I fully expected the new Star Trek film to be drawn in the all the modern tropes we’ve come to expect from science-fiction.
Rebooted version of Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica have taken the routes of soapy, high-emotion spectacle or high allegorical paranoiac thriller respectively.
I’d guessed that Star Trek would adapt for the former, since Russell T Davies’ series has taken Buffy as a template, as have most sci-fi/fantasy shows since the 90s.
That given I expected an unlikely romance, some rather melodramatic character interactions, high emotion, some iconoclastic rule-changing, a spot of kookiness and a visual-friendly plot that didn’t make a lot of sense.
I suppose I got some of that right. On face value the plot is straight-forward and geared towards a crash-bang-wallop narrative, with a couple of detours for some exposition from Nimoy.
Eagle-eyed viewers may notice these scenes, which occur about two-thirds into the film, patiently and clearly explain that any Star Trek preceding this film: classic, Next Generation, DS9, Voyager, Enterprise, the entire film series – yes, even the animated series – are wiped away in a few lines. In the Star Trek universe, they no longer happened, or will happen.
This may infuriate fans, though it serves the purpose of essentially rebooting the franchise, allowing JJ Abrams to do pretty much anything he wants without insane Trekkies pointing out that it’s explicitly stated in I, Mudd that Vulcans have no genitalia, or some other ridiculous continuity.
Indeed, the film does feel like a reboot – it’s a real kick up the arse that was badly required following the cosiness of the last two Next Generation-based movies.
Having said that the film gives some nods to the campery and sense of fun of the classic series, while some of the performances near pastiche and, in the case of Zachary Quinto, near pitch-perfect imitation.
Chris Pine as Kirk and Karl Urban as McCoy get it just right, with enough nods to Shatner and Kelley to make their performances work in the shadow of their originators, while making it their own.
Anton Yelchin as Chekov and a particularly odd Simon Pegg as Scotty are there purely as comic relief. While Yelchin does a good job taking off Walter Koenig’s absurd ‘Russian’ accent, Pegg’s performance is basically Simon Pegg doing Billy Connolly. Scotty has also gained a cute pet.
Despite some token efforts at making something out of Uhura and Sulu, they bear little resemblance to their original counterparts in character or appearance.
Meanwhile, in other geeky news, Start Trek will do nothing to dampen the Spock/Kirk slash fiction fantasy of them as lovers, given the manly fights, lingering looks and homo-erotic dialogue.
There’s also some predictable emoting, in this instance an unlikely romance between Uhura and Spock that never feels less than crowbarred, and the sight of Young Kirk driving a convertible off a cliff to the sound of the Beastie Boys and some really horrible Nokia product placement is likely to make viewers retch.
Still, as a film for the generic audience, Star Trek can’t fail to be a hit. It is fun, exciting and occasionally funny and it’s fascinating to see the characters recreated, albeit to varying levels of success.
Is it a good Star Trek film? That’s for others, for whom these sort of things are much more important, to judge. But although it was nice to see Nimoy back, and the film treat the source material with respect, it struck me as a fairly generic space opera film.
The bastardised version of the original theme tune – an absurdly over-the-top piece of campery – didn’t sit right with me. It was something rather unique and of its time that couldn’t stand the translation to something new.
It’d be tempting to draw the wider comparison, but your girlfriend, wife, friends or kids simply won’t care less. It’s simply good, clean fun – Star Trek has moved on.