Sunday, May 10, 2009

Star Trek Reboot: A Movie Review

I was 12 years old in September 1966 when the original Star Trek television program premiered. It was totally awesome, especially for a 12 year old. Beyond my young boy's impressions and imagination, it was also awesome because it was the first Science Fiction television show that wasn't an anthology, but instead, told a continuing story with the same characters. Gene Roddenberry had created a universe that would live on for decades and ultimately, live on after him. Needless to say, what started for me at age 12 continued on through the rest of my life up to the present day. While I'm not as "obsessed" with the Star Trek franchise as I once was decades ago, I am still interested and entertained by the ships and the crews and, I possess an awful lot of trivia in my head about Star Trek. The J.J. Abrams film has all but made that knowledge obsolete because instead of extending that universe, he has recreated it. No, he hasn't completely recreated Star Trek as an entity, but he has done more than just retold a classic saga. He has also done more than just updated it for the 21st Century and all that special effects is now capable of (and the original series suffered from a greatly limited budget as well as limited technology, thanks to short sighted television network executives). The current Star Trek film isn't even a reboot, because rebooting implies a hard restart into the same environment. What the Star Trek movie does is recreate the characters, the Enterprise, Star Fleet, and everything else in a different image. While this image retains much of the dream Roddenberry created, it is also new life, new interactions, new characterizations, that "boldly go where no one has gone before". I'll pause here to echo what many other reviews have already said. The movie is action packed enough for even the most hyperactive movie thrill seeker, whether you're a Star Trek fan or not. Believe me, if stellar (literally) special effects, explosions, fabulous stunts, and warp driven roller coaster rides are your thing, this film is for you. I promise you will not be disappointed when you finish watching the film and I predict you'll want to see it again and again. In other words, the film is "bloody awesome!" There were things that bothered me, but then I'm detail oriented, science and technology oriented, and science fiction oriented. I won't go into the details because they'd give away too much of the story line, and I want you to be as surprised (shocked...maybe even horrified) as I was when I saw how much "history" had been changed. I will say that there was an absolutely unanticipated romance in the film. I won't say between who, but I never, ever saw it coming. I have no idea how it will be continued or resolved in a sequel (and this film demands a sequel...after all, without one, what would be the point?). The most "dead on" characterizations were "Bones" McCoy and probably Scotty, although Scotty was like "Scotty on speed" or "Scotty extreme". I say that in a good way. I really liked this Scotty, but he plays the role with a lot more energy than James Doohan ever did. Uhura, Chekov, and Sulu were probably the most different, but that may be because the roles were never used as much as they could have been in the original series. Spock was the same but different. He was a lot more raw as a Vulcan, still struggling with his human side and with his relationship with Kirk. Kirk was Kirk who isn't a total jerk. Well, he starts out as a total jerk, but the first 30 minutes of the movie goes a long way to explain why. I'll also use "raw" to describe Kirk. He's a "diamond in the rough" Kirk who is carrying a rather huge chip on his shoulder, which he makes use of in the numerous fight scenes he always seems to end up in. He's the irreverent, rule breaking Kirk, but one who hasn't yet hit 30. He's also a Kirk who is ultimately right about what he sees as the real problem and what the real solution is...he's just too young and impulsive to communicate it without getting himself beaten up (again and again) and blasted off the Enterprise (you'll have to see the film to see what I mean). Despite all of the differences, there are still a lot of references and connections to the "old" Star Trek. We get to see Kirk's final "solution" to the Kobayashi Maru "no-win" scenario, and there's a very nice interaction between young Kirk and "old" Spock that definitely hearkens back to the traditional past (or is that future?). I know, I know, time travel has been used again and again in Star Trek as a plot device, but in order to accomplish the purpose of this film (to jump start the Star Trek franchise), time travel is a necessary evil. Speaking of evil, I really had a tough time "feeling" the villain's motivation for all the bad stuff he does (and he really does bad stuff). Yes, the film explains why he's doing what he's doing and it makes sense, but it's like "so what, this is really couldn't have dealt with it any other way?" And I have no idea why this particular band of Romulans from the future need to have a bunch of facial tattoos. I guess to make them seem more scary. All that aside, I had a lot of fun for a couple of hours this afternoon. I've been a Star Trek fan for over 40 years and this Star Trek is fun. I had to make my peace with the fact that, in order to accept the current Star Trek, I had to lay to rest a lot of old friends. A line in a lot of old westerns goes, "There's a new Sheriff in town". Yes indeed. The "star" is the same, but the faces and some of the behaviors, and a lot of how the universe unfolds in this Star Trek is different. Everything that comes after it will be different as well, so its also like saying goodbye to Picard, Data, Sisco, Janeway, and the rest. It's a brand new Enterprise (literally true, since this starship's maiden voyage is to launch right into the action in this film) and a new universe that unfolds as the film progresses and by the end of the movie, I realized, as I imagine you will, that Star Trek will never be the same again. Maybe it'll even be better. The word is given. Warp speed.