I saw the new Star Trek movie last week. Just the way I like it, at a 10:30 AM showing, with 2 other people in the theatre. It's directed by J.J. Abrams, the same guy who created 'Fringe', and there's some crossover in the themes of the movie and the TV show. Leonard Nimoy was even in the closing episode of this season's 'Fringe', and there's a similarity in the "different worlds" theme in both, though in Fringe it's "alternate realities" while in Star Trek it's time travel.
I'm not a Star Trek fanatic, but I've done my share of Trek-watching, going back to the original series, which I'm old enough to have seen when it first aired. All through the years, I've happily watched reruns, and I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation quite faithfully through most of its seasons. I've seen some of the movies, but not all - I think I've managed to catch about every other one. Now that we have a HD TV, it's a little unnerving to watch the original series on it. Some things are great - faces and facial expressions are clear, and there's a crispness to all the straight-edged, streamlined sets that gives it a real "now we are in outer space" feel. On the other hand, it's all too clear now that the show was really built on a shoestring budget! The fabrics look terribly sleazy, the high-tech devices like phasers look like electric shavers, the dashboards look like cardboard panels with a few coloured lights inserted in them. Those "charts" on the walls of the bridge of the Enterprise are just photocopied pictures of vaguely scientific-looking stars and angles. One even has a ripple in it! We couldn't see any of that on our old fuzzy 1960s TVs, many of which were in black and white anyway. And William Shatner, though he looks very handsome, can be OVERPOWERING in his acting, especially when it's coming through that clear. Last week I saw the one where he encounters Americans of the future, reduced to savagery after a ruinous war with the Communists (the Yangs versus the Comms). When he reads and emotes through the preamble to the Constitution, holy moley! It's so over the top, it's almost impossible to bear! I never found it that way in the past, because it was filtered a bit through a less-than-perfect TV screen.
Anyway, back to the movie. I thought they did a good job for the most part of recreating these familiar characters as youngsters. Kirk was great, so were Spock and McCoy, though I didn't think we needed an explanation for how he got the nickname "Bones" - I always took it to be humorous old slang for a doctor: Sawbones. Sulu was also terrific - I loved the way his "combat training" consisted of fencing. Chekhov was a little young for my taste, and why did they make him blond and curly-haired? He had straight dark hair, originally. Scotty was just weird, nothing like the original, but one out of such a large number wasn't too hard to accept. I just figured that in THIS reality, Scotty came out completely different. The villain didn't seem much like a Romulan to me, either. He looked like a nasty British soccer hooligan. The Romulans were a militaristic people, and there should have been more discipline and order. I know he wasn't a soldier, but either the military ethic permeated the whole society, and he'd have run his revenge operation in a more military way, or it only affected the military caste of the planet - in which case, why was this guy adopting the whole honor/revenge thing? Logically, he'd be hopelessly at sea when it came to conducting a military campaign against Star Fleet, but he's as effective as a futuristic Attila the Hun. And what was with his "ship"? It looked like a grossly magnified dust mite. How the heck was a "mining ship" converted into such an effective warship?
Spock had a few moments when I thought that he was acting contrary to character - marooning Kirk on a nearby planet, an action that would have likely caused his death? What was wrong with the brig on the Enterprise? Spock wouldn't have overreacted like that, though maybe they wanted to show that he was unable to handle the stress of his situation. But nothing can explain his ABANDONING HIS COMMAND moments after he'd been given responsibility for the Enterprise, in order to run down to the surface of Vulcan to rescue his family. Spock just wouldn't do that, not even to rescue his parents. It was odd that the Enterprise seemed to be entirely staffed by 18-year old cadets, plus Captain Pike - where were the senior officers? Everyone on the bridge was straight out of the classroom, and I think they ALL got a chance to command the Enterprise at some point or another. Surely some of the teachers at the Academy would have been pressed into service before Starfleet was driven to man a brand-new starship with teenagers.
Still, there are minor complaints. Considering that they were making an "alternate reality" Star Trek, they stayed very faithful to the original in the most important things. They COULD have just said that this was a new Star Trek, and changed everything, but they didn't. This is quite acceptable as Star Trek. There were only a few things I found hard to absorb, and that's purely due to force of habit: when Spock's mother died, I kept thinking, "But she has that scene where she complains about 'Logic, logic, logic!'" and then I'd have to think, "Oh, yeah...I guess that never happened, because she dies here." "And the Pon Farr episode on Vulcan - how do they...oh yeah, there IS no Vulcan anymore. No Pon Farr, no T'Pau...it never happens." Well, they are going to resettle the remaining Vulcans somewhere else, so perhaps the society will be able to recreate itself somehow, and this will be taken care of in another storyline. On the bright side, I thought if this is a different reality Star Trek, then maybe there will never be a Wesley Crusher!
There was only one thing which I felt failed - the closing credits featured the original Star Trek theme music, and I thought it was completely out of place. It wasn't the voiceover part: Bing...Bong...Bing...Bong...Space - the final frontier...
Dah-dah-DAAAAA... That was alright. It was the fast-paced, full-orchestra theme that began after "where no man has gone before" - the full theme. In this movie it just sounded so '60s. I swear, I could hear bongo drums in there somewhere. I never feel it's dated when I hear it on the original series, but here it didn't belong. I felt "That was MY Star Trek; this is a new one. It has to have a new theme."