With two kids now, finding time to go out to watch a movie is only a great challenge. Given that Angela is a long-time Trekker and that this was Mother’s day weekend, we really wanted to get out to see the new movie. We’re also big Lost fans and had really high hopes for this film.
I should point out that Angela is a big fan of Next Generation in particular. That was what she grew up on whereas my first experience with Star Trek was the animated series on Nickelodeon. I was probably always more of a Star Wars fan, myself, but we’ve come to embrace one another’s different nerd heritages in our years together. I’ve been to a Star Trek convention before with Angela and her cousin, Jonathan; and we’ve gone to see the recent films with TNG cast together. So of some of the big hit films this summer, we really were glad that we could orchestrate an afternoon of Star Trek together.
You Don’t Have to be a Fan
I honestly have no idea if JJ Abrams, et al are huge fans of Star Trek or not. It would certainly seem so but, more to the point, they are excellent story tellers. What this latest movie is is a high-action, emotional, brilliantly told story. While it most essentially boils down to a buddy-film, it really draws on loads of story elements. A favorite element of mine was that the crew of the Enterprise as we have known them are really a bunch of second-string misfits; either with authority issues or personal conflicts that would prevent them from rising to the top on their own. However, when put together their oddities feed off one another. Each character is introduced to us one at a time as the film progresses. Therefore, what started as a buddy flick about two guys now consists of a ensemble, each the audience has a special connection with. The writers knew better than to bring in more than a half-dozen characters all at once and assume the audience would just recognize them.
I had read enough on Zachory Quinto’s desire to play Spock that I had really focused my excitement on that character. I hadn’t really given more than a passing thought to Karl Urban as Bones (“Oh, he was in LotR, right?”). As it turns out, he was excellent at Dr. McCoy. The rest of the cast did not disappoint, either. No one hammed up their roles. Instead, the actors all seemed to get the essence of the characters without resorting to just doing impressions of the actors from decades ago.
Being a Fan Doesn’t Hurt
There were plenty of references to the finer points of the Star Trek universe, though. From all the little bits like props that matched much of the style of the original series, to sound effects and music laden with heavy brass, to those wonderful prequel moments of ‘oh that’s how that came about!’ It’s those latter elements that are always the funnest for the fans, I think. They feed our sense of nostalgia for our youth and our (not always) guilty love of pop culture. With a history as long as Star Trek, a film like this could have easily begun to drown in them. However, the writers and director reached what felt like a perfect balance here. Enough of these little memory joggers to bring smiles to a fan’s face but not so many as to keep the general audience feeling their missing the joke.
So much of this film was a balancing act that is really remarkable that it plays as well as it does to such a wide audience. You wouldn’t need to have any more knowledge of Star Trek than simply having grown up in the Western hemisphere to appreciate some of the lines and visuals. Even if you weren’t a fan at all, you could appreciate some of those enough to enjoy them. And there is plenty of plain old damn-good-story to enjoy the movie even if you wouldn’t get those bits. You don’t have to appreciate any of it to understand sacrificing your life to save crew and family or to seek approval and acceptance. These plot fundamentals are what too many of the Star Trek films lacked in an effort to make them solidly Star Trek. Like all great science fiction, the best parts of the story have nothing to do with science fiction.
More to Come? I Hope So.
I am convinced this will be one of the top movies of the summer (and therefore, the entire year). Though this film succeeds at what Enterprise tried but ultimately couldn’t do: provide both those prequel moments while also giving a sexy, sleek new edge to what it means to be Star Trek. Many films that attempt to re-envision, re-boot, or regurgitate stories just to so with no reason for existing other than the obvious money grab. This film — much to our delight — stands on its own. Further, in so far as the story line goes it is a literal re-boot. It ends with an alternate, parallel universe as a result of the events of the film For once, time travel in Star Trek actually results in things unpredictably changing. It’s hard to argue when the most impossible part of the story actually results in a logical outcome. This certainly leaves us with some likely sequels to this prequel that aren’t the previous films. Okay, when I put it like that it still sounds like a money grab. But at least this one was enjoyable!
I can watch a lot of films more than once, but this one I could have bought another ticket for as soon as I walked out. Angela — who never likes to watch films twice; at least not in the theater — said she would love to go back again. I honestly can’t say much more than that. It really is just that much fun.