I am a total nerd for Star Trek. There, I said it and I’m not ashamed of it. I’ve loved every incarnation of Star Trek since I was a little pup and even the crappy ones are enjoyable on some level. (I also love Star Wars and don’t believe in all that “You’re either a Star Wars fan or a Star Trek fan” bollocks. I dig them both equally.)
So I was full of nerdy excitement and trepidation about this new movie. They planned to reboot the entire franchise and start the story anew, from James T Kirk’s first days in the Academy. Could they pull it off? Would they make the equivalent of a Christopher Nolan Batman or a Joel Schumacher Batman? Well, given that J J Abrams was at the helm I had high hopes. And man, was I rewarded. I went to see this film last night and I loved it.
I was moaning here last week about the new Wolverine movie and what a wasted opportunity that was; how they sacrificed decent storytelling for spectacle. The new Star Trek is a perfect example of having incredible spectacle and brilliant storytelling.
The story begins with a confrontation between a Federation vessel and Romulan vessel at some kind of space anomaly (it’s Star Trek – it has to have anomalies). The Federation vessel is destroyed, but not before the captain, George Kirk, sacrifices himself to save his crew, including his wife and newborn son. Young Kirk grows up with incredible aptitude but a rebelious streak and has to be convinced to join Star Fleet Academy. He is convinced, by Captain Christopher Pike, and off he goes, excelling all over the place. The inclusion of Captain Pike is just one of many homages to the Star Treks that have gone before (Pike was the captain of the Enterprise in the pilot episode of the original Star Trek TV series). This is the opening of the story very much in a nutshell.
As the plot progresses, the Romulans present a very present threat to Vulcan. With most of the Fleet engaged elsewhere, the cadets have to suit up and join a fleet responding to the Vulcan distress signal. This very cleverly gets all our key youngsters onto the Enterprise under Captain Pike.
The story develops rapidly, but solidly. I’m not going to go into the story too much here as it’s very complicated to explain. It does, however, come across brilliantly in the film and there’s no lack of spectacle along the way. This is a great example of a massive budget movie, packed with special effects, that doesn’t sacrifice story. Or, worse still, think it doesn’t need story because it looks so good. Yeah, I’m looking at you, Wolverine.
Not only does the story deal really well with a time travel paradox, it also reboots the franchise by actively restarting the lives of everyone in the Federation. All that Star Trek that we’ve seen and loved still happened, in an alternate universe. This new franchise is a new branch of reality. Bravo J J Abrams, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (director and writers). They’ve presented a movie that was brilliant in every way, and very clever.
The characters and actors all did great jobs, the visuals were stunning and the sound was incredible. Yeah, I’m gushing. But that’s because I’m so often disappointed with lacklustre movies that a really good one gets me all excited. (Not as excited as the row of Trekkies in front of me, mind you. When Leonard “Bones” McCoy said, “Dammit, I’m a doctor, not a physicist!” they all nearly nerdgasmed to death. But really, who can blame them?)
Of course, there were some issues that came up for me:
There was no real explanation of the Red Matter causing all the trouble. Perhaps it’s something from a previous Star Trek that I’m not aware of, but it certainly is some powerful JuJu. It would have been nice to know more about it, but it didn’t really upset the story to not know.
Another thing was Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott. Always a fan favourite and played in the movie by Simon Pegg, one of my all time favourite people. I really hoped that he would play it straight. Scotty is called Scotty because his surname is Scott – he doesn’t have to be Scottish. James Doohan’s awful Scottish accent in the original series was comical really and I hoped they’d do away with it here. But no, poor old Simon Pegg had to play the part with a Scottish accent. To be fair, he actually did a pretty good job of it. It slipped sometimes, but when it was there it was good. (And in a nerdy coincidence, anyone that’s read the Garth Ennis graphic novels The Boys will know that the character of Wee Hughie in the comic is based on Simon Pegg and drawn looking exactly like Simon Pegg. Except that Wee Hughie is Scottish. So to see Simon Pegg last night doing a Scottish accent had me all Simon Pegg-Montgomery Scott-Wee Hughie confused!)
The other slightly unconvincing part of the story was James T Kirk’s meteoric rise, Cadet to Captain of the newest Starship in three years. But this is the story of the genesis of a legend, and that’s the kind of history legends tend to have.
J J Abrams credited his audience with enough intelligence to understand a complicated story that wasn’t laid out for them like a school picnic. That is becoming ever more rare in Hollywood and it heartens me to see that it’s not yet dead. This was a great movie and I hope that Abrams makes more. I also hope that more Hollywood writers and directors take their cue from people like Abrams and Chris Nolan and start turning out more quality movies.