Star Trek

Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto get the rebooted Kirk-Spock bromance off to a rousing start| Paramount
Desert IslandWhy I Saw It: I’m a devoted Next Generation fan, and always look forward to goodness from Eric Bana.
What I Thought: Perfection. Perfection!

Star Trek. Dir. J.J. Abrams. Perf. Leonard Nimoy, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Zaldana, Anton Yelchin, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Eric Bana, Bruce Greenwood, Winona Ryder, Chris Hemsworth, Ben Cross, Deep Roy. Paramount Pictures, 2009.

To quote Harry Knowles of aintitcool.com, “God bless J.J. Abrams!!!”  Amen, brother.

Star Trek overall may have been struggling, and even devoted fans may have felt hard-pressed to remain supportive, but a new era has dawned.

I’ve never watched J.J. Abrams’ Lost.  I’m crazy for Michael Emerson, Ken Leung, and Harold Perrineau, but I’ve never watched Lost.  Not one episode, not one segment.  I’ve heard from too many people I respect that it’s highly addictive, but I don’t have the time to spare and thus can’t take the chance.

And having just come off a full, glorious dose of Abrams’ directorial talent, I remain convinced that abstinence is prudent.  (Yes, I know he also did Mission: Impossible and Alias, but those weren’t so much to my taste, and as such aren’t so risky.)

But I’m happily hooked now .  The wait is over, and Star Trek is officially rebooted.

= View the trailer =

I always enjoy watching actors successfully play the same individual (Lynnie Greene as young Dorothy on The Golden Girls, Kate Hudson’s “Thank you, child” in The Skeleton Key ~ not to be confused with screwball body-switching plots) so it was with great excitement and some trepidation I anticipated the performances of the new cast.  Would they be able to convey the characteristics without imitating?  But also without reinterpreting?

Yes, and yes.  The cast is superb, most notably Zachary Quinto: we simply couldn’t have asked for anything more in his actualization of Spock.  Uhura is blissfully modernized (i.e., ambitious, assertive, and cracker-jack smart ~ things Nichelle Nichols was never permitted to portray) and Zoe Saldana carries it with aplomb.  The rest of the cast (including John ChoChris Pine, Simon Pegg, and Anton Yelchin)  bring “fresh familiarity” to their respective roles; Eric Bana is divinely devilish, and McCoy’s virtually-caricatured nature is nicely reigned in and re-dignified by the remarkable Karl Urban (much more on that subject another day).

Star Trek Cast
The New Cast of Star Trek (sans Spock)  / Photo: Universal Pictures

What I like best about the retooling is that the characters now display their own identities ~ while obviously deferent to Kirk, they no longer exist merely to orbit him.  Likewise, while this Kirk retains his trademark reckless impertinence, there is no longer any suggestion that we should personally glorify him for this. The original characters have finally become an ensemble cast.  Everything is now balanced.  God bless J.J. Abrams!!!

Along these lines, much ado has been made about wanting to give the characters a fresh, hip, sexy look in order to appeal to today’s younger generation.  It definitely accomplishes this objective, but I would suggest that this iteration simply reflects its time just as the earlier one reflected its own; as opposed to appealing to a generation, it appeals to our era, one in which women are encouraged (even expected?) to show their strength, cultural differences are more entertaining than stereotyping, and individuals are allowed to possess a full spectrum of characteristics (even perhaps conflicting ones).

Visual effects, sound, cinematography and production design all deserve award contention, even receipt.  The environs are stupendous: size, height, creatures, and firepower simply dazzle.  Abrams colleague Michael Giacchino (Mission: Impossible, The Incredibles, and oh yes ~ Lost) composed the sensational score.

For an excellent background discussion spoiling nothing, see this article in the current issue of Entertainment Weekly.  It voices well the fans’ angst, the franchise’s frailty, and the bright future ahead.

With regard to plot, the story’s excellent and I’ll say no more.  There’s a deliciously unexpected angle, everything hangs together well, and it ties up nicely.  As Quinto put it:

The movie doesn’t shatter everything you know about the show, it just comes at Star Trek from a different perspective.  It straddles a line between giving people what they’ve known about these characters for 40 years and what they’ve wished they knew about them.

I will say there were two oh-so-minor loose ends that left me wondering but in no way detracted from the experience.  Regarding the first, I had my fingers in my ears for about six seconds and so may just have missed the explanation, but even if there wasn’t one, it’s utterly without consequence.

The second had slightly further-reaching implications with regard to Star Trek history, but I figure either A) this is a fresh start, so they’re taking an artistic liberty, which is fine (indeed advisable, as discussed in the aforementioned EW article) or B) they’ll come back around to it in a future installment, which may explain the incredibly peculiar decision to cast Winona Ryder as Spock’s mother, seeing that she’s only six years older than Zachary Quinto (and then cosmetically age her so she looks a thousand years old…?).

The entire cast is signed for two more installments but as far as I’m concerned, may this group’s involvement make the Harry Potter bunch’s look like a school semester.  It’s going to be great fun to watch them become seasoned in “real time,” as it were, and I wonder how many of the series elements will appear along the way (we’ve already seen a Tribble reference, and I’d love to see the modern version of the Doomsday Machine.)

God bless J.J. Abrams!!!

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