Here’s a scenario for you: Each day you get up, you eat something, you check your favorite website, and you masturbate (maybe not to your favorite website, but no one would blame you for it). Then you go do whatever it is you do, you laugh, you cry, you live a life both anxious and boring. You probably masturbate again and check your favorite website again (I’ll leave the order of those two up to you) and you go to sleep, dreaming your dreams of a bright future.
And here’s a thought for you: Twenty years from now, or maybe less as the novelty wave winds down to zero, someone will come along and remake your life. Or reboot it. It will start again, only it’ll be better told, faster and sharper, more to the point and simpler to digest for the tastes of the particular audience it’s made for. And it’ll have a brand new cast, younger and sexier. Time to start thinking about who will someday inherit the role of you, right?
It’s a thought that occurred to me during a viewing of J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the Star Trek franchise on Friday afternoon, and I intend it only half as an editorial on the film itself, and half as a comment on the times we live in. It’s sad that people truly believe there’s “no more original stories left to be told.” To me, that notion is suicidal. Life is all one original story that’s as yet untold. Sure, sometimes history repeats, and sometimes things are built on and referenced back to, but new and different things happen all the time. It’s up to you to either shape them or be shaped by them.
But that’s a story for another time. The story at hand is the new Star Trek movie, directed by J. J. Abrams and written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman.
On one level, this is an incredibly fun movie. It’s fast paced and funny, sometimes very exciting, and looks absolutely gorgeous on the big screen. A perfect introduction to this brave new world for someone who’s never ventured there, which was certainly the film’s prime directive. There’s a ridiculously cool number of lens flares all over the picture, but it’s a treat of beauty, both in story, cast, and the majesty of special effects and high minded enthusiasm in exciting science fiction.
On another level, there’s a ridiculous story a la Superman Returns (why doesn’t Nero start off by going and destroying that fucking star pre-supernova somewhere in that quarter of a century that he’s got to himself, and mind you, that must be a really big supernova, but hey, whatever)(I’ll guess we’ll just classify this under the Whatever happened, happened category), and while the film succeeds in the fun and exciting-ness, it never really feels like any of the characters are in any real danger. And in the end, you’re left with the same feeling you had walking out of Batman Begins: “How, that was cool. Now I want to see an actual Star Trek film!”
In fact, there’s black holes all throughout this film, some in the story and some in the plot itself. Some interesting things come popping out of them, both in the story and plot, but some interesting things also get sucked right back into them.
On one hand it’s very clear that the filmmakers wanted to do a reboot without having to actually do a reboot. There’s a nice meta-moment as the characters discuss what’s going on in their lives and actual come to a realization that they’re in an “alternate reality,” which I found fascinating. The film kind of dabbles in homage (which is now an art form all of it’s own) to the nostalgia and tropes of the original incarnation of the franchise, but without quite inspiring some of it’s own or understanding it.
The want for adventure from the original version is definitely here, but not the desire for exploration (which is fine since they’re trying to get a new franchise off the ground) or the high minded adult science fiction loftiness. It matches the original’s space opera qualities so perfectly, but also matches it’s campiness uncannily. Just the mechanics of things involved would give you pause in a more serious setting and make you wonder how some of this bunch would inhabit the jobs and roles they have. For example: Chekhov, a 17 year old constantly being left in charge of this great big starship when the others go off to play? That’s very interesting.
The cast: Over all, not too bad. Zachary Quinto, of Heroes fame (is that show still on?), brings a certain sense of humanity to very important role of Spock here but loses a little of Leonard Nimoy’s authoritative stance, I feel. Chris Pine as Kirk is not so bad, essentially playing the Kirk here as what he’s written as: A farm boy shit kicker who throws himself into pyrrhic victories that are too big for him, and he often gets his ass handed to him or finds himself hanging off a ledge somewhere.
Anton Yelchin, who’s character is a ridiculously accented boy wonder, and Karl Urban are actually both pretty good at the homages they play to their predecessors while still doing something new and making their roles interesting. Zoe Saldana, looking gorgeous in her sexy military outfit that’s laughably military) gets to do more than her predecessor ever got to do with the role, even when she is basically left as the supportive girlfriend in the second half of the movie.
I mentioned his authoritative stance in the role, and Leonard Nimoy is a treat to have back on the screen, proving just what I mean. He’ll always be the character of Spock, here called “Spock Prime,” and Quinto will always be the second guy to play the role, no matter how comfortably his falls into it. But regardless of that, watching Nimoy’s scenes, you have to be grateful that they didn’t make the obvious mistake of bringing back Shatner.
Simon Pegg seems to have a ridiculous amount of fun in his role as Scotty, the miracle worker of an engineer, and John Cho is decent, not great nor terrible, as Sulu, the Japanese man here played by a Korean man who was always sadly meant merely as a stand in for all Asians in this space version of Wagon Train. And then there’s the cameos: Tyler Perry as the head of Starfleet, or at least Starfleet Academy (because I hope that Starfleet would have better things to worry about than some cheating cadet), Rachel Nichols as an Orion (slave) girl, Ben Cross as Sarek, Spock’s dad, and Winona Ryder, totally wasted as Spock’s human mother.
And then there’s Eric Bana, of course, as the underwritten yet slightly over the top villain with a grudge from the future, Nero. Good name but things don’t seem to really jibe with him. But really, he’s just the excuse to get things rolling, to get the ball in motion, as it were. And sadly, all Star Trek villains tend to be an afterthought.
I guess my hope coming out of this is for another Star Trek TV show, but a good one. A modern one that doesn’t always play it safe or by the same formula. Something with production values worthy of it and a certain seriousness attached. Not with these characters, mind you, but something new, and something where you can take the time to become friends with the characters since here, as with all Star Trek movies, you’re just getting a few key moments with the caricatures of characters you’ve always loved.
Either way, with the depths of unwatchability and lack of popularity this franchise has been sinking into in the past decade or so, this reboot was always inevitable. They tried a pretty similar “Academy years” type idea back in the early 90s and something similarly militaristic just a few years ago. But the best course of action possible was this one, handing the franchise to Abrams and his stable of writers, including the guys from Fringe and Damon Lindelof from Lost. Casual or non fans or not, these guys (Lindelof more so than Orci and Kurtzman, obviously) make smart fiction and don’t do anything lightly. And it’s nice that Abrams gets to redeem himself for a lot of the negative online comments thrown at him for his rough draft script for Superman: Flyby.
Long story short, this is a big dumb wonderful popcorn type flick and worth the viewing. It’s wonderful escapism and you should check it out and enjoy it. It will boldly take you where a lot of people have gone before, but it’ll do so in a fun way, showing you bright new things.