May 16, 2013
With the new film, “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” on our doorstep, it seems like a good time to recall the movie experience that began this incarnation of Trek. In “Star Trek” (2009), aside from the new creative team headed by JJ Abrams, we also were treated to a new generation of young actors reinventing the characters that made the original “Star Trek” such a rich, vibrant epic. More, the new film’s story carried with it both the familiar and the new, with these beloved characters shunted to an alternate timeline and freed from historical canon long accepted by the fans. Since most of you likely will have already seen this film, this commentary will be a very personal remembrance. Please feel free to comment below about your memories. The first time I saw this “Star Trek,” I was awed by the bombast and f/x. The urgency of the story left me breathless by the end of the film. And the destruction of Vulcan… wow. It was something I would have never believed possible, and, frankly, I doubt it would have been even discussed if Gene Roddenberry had still been in control of Trek. I’m not sure how it will play out over the course of a series of films, but I do salute the sheer guts it took to make the decision. Vulcan has always been the second most beloved planet in all of the Federation for most fans (the fave being Earth, of course), and being the homeworld of the most beloved character, Spock, surely didn’t hurt. I can’t really say I loved them destroying Vulcan, but I did love them doing something so unexpected and out of what I thought was even possible. This kind of creativity bodes well for the new storyline. I also loved the new actors, for the most part. While Karl Urban’s portrayal of Leonard “Bones” McCoy was the most spot-on, all of the new actors did an excellent job. Chris Pine’s James T. Kirk grew on me as the film progressed. I didn’t think much of him at first. Our new Spock, Zachary Quinto, was near-perfect, his portrayal made a little better if we remember he was playing the Spock from around the time of “The Cage,” the original pilot. There was a Spock who smiled and expressed all-too-human emotion on various occasions. My only real character complaint—and this has nothing to do with the portrayal—would be with Chekov, who couldn’t have been more than 10 years old at the time of this film. Simon Pegg’s Scotty was… hilarious. Pegg looks nothing like the original article, but he captured the fun and “mad scientist” verve of James Doohan’s version. While I enjoyed the new film immensely, it wasn’t perfect. First, there was no story. There was lots of action but no real, solid story. Funny thing is that “Star Trek,” which is hopefully the new start of a long-running Trek movie series, is the polar opposite of the original beginning for thefranchise on the big-screen, Star Trek: The Motion(less) Picture. ST:TMP was all thought with no action whereas ST (2009) was all action with no thought. So many things in the new film just don’t make any logical sense: the relative ages of the crew, the Federation knowing Romulan language and ship design and there being a supernova that destroys half the galaxy, chief among them. Many people would add Uhura and Spock’s relationship in there as well, and I can understand that to a point. The place where this lack of logical underpinning and story cohesion is most noticeable, however, is in the novelization. I have read every novelization for every Star Trek film, and this was easily the worst of the lot. A film can hide story shortcomings with action, a book cannot. I am hopeful this next film has a little more to think about.