I got invited by my friend Anna to a special mystery movie screening last night. I was expecting some blah romcom, but it turned out to be the new Star Trek movie! The screening turned out to be a test screening to see how well Star Trek would go down well with a mainstream audience. (I suspect I may have skewed their demographics somewhat, being more fan than mainstream!)
Anyway, the short answer is that it’s quite good. It’s fast and exciting, although I think if they wanted to suck in mainstream audiences more, they should have opted for a straightforward, rousing space adventure rather than the plot they use which skirts the borders of fanwank.
The actors nail their characters well; some more in spirit rather than slavish portrayals of the original actors’ mannerisms. Zachary ‘Sylar’ Quinto stands out as Spock, although he lacks Nimoy’s voice. Karl Urban is dead-on as ‘Bones’ McCoy, even to the point of capturing the original actor’s little mannerisms – he’s not playing McCoy, he’s playing DeForrest Kelley playing McCoy. Chris Pine is playing more in ‘the spirit of Kirk’ – he’s playing a vigorous, rough-and-tumble character that I could easily accept as ‘Kirk’ without obsessing about him not being William Shatner. Plus he sleeps with a green alien chick. Scotty was being played as more Scottish than Scottish by Simon Pegg; certainly a fun character. Chekov and Sulu didn’t really stand out as being dramatically different from their predecessors for me (well, Chekov did have curly hair rather than straight.) Every character ‘did’ something or had a scene to make them stand out or contribute to the plot, which was enjoyable.
Uhura’s character has changed the most – she’s got more presence – mainly because she’s more assertive and is an uber-linguistics genius (I don’t know how that works in a universe that only speaks English, but there you go). My foggy memories of the original series have her just answering the phone on the Enterprise bridge.
I also liked the actor playing Kirk’s mentor, Christopher Pike. Erica Bana was okay as the villain (I still can’t take him seriously as a dramatic actor as I grew up watching Fast Forward/Full Frontal and the Eric Bana show) even though the Romulans now look like Nosferatu vampires.
Overall it was a pretty good movie – lots of action sequences, including some action sequences for the sake of action sequences, some dodgy science. There’s also lots of hidden Star Trek Easter eggs, for fans of the original series. There is a different ‘feel’ to the Stark Trek universe, so slavish fans of the original may not be entirely happen. There’s more ‘Star Wars’ quality aliens around, for one thing.
Some spoilers after the cut…
The plot revolves around a time travel loop. They want to reinvigorate the Star Trek franchise – and then they opt for a time travel plot – not the most accessible thing to start with! Let’s hope mainstream audiences remember Terminator, as that’s basically the core story of this. This movie had me at the StarFleet Academy scenes and Kirk signing up and at the scene at the bar. It feels a bit like it’s trying too hard to justify itself to existing or lapsed Trek fans, what with appearance of Old Spock (Leonard Nimoy) speaking to Kirk about ‘destiny’ and what not. I didn’t think it really needed that. Plus the movie is big into how the time loop creates a ‘new time line’. A new Star Trek continuity. It was cute how they justified the reboot within the boundaries of the story, but I don’t think it was all that necessary. You can just reboot without explaining things, like BSG did.
As I said previously, I had these thoughts because I was at a test screening aimed at mainstream audiences, and I kept thinking how these scenes might act as barriers to the mainstreamers. Unless they just want to focus on the action sequences, which were quite good, although some were silly when you think about it for too long. The Romulan ship has quite poor OH&S guidelines (no hand rails around a Pit of Doom) and the Enterprise escapes a black hole’s event horizon due to Scotty doing silly science – is this the end of the famed, rigid Star Trek technobabble, into something more creative and looser?
Also, for the SF series that spawned ‘slash’ fiction (you know, all those Kirk/Spock stories that women wrote in their 1970s fanzines, before fanfiction.net had evolved) well, this movie takes a sharp effort to end that, by placing Spock and Uhura in a relationship.
(I also was curious about how they would reboot TNG if they did the same way – but certainly, watching young Picard (with hair) drink tea and read about philosophy in his turtleneck sweater wouldn’t be the same as watching young Kirk hijack cars or get into bar brawls.)
Anyway, I had a fun time watching it and hope it does well enough to spawn a sequel or even a new TV series at the same level of quality as this production.