Back in 2002, Paramount Pictures committed a cardinal sin. They released Star Trek: Nemisis, a clumsily handled feature length Next Generation episode that effectively rendered Star Trek “uncool” within popular culture. Who would have guessed that less than seven years later, it’s now hip to like Trek again? If you’ve been trolling review sites, you’re probably aware that the new film simply titled ‘Star Trek’, is gaining both steam and popular acclaim. As of the posting of this, it has 96% on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.3 on Metacritic, which should at least give you the idea that you can safely enter the theater to see it without having fear the ire of your non-geek friends.
Those review sites can tell you the opinions of jaded newspaper writers, and a lot of other sites can tell you the opinions of longtime hardcore Trekkies. Both of those types can bring you wholly different sets of opinions, but one of the most telling opinions is that of the casual fan. It’s those, as well as the uninitiated, that Paramount and J.J. Abrams hoped to lure in with this Trek. I feel somewhat as if I fit that category, and I’m here to tell you that they’ve accomplished what they set out to.
It’s rare that film marketing is both hyperbolic and accurate, but the assertion that “This isn’t your father’s Star Trek” is just that. Whether this iteration be a full reboot, partial reboot, or whatever else, it’s a wonderful clean slate and breath of fresh air not only for the series but for the genre as well. Abrams isn’t afraid to let you know this either, especially in the first few scenes of the movie. The very first before the title sequence even appears holds both more action and emotion since, yes, Wrath of Khan. Some of the other early scenes make it painfully clear that this is something entirely new, namely the scene with young Kirk driving a Corvette that was featured in the trailers. If you think you’ve seen this part of the movie from those trailers already, think again. There’s a totally unexpected soundtrack twist in play that can both make hardcore Trekkies cry blasphemy and excite the uninitiated as well.
Yes, it’s a reboot and origin story, but it doesn’t follow exactly the same narrative structure or hold the same stylistic ethos that has worked well in recent years for Batman and Bond. While many of the elements seem do seem fresh and new, this new Trek does unapologetically stick with what has previously worked well. The outfits are mostly unchanged, the Enterprise looks mostly the same, all of the characters keep their trademark traits. Anything new is almost always an improvement. The score and new theme work tremendously well as both bombastic and retro, the new deck looks both atheistically awesome, and the fluid, frantic cinematography previously unheard of in any Trek is a sight to behold. We’ll avoid specific spoiler territory here, but there are some pretty significant changes to be had here. Some which will seem ….um, logical.. but some which will certainly spark fanboy debate for years to come. But even with some new direction for them, each classic character stays as such. Dozens of lines and character traits sprinkled and well weaved throughout that are unapologetically lifted from old episodes and films will certainly quench fanboy thirst.
There were some who doubted that the original crew could be re-cast, myself included. However, the roles that are in the forefront are totally owned by their new players. Know this, Chris Pine is a super star waiting to happen. He’s a charismatic actor that provides a lot of believability, humor, and also totally owns the role. Shatner no longer has a monopoly on Kirk. Karl Urban is also a complete surprise, trading in his stock big guy roles of the past decade for a totally accurate and wonderful McCoy. Along with a pitch perfect Spock from Zack Quinto, and a hilarious (yet underused) Simon Pegg as Scotty, it’s hard to imagine many of the casting choices being made any differently.
Paramount succeeded in convincing me to come into the theater, and Abrams has convinced me that Trek is cool and relevant again. Star Trek is a wonderful breath of fresh air not only for the franchise, but the genre itself. While most popular Sci Fi in the past few years such as Battlestar Galactica has trudged dark and depressive territory, this new Trek again brings out the sort bright optimism that Roddenberry originally envisioned, only this time with a whole lot of fun that would have been impossible to foresee earlier this decade.