Dir: J.J. Abrams
When I was in high school, I worked at a movie theater. About two months before the Kirk meets Picard debacle of Star Trek: Generations premiered, a fellow in a Federation jacket came inquiring whether he could purchase advance tickets. Back then, you couldn’t buy tickets until the day of the show. The internet had yet to proliferate to homes and credit card payment at the box office was not yet available. He then asked how early he should arrive to line up for tickets that day. We told him whenever he liked.
“I’ve been waiting a millennium for this!” he shouted, shaking his fist to the heavens as he exited the lobby.
I have racked my brain to find a way to review this re-launch of the venerable franchise by J.J. Abrams (Lost) without referencing previous incarnations, but it’s impossible. The fan base is too deep and the phenomena of Star Trek is too ingrained in our culture. I have friends, self-described Trekkies, who find this film about the genesis of the original Enterprise crew to be “a slap in the face.” As a non-fan, someone who dislikes The Next Generation, but enjoyed some of the original movies, did I like this newest Trek? Yes, I did. It’s entertaining, funny, exciting and sexy. Is it great art? No. But as a summer event movie, it entertained me for two solid hours and that’s okay with me.
While there is little plot to speak of (a renegade Romulan crew led by a histrionic Eric Bana is hell-bent on destroying Vulcan and Earth) it is the origin story of Kirk (the smarmy Chris Pine) and Spock (the vanilla Zachary Quinto) that makes up the bulk of the film. Sure, the other crew members are in there too, but it’s really the initial rivalry and eventual partnership that Abrams is more interested in showing us. Beginning with the moment of Kirk’s birth, Star Trek provides some humorous vignettes in the genesis of these characters that could have used some more fleshing out. While the other crew members are relegated mainly to punch lines (yes, you know what I’m talking about), we learn what drives Kirk and Spock to join the Starfleet Academy and how they come to command the Enterprise.
Throughout the film, I asked myself if this movie could have existed outside of the Star Trek universe and the answer is a resounding ‘no.’ Most of the film’s humor hinges on prior knowledge of the franchise and some of the biggest thrills come from meeting these much-loved characters’ youthful counterparts. But why the hell does Chekov have curly hair?
Taken from the point of view of a non-Trekkie, this new film is both a lot of fun and infectiously entertaining. Though Abrams maybe should have asked Tyler Perry and Winona Ryder to stay home, there is one cameo from the old crew (hint: it’s not DeForest Kelley or James Doohan) that adds not only gravitas but a certain nobility to the film. While anyone who has paid attention knows this actor makes an appearance, there is a startling moment towards the end that is touching and also an indicator of a torch being passed from one generation to another.
Certainly, as a romance is revealed and layers of time are stripped away, Star Trek will have purists hoping to push the film out of an airlock, but after so many pointless and boring television spin-offs, perhaps they will put the griping aside and see this film for what it is: genuine escapist entertainment that breathes new life into a franchise long adrift in the final frontier.