and sexy. Scottie has a great back-story and McCoy is cynical and witty. Urban is the only one of the actors to truly try and take on some of the mannerisms of the old McCoy, probably because they were such an integral part of the original dynamic. He does so with enough subtlety so as not to turn the performance into parody or imitation. I'm actually leaning toward preferring Pine to Shatner, but only because the original series is now so dated and the Shatner Kirk has become a parody of itself.
Star Trek manages to pay its respects to the original cast and the characters they created. It's beautifully balanced - we have McCoy uttering his famous "Dammit, Jim, I'm a doctor not a ......" - but only once. We get tiny nods like Pine crossing his legs while sitting in the captain's chair or Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) appearing in a wheelchair. We also get a whole heap of new, fresh material that has no ties to the past. The technobabble that marred the Next Generation movies is largely absent - of course there is some, it wouldn't be Star Trek without a few plasma inverter coil injector meltdown dilithium shield reduction incidents. But it's kept to a reasonable level and not allowed to take over the plot or serve as deus ex machina in explaining away inconsistencies with incoherent non-science. Screenwriters Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman do a marvelous job creating a movie with mass appeal. Anyone from newbie to veteran hardcore Trekker will find plenty to love within the story, characters and action.
And holy cow, there is action! Battles galore which the special effects team spared no effort in making absolutely spectacular. Across the board the effects are marvelous - the exterior space scenes are suitably foreboding, the battles perfectly choreographed for maximum carnage with virtually no visible bloodshed, even the interior shots of things such as early transporting are lovely. It's clear that this is a big budget movie and they used that budget extremely wisely. JJ Abrams has proven that he knows his way around action in the past and his credentials prove sound in the transition to the big screen.
Should you take your kid?
Well, obviously that's your decision. But I would certainly let my eleven-year-old see it if she were interested. I would love it if my teenager would go - he never got into any of the old Trek, this is his chance. I just have to convince him that it isn't an old fart movie (a tough sell since his old fart parents went to see it and loved it). There is no nudity, one kissing scene and the bloodless violence that we usually associate with the Trek. There are some rousing fist-fights, though, and a couple of big, loud alien creatures. If your child is an easy scare, you might want to wait for the DVD, where the smaller scale is a little less intense. The PG-13 isn't wildly off target, but there are lots of younger kids for whom Star Trek would be perfectly appropriate.
Should you spend your hard earned cash on a Star Trek reboot?
Yes! Absolutely! It's worth every penny to see on a big screen (and I hardly ever see anything on the big screen). The casting is perfect, the performances shine with youth and vitality, the storyline is fun and allows the franchise to thrive once more and the visual effects are simply marvelous. JJ Abrams and company manage to toss in just the right number of subtle nods to the original series without turning the whole exercise into a parody or alienating the non-Trek savvy viewer. Star Trek is done big and it's done right. Great fun and highly recommended.
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