Just saw “Star Trek” and it was amazingly well done

Had to share my thoughts as a sci-fi fan but one that’s open to all of them (not just a Trekkie/Trekker). I am first and foremost a movie fan and for sci-fi-Doctor Who is king. But like many people approaching 40, Star Wars was our first sci-fi experience/love. Unfortunately the new trilogy stabbed this fanboy in the heart and killed the joy/love I felt when I was 7 and saw the first Star Wars film in theaters about a dozen times in 1977.

I discovered Doctor Who in 83 or 84 and was hooked. Star Trek not so much. I was born after the series had left the air and though I saw the occasional re-run, didn’t really get into it. I didn’t see “Star Trek-the Motion Picture” but I did see “Star Trek 2-The Wrath of Khan” and the subsequent films through “Star Trek: Nemesis.” Next Generation-started to watch, didn’t get into it, came back later and saw the last few years which I really enjoyed. DS9-didn’t watch-still have only seen a few. Voyager-you’re reading a blog post by someone who really liked that show despite its flaw and watched every episode for its entire 7 year run. I eventually caught up on TNG and then even gave “Enterprise” a try-but gave up after a year or so. I’ve since seen most of it. I think it was deeply flawed but a passionate work by that cast who really were into what they were doing.

So bottom line-I’m not a diehard Star Trek fan specifically but definitely a sci-fi/fantasy lover and really enjoy time travel that’s done well. Which leads me into my take on the new JJ Abrahms film “Star Trek.” I loved it. It was one of the better films I’ve seen in some time, one of the best sci-fi films I’ve seen in a long time (compare this to any of the new Star Wars trilogy-note to George Lucas-watch this and take notes-it’s HUMANS interacting in a good story not CGI that makes great sci-fi you bantha fodder…but I digress), and a great time at the movies.

It’s smartly written, funny, dark, very emotional and actually quite sad. The action is fast-paced and near constant for the entire film after some brief backstory flashback sequences. I won’t do any spoilers because I hate than-just go see it. My following comments are spoiler free reactions. If you’re a fanboy and upset about timelines and “continuity”-get over it-Star Trek has never been faithful to itself with various episodes/series/movies playing footloose and fancy free with prior “established” chronology.

The story was close to what I’d heard it was about, but I’m glad I stopped reading about it and was essentially incorrect in the focus of the plot so it was fresh. The story itself is (like many Star Trek episodes) a reworking of a prior Star Trek storyline. I haven’t read reviews to avoid spoiling the film, but I’m willing to bet that once I do I won’t see any reviewer noting the source of this storyline. The source is the 2part Star Trek: Voyager episode called “Future’s End”. In that story, someone from the future has witnessed something horrific, believes Voyager was somehow responsible and travels back in time to destroy Voyager and its crew to alter history and prevent this from happening “again.” I didn’t ruin this movie for you because they have done something different with that plot thread entirely, but it’s heart is there in the background.

If I was to quibble, I could note that Voyager introduced and showed a few times in “Future’s End” and other episode a very future Federation that included a “time cop agency” of sorts that monitored people traveling and time to avoid paradoxes and such. Later episodes of Voyager involved future crew members traveling back to alter time to save Voyager from future calamity or to get home sooner and this agency wasn’t mentioned. They disappeared in fact from Trek only to re-appear in “Enterprise” which involved as I recall a lot of interference in the past by a future villain trying to alter history and an agency trying to help Cpt. Archer stop them. I didn’t see enough of that show to know what the resolution was, but when you talk about continuity issues, this movie would seem to be an “oops” in that the future time cops don’t appear and try and stop people or help. But then that would be introducing more complications into a movie already full of black holes/singularities, paradoxes, etc. and in this case the time travel isn’t intentional but an accident. And as a re-boot trying to appeal to the masses that would really be pushing it for non-Trek fans. As with Russell T. Davies reboot of Doctor Who in 2005-now, there are elements that make more sense if you know the show’s history, but if you don’t it’s a great enjoyable film.

There are a ton of very subtle references to the classic Star Trek show and even a very short exchange about transporting Admiral Archer’s beagle which will pass over most viewer’s heads but is obviously a reference to an unseen old formerly Cpt. Archer (Scott Bakula) of “Enterprise” and his beagle Porthos. The others include someone dying in a red uniform (an allusion to the old show when “red suit”=away team member most likely to die on away missions, Kirk being from Iowa, Cpt. Pike (who was in the pilot for the original show before it was redone as Kirk at the helm and then referenced later in the two part “Cage” episode with footage from the pilot used as flashbacks)-here he’s played by the ever excellent/underused Bruce Greenwood, the Kobyashi Maru test, etc.

Time travel is used (frequent in Star Trek) and this time they have the cajones to see it through to its end without the usual “saved at the last second” stuff we typically see in Hollywood movies. A lot of things change, things get dark, they’re never dull for a minute and it’s a great ride. Star Trek is cool again. The Enterprise (the original NCC-1701) last seen being blown up in “Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock” is back and kicking space ass. Simon Pegg is hilarious as Scotty and the rest of the cast brings new life/direction into roles you’ve known for years. It’s core (the triangle “bromance” of Kirk/Spock/Bones) is there as well as people/aliens working together to bring harmony is a lot like our country now-coming together in a new direction (note to JJ-didn’t miss the not so subtle allusion to water boarding on the Romulan ship).

The is not only great in terms of the quality of their acting, but I liked that for the most part they didn’t try and imitate their predecessors. In particular, it would have been easy for Chris Pine (I’d only had seen in “Smoking Aces”) to imitate the now cliche William Shatner overly expressively mode of acting (which to be honest wasn’t going on in early Trek the show more later on in the movies) but he doesn’t. He plays a young Kirk very well and really steals the show. Zachary Quinto of “Heroes” seems to have born to play a young Spock. Pegg is doing is own take on Scotty and it’s hilarious. The only one I thought was the most looking like an attempted caricature and might have been trying to hard to emulate the source was Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy, but only in some of the scenes and he was excellent overall (finally know the nickname of “Bones”). I’d never seen Zoe Saldana (Uhura) before but one word-WOW-just gorgeous and great in that character.

This film obviously cost a lot but you see every penny on the screen. Sets and F/X are amazingly well done. Everything is shot so beautifully it’s really a visual masterpiece. Early scenes on Iowa have these big buildings in the background and they’re obscured by fog. Abrahms lets things blend and the F/X people outdid themselves. Unlike some sci-fi where the CGI overwhelms the viewer-it’s much better here.

Go see it-man or woman, sci-fi geek or casual “recreational” viewer, trekkie/trekker or not. If you enjoy great action, smart writing, great acting and being caught up and caring about a group you can’t do much better than “Star Trek.”

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