There is always an air of anticipation for a reboot of a much beloved franchise. Oftentimes, there is a delicate balancing act between creating a story that attracts new fans to the existing fanbase, while working to include said fans. It's a hard thing to do, and there more failures than succeses, at least where story is concerned. After watching the latest version of the Star Trek, I'm happy to say that this reboot falls far more towards the successes of the Daniel Craig James Bond films than the Ewan McGregor Phantom Menace. The new Star Trek is interesting, smart, refreshing and exciting. It's also just what the Star Trek franchise needs to start anew, and I suspect that with this film, there will be a resurgence in the franchise.
I've been cautiously optimistic for this Star Trek movie. The last film was released back in 2002, seven years ago, and in the ensuing time, there's been the off and on talk about a new film, new television show, and so on, but nothing seemed to come together until it was announced that J.J. Abrams, the mastermind behind Lost, Fringe, Alias and Cloverfield, and when the cast was filled out by a fairly talented cast of younger actors to play younger, alternative versions of the characters from the original show. Given that I've been a longtime Star Wars fan, with limited contact and interest towards the Star Trek franchise, I've been very interested to see just how this lines up with what I have seen from the shows and films that I have seen.
There's a lot to like from this new film. Abrams is best known for his storytelling - LOST especially - which is why this was so interesting to me. Beyond a good story, he's crafted a number of compelling ones, introducing a number of unconventional aspects to them as he goes. His first film, Mission Impossible III, best demonstrates this through the lack of over-explaination and facination with the sheer visual style that has become the standard for action movies nowadays. This same trait has been carried over to Star Trek.
The story picks up with the USS Kelvin coming across a strange formation in space that shoots out a Romulan ship, which attacks and destroys it, but not before a newly born James T. Kirk and his mother evacuate, changing what has been the established timeline in the Trek universe. We fast forward a little to Kirk and Spock as young children, where we see that their dominant personalities are already taking root - Kirk is a defiant and brash young man, while Spock begins to grapple with his dual heretige of Human and Vulcan. Fast forward once again and the two meet, and predictibly, their personalities clash from the start. It is here that the plot kicks in as well, with a distress call from Vulcan, where the same Romulan ship has appeared once again, with its captain, Nero, thirsting for revenge after his home planet was destroyed, despite the efforts of Spock in the original universe. Kirk, being disaplined for cheating on a test, is not assigned to the fleet, but he is brought on board by his friend McCoy and they're on their way to Vulcan... The plot doesn't really matter.
The plot is really the weaker point of the film. Romulans go back in time, change the timeline, take revenge on Vulcan, Enterprise moves in to save the day, end of story. It's fairly straight forward. I'm not very well versed in the Trek universe, so I can't really compare how well this story stacks up against the other ones, but while Abrams is really well known for his interesting stories, the main focus that he places here is on the characters. What we get is the origins of the iconic cast of characters on board the USS Enterprise. Everyone gets their due facetime, some more than others, and from what I can tell, everyone seems to really fill the roles nicely.
The people to really watch is Spock and Kirk, the two characters that define the franchise from the beginning. From the start, the two are antagonistic towards one another. Their personallities are ying and yang, and essentially, this film is about them clicking together to the point where they can not only stand one another, but also learn to trust and become friends. Both parts are really well acted by their respective actors (and Zachary Quinto as Spock is a brilliant casting choice), who picked up on the mannerisms of their older selves and provide a logical basis for what the characters would become.
One of the best elements of the film was the look and feel of the sets, as well as the film style. The sets are very modern looking, sleek, and up to date, as opposed to the futuristic version from the 1970s. There's lots of flat, touchscreens, glass readouts and all that, and the technobabble has largely been stripped away. There's plenty of lense flares throughout that help to give the film a classic science fiction feel, and is combined with Abram's frantic camera work during the space battles that left me breathless. Ironically, Lucasfilm Ltd did all the special effects work here, and it looks absolutely stunning.
However, what I really liked about this film is that the film isn't enamored of the Trek universe. It wasn't made for the fans, and as such, it's not just another go at the franchise to fill in a gap or any sort of story that hasn't already been covered over and over. Much like in the recent James Bond reboot with Daniel Craig, the creators haven't necessarily pandered to the same things yet again. There's homages to the original show all over, certainly, but they're not the focus. Rather, everything is there as a sort of tongue in cheek reference to the Trek that the fans love. There's an over the top and absolutely hilarious method to the madness, such as when Scotty is beamed directly into the Enterprise's water system, with Kirk chasing him to get him out. This all makes the film a rather fun one to watch, but not to take totally seriously.
Overall, I really enjoyed it, and as a Star Wars fan, I have to say that I welcome this new version of Trek. It's far more modern, creative and interesting than the other modern Star Trek episodes that I've seen over the years, and it's made me want to go back for more.