Thursday, May 14, 2009

Star Trek

I have a confession to make: I really never got into Star Trek before. Further, I have tried to care about it, but just couldn't. I watched the more recent movies when I had the chance, and saw some of the television series when it happened to be on... I've kept an open mind to the whole franchise and allowed it several opportunities to reel me in, but each experience with Star Trek has left me cold and extremely apathetic, mystified as to why a dwindling handful of extremely vocal nerds* continue to invest their interest in this dead fish.

Apparently I'm not the only one that was thinking along these lines. Seven years after the release of the last worn out charade of a movie, they've finally decided to come out with a shiny new one-- a much needed new beginning rather than a sequel-- refreshingly titled Star Trek.

It was clear from the first trailer that this is the movie that people like me have been waiting for-- an entry level Star Trek movie where newbies like myself wouldn't be punished for not knowing anything. It gives a proper introduction to characters like Kirk, Spock, Scotty, Sulu-- characters that feel just vaguely familiar, though I've previously only come to know them by reputation through their catchphrases, cliches, and pop culture references.

The story involves some time travel, a convenient device to free this new series (and it will become a new series, no doubt) from the constraints of continuity with the old Star Trek stories. Time travel is something I'd usually prefer to be used as an absolute last resort in a story, since it has the potential to make everything ridiculous. The dimension of time, far more than mere space, becomes the final frontier once it is introduced. That's why it's so irritating that the time travel concept is introduced in the third Harry Potter book and never used again. But in this case it's absolutely appropriate and necessary to give the series the big sweep it needs while technically staying in the same universe (multiverse?).

While watching it I came to realize that this is the kind of movie I would have wanted the Star Wars prequels to be. Much more energy, much more fun, and not reliant on past glory to lift it to importance. Intentional or not, a few scenes felt like a direct homage to Star Wars, like the medal awarding ceremony at the end, or Kirk lost in the snows of the ice planet.

The movie is not without it's flaws: My mind tuned out a few times during some moments of impenetrable spaceflight jargon, and the romance angle between Uhura and Spock is one of the most tacked-on love stories of anything ever. I have heard some other complaints, especially from Star Trek fans, nitpicking about this or that or whatever little plot points that no one gives a crap about, but don't listen to them. This was a good movie and if you don't think so you must be daft.

As I made my way out of the theater after the screening, I overheard a foreigner guy telling his girlfriend about how the movie changed things from the originals. Of course, I have no memory or emotional investment in the old stuff so I couldn't know what he was talking about-- but then I realized that whatever the hell this dude is talking about no longer matters, and that this glorious series reboot has sufficiently served its purpose.

* Don't be offended, you know it's true

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