I made it out to the new Star Trek movie last Friday. It was pretty good, not life-changing, but okay. The special effects were spectacular, the action was fast-paced, and it ties well into the original series.
Who am I kidding? It was a triumph. Easily the best Star Trek in 20 years. Granted, at this point in the franchise, I’m just happy that Spock isn’t flashing gang signs and saying “Live Longizzle to the Prosperizzle.”
For the first time in so long, Star Trek has finally returned to the concept that made the original so great. And what was that original concept, you ask? No, it wasn’t Gene Roddenberry’s utopian vision of the future. It wasn’t the grand speculative ideas either, and it certainly wasn’t the special effects. Ladies and Gentlemen, J.J. Abrams’ 2009 film has heralded the return of bickering to Star Trek.
The original Star Trek never made its mark through calculating villains or bloated technical jargon. The best drama always came from the conflict on the Enterprise’s bridge. Spock would say, “If we don’t do X, all these people will die,” and McCoy would say, “You green-blooded hobgoblin! You can’t do X! That would be horrible!” and Kirk would make the final call that would save everyone, or at least the most people. All the while they would be dealing with some alien phenomenon beyond understanding. Episodes like City on the Edge of Forever and the Doomsday machine soared on this dynamic. The Next Generation and subsequent series also got some great moments from inter-crew conflict, but they usually had to bring someone in from outside to knock things out of their politically correct bubble.
In the new movie, everyone seemed to get on everyone else’s nerves, and it was great. The events of the movie effectively erased the timeline since before the original series, so we can enjoy this franchise anew without worrying whether the star dates match up or the Klingons conjugate their verbs properly. You also don’t have Shatner stealing lines, so hopefully we’ll get more character development from Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov. All the haters on the Spock/Uhura relationship need to take a flying leap because it makes sense from the context of the movie. Uhura’s into Spock because he’s attractive, intelligent, and high ranking. As for Spock’s feelings, we’ll just have to wait for the sequel.
In an age of two human-centered Transformer movies, an unmasked, non-wisecracking Deadpool and a GI joe movie surrounding accelerator suits, JJ’s Star Trek is a breath of fresh air. I am so sick of movies that use nostalgia to garner my attention and then shoe-horn all this gimmicky crap for people who are only mildly interested in the original. When you are trying to build on the past glory of a well-established entertainment franchise, it doesn’t have to be new or improved with a precocious sidekick, it just has to work.