A vast sea of stars, lilting strings, the pound of timpani, and the rousing blast of horns. The words “Star Trek” breeze daringly into frame, and we know we are in the company of old friends. This is how a Star Trek movie starts out. This is not how Star Trek, the film that opened this past weekend starts out.
I know what you’re thinking, here we go with another Trekkie whining that the new movie actually appeals to regular people, and not just dorks like me. Yes, I have seen the clip from the Onion News Network that lampoons my kind, and found it endlessly amusing—indeed I watched it twice. But consider our perspective: imagine a new copy of the Bible is being realeased in book stores, and instead of starting out with “In the beginning…” it started out with “Check it, it used to be there weren’t but Jack and shit in the universe, and Jack had just left town.” Someone like me who thinks the Bible is about as overrated as Harry Potter would probably love it, but all those BILLIONS of people who love the Bible would be understandably upset.
Wait a minute? Are you comparing Stark Trek to the Bible.
But Star Trek is some weird cult that only weirdos are into!
Hate to break it to you, but about two thousand years ago so was Christianity. And I guarantee that in another two thousand years Star Trek will probably be more popular, especially if last weekend’s opening gross is any indication.
Okay back to the movie. In some ways, J.J. Abrahams and company nailed it. This movie has all the charm, panache, and humor that the original series had, and none of the doldrums of say Star Trek I or Stark Trek III. It’s great to see Kirk in his prime, making out with green chicks and kicking ass. Chris Pine captures all the best of William Shatner’s iconic character and eliminates the awkward pauses. The guy who plays Dr. McCoy channels the late DeForrest Kelley so well that I’m starting to believe in reincarnation. The movie brilliantly integrates elements of the other films and episodes, and I’m glad they handled the Kobyashi Maru test so well. I watched Wrath of Khan late Friday night after the movie, and the prequel adds some wonderful subtext to it’s sequential descendent and cinematic ancestor. I was watching WOK for the upteenth time, and yet it felt fresh and new. I never would of thought that possible.
The ship looks beautiful. The Enterprise has always been my favorite movie spaceship, even beating out the Millenium Falcon. It looks like a noble horse galloping through the cosmos, a flying saucer with a proud sleek neck, smooth hull and gallant nacelles. I’ve always wanted to live on her.
The uniforms were really cool. Like the cinematic Spider-Man costume, they are simply more detailed versions of the originals. It is as though they always looked like that, but the old cameras just couldn’t pick up all the details.
Okay, let’s address the plot of this film. In order to prevent condradicting the other series, the new Trek uses a time travel device to completely alter the entire space time contiuum of the Trek universe. In a way this is brilliant, because the fans can’t argue against anything that happens. But in reality, it’s a cheat. Generations of Trek writers have spent over four decades carefully working around each other to weave a complex tapestry of plot points that would make Tolkien dizzy with wonder.
Instead of honoring the Stark Trek tradition, the writers of the new film have cheated it, and in the opinion of many, have taken a gigantic shit on top of Star Trek‘s beloved history. That’s a crying shame, because I really really really liked this movie, in spite of walking into the theater wanting to hate it. I was laughing and sitting on the edge of my seat the whole time, and yet it’s blasphemy of the highest order.
The sound design is inspired, but the score is fairly pedestrian. James Horner and Jerry Goldsmith provided such rousing music in the other Treks, and it’s a crying shame they couldn’t have hired Horner (Goldsmith passed away shortly after the last Trek film). There is a brilliant moment when the crew is being beamed aboard that we hear a subtle little echo of the original theme, and it filled my heart with joy—recalling a similar moment in the remake of the Thomas Crown Affair, when a few bars of Windmills of My Mind played. The final credit sequence made up for the disappointing opening, with a beautiful rendering of the original theme as planets swirled aroun the silver screen.
On to Spock. Yes, Zachary Quinto looks exactly like him, but he is so incredibly unlikeable that I could barely stand him being on screen. He looked more like a Vulcan Mind-Rapist than the Spock we all know and love. As this rebooted franchise continues, I see him as a serious liability. I’ve never seen Heroes so I have no personal bias towards or against him.
Furthermore, adding a romantic relationship between Uhura and Spock is disgusting, distracting, purile, immature, and unforgivable. It makes her character seem like a whore, and his seem like a joke. I’m sorry, but seeing Spock and Uhura making out on a transporter pad almost made me barf on my date.
Sadly, this was the only portion of the film that came anywhere near exploring the final frontier. The Star Trek series has always been an upbeat and optimistic prophecy for a future with a united humankind that has no use for money or war. Although far from dystopian, this new film is a fairly dark and dank view of the universe compared to its older brothers.
Star Trek has always served as sly venue for social commentary. The original series provided mature and subtle social commentary on the cold war and the civil rights movement in a time where such issues couldn’t be dealt with on television by “cloaking” them with the thin veneer of science fiction. In a time where idealogical struggles are coming to head in our country and abroad, we need this kind of commentary once more—and the new Star Trek fails us in that regard.
Lastly, Star Trek has always come with a geniune sense of awe and wonder. In the bright eyes of the Enterprise crew staring at the view screen into the unknown I saw hope for humankind and the galaxy. The new crew stared at the screen and saw lots of stuff to blow up. The mission of the Enterprise was to seek out new life and new civilizations. The new crew sought nothing of the kind.
That being said, my heart filled with joy in the epilogue of the new Trek film. For a few glorious moments, everything was back in its place. Kirk sat proudly in his chair, Sulu manned the helm, Checkov the phasers, Uhura was listening into the stars, Spock was searching them for answers, and Scotty was keep the engines warm. We were there, back on the bridge of the Enterprise we know and love. It was Star Trek alright, glorious glorious Star Trek. And as their beautiful steed blasted into the heavens, I felt what I always feel at the end of a good Star Trek episode…I wanted to follow them into the stars…