Tuesday, May 5, 2009
STAR TREK! (spoilers ahead)
For some Star Trek fans (like me, for example), it never got better than the original series. You think that it would have been gratifying to learn that J.J. Abrams' new Star Trek film would be based on the original series, to hear him say that to him Star Trek has always been about Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Instead, it scared us to death. We needn't have worried. Having seen the film, I can assure you that J.J. Abrams and his associates know what they're doing.
Nemesis, the previous film in the series, did its best to cynically imitate that most beloved entry in the Star Trek pantheon The Wrath of Khan. Predictably, it was a miserable failure. The new movie reminds me of The Wrath of Khan in all the right ways: it's a fresh take on Star Trek by a person who wasn't a fan of the show before now, and who wasn't particularly worried about upsetting a few fussy fanboys. Some people may complain that that Abrams got some technical details "wrong", but they're missing the point. Transporters, warp engines, phasers, and Jeffries' tubes are fictional constructs; there's no "right" or "wrong" way to depict them. The original Star Trek was always about the characters, and this movie gets the characters right. The faces are different, but Kirk is unmistakably Kirk, Spock is Spock, McCoy is McCoy, and so on. And the Spock-Uhura relationship? I don't have a problem with it. It's believable in the context of the story, and I applaud the filmmakers for having the guts to take some chances with these characters. Ditto the destruction of Vulcan. It gets your attention, and forcefully drives home the point that this isn't your traditional prequel; all bets are off.
Are there plot holes? Sure. But The Wrath of Khan had some pretty gigantic ones, too, and it didn't hurt that film. I understand that there was an entire subplot about Nero and his crew being in a Klingon prison for the twenty-five years between the destruction of the Kelvin and the main events of the movie that had to be cut for time and clarity, and the resulting inference that they were just hanging around doing nothing all that time does hurt the movie a little. Couldn't it have been stated that their warp drive was damaged by the collision with the Kelvin and they'd been moving around at relativistic speeds ever since, so what seemed like 25 years to the rest of the universe was only a few days to them? Also, since Star Trek was originally concieved and largely written by men who had served in the military, it always got those sorts of details right. In this movie, however, Kirk goes from being a cadet to a Captain just because he helps save the world. Such a thing would never happen in any self-respecting military organization I can think of; it would have been nice if J.J. Abrams "Supreme Court" had included a military history buff like Ron Moore to ensure authenticity in that area.
None of these nitpicks damages Star Trek's enjoyability, however. This movie is big, fun, and wonderfully well-done. If you are a Star Trek fan, you're in luck because this is probably the best film in the series. If you are not a Star Trek fan, you're also in luck, because this movie was made for you. The cumbersome baggage that weighed down recent Treks has been jettisoned, and it's possible to thoroughly enjoy this movie even if you've never seen Star Trek before. It's a joyful experience that's well worth the price of admission. Go see it now. See it multiple times.
You'll be glad you did.