Between Dimensions: Star Trek is Ours (An Intergenerational Rant)

betweendimensionstrek

This new Star Trek movie. It’s not real. I mean it’s not the real Star Trek. You see, my generation (the boomers if you need to know) owns Star Trek. We saw it first. We saved it from cancellation. And we kept it alive for 79 episodes and six films. So make no mistake. We own it. It’s encrypted with our generational genes. And we never gave it away. We like it the way it is. Don’t even think about doing a tribute movie. We’re the ones who preserved Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and the crew in amber. And so they cannot be re-imagined, re-invented, re-vivified, or re-interpreted. They can only be rerun.

If you accept the above, then it represents a formidable barrier for any moviemaker to overcome. J.J. Abrams appears to have done it. He gave us a head fake (he said he’s a fan) then backed-up one screen generation in order to appeal to the Gen-X and –Ys that he hoped would fill the theatre. As they say in our national sport, he found a shooting lane and scored. Admittedly not without some awkwardness but in spirit and tone he has put us owners on notice. He has found more creative juice within the original idea and it informs almost every scene we see.

At its best, this Star Trek is all about its characters. Its actors and script find moments of magic where they evoke the original character’s sensibilities and relationships but do it with freshness and conviction. It is most apparent in the early exchanges between Bones and Kirk. You know you’ve enjoyed the moment before but you’re feeling it like the first time. It is not plagiarism masquerading as tribute. It is a creative idea that continues to spin off enchantment.

The plot is nothing special – default space-opera. A super nova destroys Romulus and turns the Romulan Nero into a rogue raider bent on revenge (pirates anyone?). Since Spock Prime (the original) had failed to stop the destruction of Romulus, Nero goes after him and the Vulcan planet. Throw in some red matter to seed black holes, some time travel to weasel the audience into going along with the plot, and the new buddies Kirk and Spock working out their joint karma while stopping Nero and you have an enjoyable action film where characters count. (Bonus feature: no one says “Go go go!” in spite of some obvious opportunities. I like this future.)

The ambience is good – not Blade Runner level – but it’s easy to feel you are inhabiting the future. The Enterprise bridge looks purposeful and optimistic. If you’re a Romulan however, your order to terminate all interior designers has worked. Their death ship is a morass of evilly lit construction sites, underground tunnels, and half-submerged torture chambers. Their planet-killer is an ingenious space drill with a stratospheric platform that provides a setting for an on-the-edge action sequence that is breathtaking. Even the gestation of the black hole has some quantum moments for collider fans everywhere.

The bad notes are minor and quite ignorable. Kirk’s tendency to womanize is overplayed in the early scenes and pretty much disappears as the movie progresses. Spock on the other hand breaks half a dozen rules in the Federation manual (let alone the Star Trek ethos). Shock value I suppose but it goes nowhere and doesn’t really add to the movie. The new cast performs fairly well. Chris Pine as Kirk seems physically miscast but then has his moments with Bones and Spock. Zach Quinto looks and acts like a young Spock seeking his destiny. Most of the supporting characters participate adequately although Simon Pegg as Scotty seems a bit contrived.

What really makes the movie work is J.J. Abrams riffing on the original’s central theme – the intellect vs. the heart – in as accomplished a manner as Roddenberry. Because of it, the audience engages with the main characters and is rewarded with those shivers of déjà vu squared previously mentioned.

I can hardly wait for the sequel where Kirk learns …to…speak…with that dis…tinctive…style. It happens in the Enterprise lounge. Kirk is eavesdropping on a midshipman who has 3 female colleagues listening attentively. The midshipman speaks with words joined in a way that was never meant to be. In the next scene, Kirk is in the Captain’s Chair, explaining to Spock – with his new buckboard syntax – why instinct rules. As Kirk conveys the inevitable “go with the flow” conclusion, Spock just gives him that stare. It says, “I know why a star goes supernova but I just can’t figure this dude out”.

That moment (and others like it) will be worth the loaning of our treasured Star Trek to J.J. Abrams a few more times. He has threaded the needle by finding a way to leave Kirk and Spock intact in younger shells. I’m not sure the new ones foretell the richness of the originals – the younger generation always seems a little shallow and superficial to the older one. Kirk and Spock may earn their amber or not. But for now, we have a real alternative to the reruns.

SCORE: 3.5 stars



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  • Ian

    Nice review though I don’t know if Roddenberry and all of his “humanism” would have liked the ending where they take the petulant Nero at his word say “okay” and torpedo his ass to death. I liked that part. It seems Abrams is also borrowing from more recent, darker stuff, in scenes like this. Reminds me more of Firefly than boring old, diplomacy with moderate action Star Trek.

  • DUTCHESS

    I think it’s great that they have found new,younger actors to carry on Gene Roddenberrys legacy of “STAR TREK” As much as we love Spock & Kirk they are getting too mature to handle the rough action scenes…

  • Rick

    Yes indeed, star trek was saved by your baby boomebers and immortalized. You got to realize though that star trek was about to die. i mean who honestly watches enterprize. they are not trying to steal the thunder from the original but re-vamp it for todays audience. but star trek does not belong to any one generation but all who wish to enjoy, and love and live in the amazing world of star trek. This was a great movie and will probably bring star trek back once again. so get over yourself.

