J.J. Abrams’ STAR TREK – One for the Ages
I was in absolutely no hurry to see Star Trek‘s 2009 reboot. In fact, it had been out for 3 weeks before I went to see it, really out of deference to the fact my friend Steve and I had seen all of the others since Star Trek 5 together in the theater. We had to go through with it. It looked fine, I suppose. The characters looked fresh and the special effects, for once, did not look canned from a previous movie.
In all honesty, I had become quite a fan of Abram’s storytelling. Alias was pretty good, although my wife liked it more than me overall. LOST is one of the best shows, literally, I have ever seen. It far exceeds even the original Star Trek, to my mind. I think my father would agree, and he loved the original Star Trek. Mission Impossible 3 was way better than it should have been. Finally, in the months before Star Trek came out, a show made by it creators (J. J. Abrams, written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman) burst on the scene like a supernova. Rivaling even LOST for the sci-fi, storyline, and the high caliber of actors, Fringe was the one scripted show my wife and I could agree was worth our collective time week in and week out.
With all that, I still was not moved to act like a freak and wait in line for the new Star Trek. I had heard that Abrams dragged his feet in taking on the task of producing the film. It appears now as though that may have been some posturing, to distance himself from the status quo of creative talent and production stinginess that had lulled Star Trek into the complacency that produced two really bad movies (the insipid Insurrection and the ridiculously stupid Nemesis) and helped to kill off the 3 remaining series (Deep Space 9, Voyager and Enterprise)with virtually no fanfare. They had made a comfortable living with well worn story lines and cheap special effects, and it was somewhat of a surprise, seemingly, when it all came to a halt via Enterprise’s cancellation in 2005. Abrams, it seemed, did not want to merely extend the malaise. He wanted to go on or out in a blaze of glory. Surprisingly, Paramount relented, and gave him the keys to the used Mercedes and the bank account.
My first clue that something was up was when I discovered that the crew of STAR TREK 2009 had not only procured Leonard Nimoy to reprise the role of Spock, but had pissed off William Shatner by not letting him write his Kirk back to life after biting the big one in Generations. Abrams, it appeared, really was playing hardball.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Kirk as much as the next guy, but if this show was going to go on, the team really had to get younger. That said, I really was not sure what I thought about the whole prequel idea. Couldn’t they come up with new characters? Oh, wait, they had done that with many shows. Did not see any of those characters as movie material, frankly. At this point, I just kind of came to a draw, mentally, with the prospects of this rehashed, but financially and creatively backed venture.
The first viewing of the movie left me satisfied. Easily better than any of the Next Generation films (okay, First Contact is close), I had no problems putting this movie on par with Khan, Voyage Home or Undiscovered Country. Just not better. I placed it as one of the best films of the summer and left it at that.
But certain things stuck with me…
Among them, the following:
- The original timeline is thrown completely out the window. And they leave it that way! No quick fixes that so many previous Star Treks (including the master work Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) were known for. This had a little of the Daring of TNG‘s “Yesterday’s Enterprise.” That is, the past can be screwed up, thereby messing up the future. Cool. New ground.
- Kirk sure was fun. And annoying, but in the best possible way. This was not a copy of Shatner. Chris Pine managed to make a triumphantly tangential Kirk, with guts, gusto and goofy charm, with very little of the clunkiness that Shatner had been known for. You know, the same “yeah you think you can do it, but you really can’t” machismo that Robert Conrad supplied in all of those Battle of the Network Stars Specials in the 1970′s. To paraphrase Dennis Miller, Pine walked up to the precipice, pivotted, and jetted back to coolsville.
- The rest of the characters were not imitations, and it made them seem way more real. The only one I did not like as much as the original was Quinto’s take on Spock. It seemed to be bursting with as much emotion as Nimoy had in the original episode, “The Cage.” It did not seem right at first, but it made more sense with subsequent viewings.
- Christopher Pike, played here by Bruce Greenwood, easily could have been passed off in a forgettable way. Greenwood breathed a vitality into the role and I look forward to seeing him in the sequels.
- The only real critical potshots taken in the film are at Bana’s Nero. He does well for what he is given. I think for some reason, he has never been forgiven for HULK. It was not a great movie, sure. But it was not his fault. Ang Lee took a shot at something different and it did not work. Nero is not given much scenery to chew, no great lines, and only exposition to reveal a back story. To give the Romulans menace, they went a little bit for the Darth Maul look, and it did not work. Oh well, he did fine.
This movie has really grown on me with each viewing. It is rich with character (Scotty and Bones are better than ever), great camera work, especially on the bridge, and spectacular use of special effects. The bold decision to blaze a new trail sits better with me the more I think of it. At this point, the movie feels more like a sequel to the original Spock’s previous experiences, which will remain, forever-unchanged, in his heart and mine.
I can only hope Abram’s stays in the picture for at least 3 movies. Once that happens, we can hopefully avoid any unpleasant returns to the comfort of knowing they tried and instead stay with the gut-wrenching uncertainty of a canon blown apart when instead of following the second star to the right, the Enterprise moves on to perhaps the third.
Rating ***** (out of a possible 5*’s)
For more information about this movie, check out the Wikipedia entry here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek_2009