I’ve never been much of a Star Trek fan. Always been in the Star Wars camp when it came to picking sci-fi sides. You could say I know more about tractor beams than transporter beams.
But, having just watched the new Star Trek film, I’m thinking about swapping teams. Trading in my light sabre for a phaser gun.
Well … maybe not quite yet, but having just watched J.J. Abrams’ science-fiction extravaganza, I can’t help but wish the Star Wars prequel was more like the Star Trek prequel. That George Lucas had given a younger, fresher director the keys to that galaxy far far away.
I enjoyed Lucas’ Phantom-Clones-Sith trilogy – to an extent. It was Star Wars afterall, and tied up those loose ends I often wondered about as a boy, in a pretty interesting kind of way.
But, while the background of the likes of Kirk, Spock and ‘Bones’ may not have had the appeal of discovering what kind of hairstyle Darth Vadar may have sported when he was young Anakin Skywalker, there was not one overly cringeworthy moment in the new Star Trek.
The new Star Wars of course had many, starting with good old Jar Jar Binks and ending with such moments as when ‘Annie’ describes Padme as “intoxicating”. Does it get any cornier?
The old Star Trek series of the ’60s may have been at the height of corniness, but the new Star Trek movie, who brilliantly paying homage to it’s retro past, is just how a fun-filled blockbuster should be in this day and age.
It’s spectacular – full of eye-popping special-effects, some awesome action sequences, a nice flow of light-hearted moments that actually make you laugh with it and not at it, and characters that are interesting to watch. Oh, there is a mildly complicated time travel storyline that only a Vulcan make perfect sense of.
In fact, what Abrams, the man behind TV series Alias and Lost, has done is constructed an intelligent way of creating his own new Star Trek universe.
While this is really being classified as a reboot, it is more a continuation of the original series, with a difference.
Abrams has sent the saga back to the very start, but instead of wiping or ‘remaking’ what’s gone before, an alternate time line has been formed – for what has occurred in this new film and what will come in the planned sequels.
As mentioned, the plot at the centre of the new Star Trek can be a little confusing, as time travel storys generally are.
It centres around a renegade Romulan named Nero (Eric Bana) and his massive mining ship/planet destroyer and his fury at an ageing Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy making a welcome appearance).
Despite the little hiccup that is a black hole that sends them both over 100 years into the past, Nero is determined to have Spock watch as he disintegrates his home planet of Vulcan using something called red matter.
You see, Nero blames Spock for allowing Romulas to be destroyed by a supernova and wants to return the favour – in true Star Wars’ Death Star fashion funnily enough.
It just so happens that he attempts his dastardly deed at a time when the USS Enterprise was on her maiden voyage, with Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) as captain, Kirk (Chris Pine) a stowaway, Spock (Zachary Quinto) was in his prime as a true pointy-eared bastard, Sulu (John Cho) was Korean and not Japanese, and Scotty (Simon Pegg) was stranded on a freezing Federation outpost in disgrace.
While most of those facts remain faithful to the original Star Trek, Nero and Spock showing up from the old future means a new future is coming.
Might be better if I let Spock explain … “Nero’s very presence has altered the flow of history, beginning with the attack on the USS Kelvin, culminating in the events of today, thereby creating an entire new chain of incidents that cannot be anticipated by either party … whatever our lives might have been if the time continuum was disrupted – our destinies have changed.”
While some Trekkies are up in arms over Abrams’ ‘tampering’ - believing he has sent some of the great adventures Kirk, Spock and the team had into hyper-space – I personally think it’s a ‘bold’ and respectful move.
Some things never change though - Kirk is still a bed-hopping womaniser – and must say is played impressively by Pine, who does well to try and rival the great William Shatner, and in fact provides a number of the laughs. I’d rather have him at the helm of a trilogy than Hayden Christensen.
The real love story in the film though is left for two unlikely candidates, and while not overly believable (it is only Star Trek), will surely raise the odd eyebrow.
(Spoilers) Which brings me to Spock, who is portrayed for the most part as a the usual emotionless, albeit totally logical Vulcan, that is until his planet, as well as his human mother Amanda Grayson (Winona Ryder), are wiped out by the sadistic Nero.
Spock was already having enough problems with that fact he was half human. And who can really blame him?
He clashes heavily with polar opposite Kirk, who has his own parental problems to do with never having known his hero captain father, George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth). Then there’s the winding up in bed with green women, and the badly swollen hands.
As Nero points out at one stage, “James T. Kirk was a great man… but that was another life.”
The bit players in this also shine, though some steal more of the show than others, namely Scotty, who as one would expect played by the very funny Pegg, really lightens the load even further when he finally appears in the second half; and even gets to say “I’m given it all she’s got Captain!”; and to a lesser extent Karl Urban’s Dr Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy.
The casting of the New Zealander, known for his roles in The Lord of the Rings, Pathfinder and The Bourne Supremacy, was inspired as he probably gets closest to the mark when it comes to actually replicating the old McCoy character.
It was almost like watching and hearing DeForest Kelly again when Urbain comes out with “Dammit Jim! I’m a doctor, not a physicist!” or “Are you outta your Vulcan mind!?”. He’s very good.
This movie was just simply a lot of fun, and while I’m not about to go running out and buying a yellow Star Fleet top, I am looking forward to the next voyage of the starship Enterprise.
Oh, and may the force … ah, I mean, live long and prosper …