Sunday, June 28, 2009
Star Trek hit television screens in 1966. Forty-three years later, it still isn’t safe to go down to a planet’s surface wearing red. The eleventh and latest movie based on the franchise hit theaters in May, and while it isn’t the best of the bunch (Objectively, that honor goes to Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan.), it definitely isn’t the worst.
When I first heard that a Star Trek film depicting younger versions of Kirk, Spock, and crew was in the works, I groaned. The idea smacked of those lame attempts to revamp dying Saturday morning cartoons by making a series about baby versions of the characters. On the other hand, I’m always prepared to give Star Trek the benefit of the doubt. When I saw the trailer for the new film several months ago, I knew I would be giving this one a chance.
The story surrounds a malignant Romulan who travels back in time to threaten the very origins of the Star Trek universe. Sound familiar? Star Trek: First Contact had a similar theme, only that time it was Borg going back in time to prevent contact between humans and vulcans. This time, a rogue Romulan named Nero passes through a worm-hole seeking revenge against the aged Ambassador Spock. He goes back a hundred years or so and encounters Jim Kirk’s father and expecting mother. Twenty-five years later, a brash, rebellious, young James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) accepts a dare to join Starfleet, where he meets other good-looking young people like Leonard McCoy (Karl Urban), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), and, well, you get the idea. Kirk is still a cadet when everybody gets called up to help out with a disaster on the planet Vulcan. It turns out Nero is still wandering the galaxy with, you guessed it, a Diabolical Plan.
Tinkering with the origins of the beloved Enterprise crew is risky business, indeed, given the fans’ obsession with parsing every detail of this franchise. That’s where the genius of this film comes in. Kirk’s dad is killed in the initial battle with Nero, so by traveling back in time and leaving James Kirk fatherless, Nero creates an alternate universe, which explains away any discrepancies between this film and the rest of the franchise. Brilliant! This device also essentially sets up a whole new franchise, and I hear that future New Trek films are planned.
Am I happy about all this? Yeah, more or less. I like Star Trek, but I’m not a real Trekkie, so I don’t have anything serious invested in the franchise. The new movie is not Amazingly Good, like the “Lord of the Rings” movies were, but it is plenty of fun. As one Facebook friend put it, I was “sufficiently Trekked.”