I have to admit, when I went to see the first Star Trek by J.J. Abrams, I wasn’t quite sold on it. I spent the first half of the movie confused by the altered timeline and found myself spending the rest of the movie trying to play catch up.
Since Star Trek Into Darkness premiered last week in the UK, it’s been really hard to a) avoid spoilers and b) avoid the vitriol that purist fanboys have been spewing all over the Internet.
The biggest complaint I’ve seen over and over again in reviews of the last week is that despite Abrams set a new precedent with the first movie- by resetting the timeline, that opened the avenue for a whole new set of stories he chose in the sequel to revisit old storylines. But here’s what the fanboys are forgetting, resetting the timeline did not place Star Trek in a different universe. These are still the same characters, the same forces are at work, and the same bad guys are just lurking out there in the dark of space.
As a fan, you can either a) accept that some of the same character and incidents are going to occur or b) kvetch about how it’s a rip off. You can’t be a purist who acknowledges Abrams made a right move with resetting the timeline, and then complain with what he does with it.
Acknowledging the fact that this is still the Star Trek universe, and having a story that accepts these facts does not in any way make the story old or tired. Yes, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof revisited some old favorites, but they put their own twist on them, in fact, this movie does some fantastic parallels to older stories and characters. There are some great bits tossed in, that only true fans will get, and the story as a whole is deeper if you’re a fan, and know what the other timeline offered.
Chris Pine, as James T. Kirk, is allowed to play the character in a way that I argue would not have been possible in the old timeline. He grows up. That’s not to say that he’s not still fun and funny to watch. But as Admiral Pike tells Kirk, “You think the rules don’t apply to you. There’s greatness in you, but there’s not an ounce of humility. You think that you can’t make mistakes, but there’s going to come a moment when you realize you’re wrong about that, and you’re going to get yourself and everyone under your command killed.” And this has always been my problem with Kirk- he’s not necessarily smart, or brave, but he is lucky. It’s dumb luck more than anything else that sees him through. But the direction of this story, and Pine’s portrayal lets us see what Kirk would be if he learned from his mistakes, if he grew from them. And it’s a wonderful thing to watch.
I’ve been a die hard Spock fan since I was a wee one, and I would have sworn that no one could replace Leonard Nimoy, but as Sheldon recently said:
Leonard: Sometimes change is good. You were worried about Zachary Quinto being the new Spock, but you ended up liking him.
Sheldon: Leonard, please, every time the topic of change comes up you throw Zachary Quinto in my face. I’m upset the mailman has a new haircut — Zachary Quinto. I’m upset daylight savings time started — Zachary Quinto. I’m upset daylight savings time ended — Zachary Quinto. I’m saying this for the last time. Zachary Quinto was a weird, wonderful, unrepeatable event, so stop using him against me.
Zachary Quinto again shines as Spock. He is again given a chance in the second movie to stand on his own, and Quinto does an amazing job of playing a conflicted Spock. His friendship with Kirk is both amusing to watch, and wonderful. A big reason why this works is the whip fast dialogue scenes between them, and the power of a single look from Quinto. There’s one particular scene that had me tearing up, as much as the scene it pays homage to did originally.
I found Benedict Cumberbatch to be riveting. I think that because I’m already a fan of his, I immediately wanted to empathize with him, and he makes you want to believe him. You buy his side of the story, and I found myself sold on him…right up until the moment when he goes bat-poo crazy. Although I love him in Sherlock, it’s great to see Cumberbatch in something physical. He sells the super humanness of his character, and it’s phenomenal to watch.
Simon Pegg is again over-the-top as Scotty. Karl Urban toned down some of Bones’ personality, but still plays it well and Zoe Saldana as Uhura is again, a wonderful counterpoint to Spock. You see less of the rest of the crew in this film, because the heart of this film is the relationship between Kirk and Spock, but they are still fun to watch.
The movie clocks in at two and a half hours, and it flies. From the first action scene, to the last moment, there is not a single slow scene, misstep, or miscue. As far as I’m concerned, Star Trek Into Darkness knocks it out of the park. I was tempted to walk out, buy another ticket, and sit through it all again right away.
So fanboys, let it go. Enjoy the fact that in an age where good science fiction is disappearing from our screens, and getting canceled left and right, here’s a fan favorite that’s been resurrected from the obscurity it had fallen into to.
Great review. It only makes me more eager to see the film. I couldn’t agree more: it’s not my Star Trek anymore, and I couldn’t be more pleased. With 40 years of classic (in the sense of not this new, ballsy Abrams-Trek. In no way is it a blanket statement of quality: I’m looking at you Enterprise) series and films at anyone’s fingertips, why wouldn’t anyone welcome a fresh take on a classic?
I do disagree with your closing that we are “…in an age where good science fiction is disappearing from our screens…” First this oft-repeated canard implies that good science fiction was somehow in abundance in some halcyon age of sci-fi film and television. Um, no. Science fiction is a niche genre for the screen, and has always been risky for entertainment producers. Even when it’s popularity had spiked (basically every time, for good or ill, that George Lucas has a bowel movement…and calls it The Phantom Menace), science fiction really hasn’t gained any more market share than in the years when Lucas is done wiping and flushes (and calls it Revenge of the Sith). As a long-time and avid consumer of sci-fi entertainment, some years are bleaker than others, but on the whole the “amount” has actually stayed pretty steady. Some could convincingly argue that it’s actually increased in the last 10 years, and we’re just in the downturn of a cycle.
As for good, well, I feel that’s stayed pretty much the same, too: honey, good science fiction has always been rare, but then again, good television and movies are rare. I’d like more of, too, but it’s dramatic to say that it’s “disappearing,” as if we’re at the cusp of a cultural crisis.