  • Lancelot

    IMO,
    Gene Roddenberry would be rolling over in his grave if he were to have seen this film 9Considering He is in space maybe in his space capsule.
    Although it uses the characters of Star Trek, it is by far from being a Star Trek Movie, or even TV series.
    Yes it shows the development of each of the crew, but then I think it also goes against some of the history of the series as well.

    I was very disappointed!!

    Save your money, or give it to some homeless person you’ll feel much better then walking out of the theater after viewing this film.

  • Ian

    I think this is a good review. People may differ in opinions about specifics (hell movies are subjective to many degrees) but if you didn’t read past the first paragraph then you probably shouldn’t post a comment.

  • Like everyone else I loved this movie. It lifted Star Trek out of it’s rotting sinkhole of nostalgia.

    Lx

  • Carey

    I grew up with the original, really came to like Next Gen but, couldn’t get into the others…suffered thru the disappointment of ST the Movie like everyone else before Wrath probably saved the franchise.

    This one is the best one yet! Absent is the moralizing and overt social preachiness that was meant to inspire but too often just got in its own way. Preserved is just enough philosophizing to reveal the nature of the characters and what they would become. This is easily a first rate stand alone action film for the uninitiated (or should I say uninfected) but the tie in with original characters is brilliantly done…understated and with a subtlty of humor and sophistication I think Roddenberry would have admired. Sure they take a couple of liberties that don’t match original story backgrounds and invented a couple key characters’ relationship, but I can live with it. I predict this will start the whole thing over again for this generation and their progeny. More movies for sure, but a new TV series?…perhaps. This film feels like a gift from the “original’s” generation to this one to enjoy, absorb and perpetuate. Now they get to see what all the fuss was about, why the characters became iconic, and why it would become arguably one of the most influential TV series in our history, certainly on pop culture. Who knows, like baseball fans who pass down the love of the national pastime to the next generation, perhaps this Star Trek film will do help do likewise in its own right.

    The torch is passed, live long and prosper.

  • 1138

    I wish people would not present the Star Trek past as a “Barrier” for enjoying this movie. It seems to be some sort of accepted fact that if you were a Trekkie or Tekker you wouldn’t like this movie because you were clinging to notions long held dear and forever unchangeable.

    Let me dispel these assumptions. I am a Trekkie or Trekker, perhaps not a diehard for I cannot quote the stardates for any episode, but I do hold the TOS series and characters close to my heart. Shatner, Nimoy, Doohan, Takei, Kelly and the rest of the cast will always be associated with their Trek creations. But that does not deter me from accepting others in these roles. Living through reboots such as Batman, Bond and BSG and seeing them done so well that the door for reboots is not only acceptable but welcome. I love seeing reinvention, especially when it’s better than the original.

    Which leads me to say this Trek was really really bad. And not because it was bad Trek, but that it was just a bad movie.

    With characters that varied widely in their motivations, production design that was horrible, to storytelling and dialogue seemingly written with blindfolds on, this movie left a lot to be desired. It was a poor man’s Michael Bay and I do not like Michael Bay.

    So let’s dispel notions of past Trek. The past didn’t make me not like this movie, the movie itself did.

  • TheAllKnowingGod

    People like this Star Trek movie because it is an action movie. But Star Trek is not or never has been an action series. I hate it when people come in and try to change a series to what it never was. If you never liked Star Trek why would you care if it was dying or what it was about? The people who loved Star Trek because of what it was will be very disappointed with this film. The people who didn’t like Star Trek will love it but should feel guilty because they have taken Star Trek away from those who loved it.

  • Molly Anderson

    I liked the new movie, and I am a die hard trekkie for The Original Series. It seemed like the time continuum has been disrupted though. Does this mean that The Original Series will not be the same? I thought the “romance” between Spock and Uhura was a little too weird. Nurse Chapel will be heartbroken.

  • bavant

    I grew up with Star Trek, thought the movies and spin offs where good additions. At the end of this Star Trek, I almost stood up and clapped.
    Very well done, with a few minor flaws(Black holes absorb all energy, thats why they are called black holes) the branching from the star trek i knew to this one was well done. Also sets up characters to act differently, since they are now on a differnt timeline from the originals.

    WELL DONE!

  • I loved this Star Trek. Chris Pine did so well as Captain Kirk, getting his ass kicked in style so many times! Ah that took me back :). Spock and Uhura was odd! I did not expect that. I really wonder if this is going to be a different reality than that of the old generation – a way not to step on too many toes if they change the timeline? Perhaps! I think the casting was really good, and Simon Pegg did a very amusing but clearly very intelligent Scottie. The fake Russian accent was awful! but it definitely reminded me of the old Chekhov. Very nicely done!

  • Alexandre

    I simply dont get it that to renew a series they had to blown up Vulcan, or to create a romance between Spock and Uhura.
    I am not a fundamentalist, but i have watched the movies and series and know more or less whats a go and whats a “no-no”.
    In the Star trek i learnt to love, the Crew, with the help of Older Spock, would have figured out a way to come back in time, stop Nero before the destroys Vulcan, and then let their lifes come back no normal. Instead of Kirks father dying, I would have killed Pike :) and instead of Spock+Uhura probably Kirk+Uhura as we know they did kissed in the tv series.
    Well, the movie was full of action and absent of a more deeper story (as many modern films are), was cool to look and I am sure its appealing to the new generations with all the reckless actions (the car scene to me was a totally waste of tape, a trailler scene perhaps), it was NOT Star Trek and i felt bad for paying to watch it.