Tuesday, December 8, 2009

To Boldly Go and Reboot

First of all, we are not Trekkies. We are Trekkers. Second, we are very traditional - Original Series only. Third, the new Star Trek may be the best movie ever.

It starts with the birth of James T. Kirk, and the death of his father, a starship captain killed in by a mysterious Romulan ship. As a result, young Kirk grew up a troubled lad in Iowa, near the starship factory. He spots Uhura in a spacer cantina, gets in a fight and is recruited by Commander Pike, a friend of his dad's. Soon he is getting into trouble at Starfleet Academy, dogging Uhura, befriending a medical cadet called Bones McCoy, and being hazed by a half-Vulcan instructor named Spock.

Naturally, a terrible emergency has them all shipping out before graduation on the new NCC-1701, the Enterprise, under Cmdr. Pike, with Ensigns Sulu and Chekov. Saving the best for last, they come upon an irascible Scotsman on a mining station and draft him as engineer.

I'll leave out who else they run across. I was going to go all spoiler here, but I think I'll skip all that. I'll just say that they have a great excuse for anything that doesn't match the "bible" - the sum of all existing backstory. This could be the ultimate sacrilege. But it works!

The reason it works, in my opinion, is that they got the characters right. Kirk is an swaggering braggart who can back it all up with brains, skill and his fists. Bones is a cranky young country doctor, who thinks he's going to like Spock as soon as he meets him. Sulu gets to a swordfight. Chekov has almost no lines, and they are spoken in an accent the computer can barely understand.

Spock may be best of all. A Vulcan, he is ruled by logic and takes no heed of emotion. But he is also half human. My only objection is that Zachary Quinto looks a little goofy, with the bowl cut and funny eyebrows. But he also really gets into Spock's skin.

I didn't recognize many actors - they seem to come mostly from recent TV series. Simon Pegg as Scotty is a hoot, I wish we had seen more of him. John Cho's (Harold and Kumar's Harold) Sulu is played with a delicate touch. Sulu has always been a character that's a little deeper than he seemed and Cho got that across. But really, everybody was great. Eric Bana as the Romulan bad guy had maybe a weaker role than the good guys, but that's my biggest complaint.

So how does it compare to the rest of the movies? Look, when the Original Series movies were made, the actors were getting on. The movies had to accept them as aging, going through changes. The new Star Trek gives them their youth back and lets you see them in a new way, while acknowledging and honoring the myth.

And I saved the best for last - SPOILER - Leonard Nimoy.


mr. schprock said...

I like how it ends: they give a gazillion dollar, brand new starship to a kid who never graduated Starfleet Academy and basically tell him to ship out with a highly-trained, professional crew on a dream mission. I guess there were no more experienced, career officers left.

mr. schprock said...

This is something I read last night in "The Lovely Bones," by Alice Sebold, page 236: "It begged a central question. Where was I? Would I be mentioned? Brought up and discussed?"

She must have a Web site with an email link, Mr. Spenser. Set her straight! If you won't, I will.