Sunday, 5 May 2013

Star Trek (2009)

Later this month, the sequel to JJ Abrams' Star Trek will come out. I am very much planning to see it, if only for the inspired casting of Benedict Cumberbatch as his first Hollywood villain. I'm not a Star Trek fan. I could just about name most of the original crew members of the USS Enterprise, and a couple from the Next Generation, but I'm far from being a trekkie. I'm not going to see it because I'm curious about how Abrams is going to handle the delicate world of the Star Trek universe, one that has been built up to the very precise details (including, famously, an entire language) in the decades since Gene Roddenberry's original series. I won't be taking umbridge on an online forum if Abrams neglects to include a minor character's pet babel fish.

The great thing is, JJ Abrams isn't a Star Trek fan either. As he explained in his introduction to It on Channel 4 last night, he approached his film by looking from the outside in, and deciding what he would want to see in a Star Trek movie rather than what he thought a trekkie would want to see in a Star Trek movie. I fear that if Paramount had handed the job to a fan, they would have got bogged down in the minutiae and lumped in references to the many films that came in beforehand, assuming that the viewer has already seen them all much like Iron Man 3 did. Abrams decided to restart the whole saga with an origin story for the crew, allowing him to bring his own interpretation of the characters into the story.

But he had more than one trick up his sleeve, did JJ. By using time travel as a minor plot point, he managed to set his interpretation of the Star Trek saga in an alternate reality to the one seen in all other interpretations. This allowed him to carry out unspeakable continuity errors (the destruction of Spock's home planet Vulcan being chief among them) without problem, and also shattered that classic origin story predicament of no-need-to-worry-we-know-they're-going-to-survive-anyway. It's all done rather cleverly, and give him as a director a lot of free reign with what happens to the characters.

For a person who barely knows the first thing about the actual story of Star Trek, Abrams' film is a superb place to start. He begins by telling the story of Chris Pine's James T. Kirk and Zachary Quinto's Spock, from their difficult starts in life through to their arrival at Starfleet. A die-hard fan might be shocked that my introduction to the whole Star Trek universe came from JJ Abrams' film, barely four years old, but this is exactly what the studio was trying to achieve; to win a whole new batch of fans and to make Star Trek cool again. I really enjoyed it. I was surprised by how sympathetic I felt towards Kirk, despite him acting like a right bellend at the beginning. I liked the Spock storyline of a half human, half alien struggling to suppress his human emotions in order to fit in to his coldly logical alien society. I thought the ways in which the crew members from the original series were gradually introduced worked well, with each character lent certain amounts of importance to the plot (even if Simon Pegg's brilliant Scotty took a while to appear).

Behind the ludicrous amounts of lens flare, there is a brilliantly handled movie that might have suffered in the wrong hands. Abrams didn't want to play it safe by simply adding another movie to the original pantheon, so he restarted the whole thing and managed to pull it off. The baddie, Nero, may not seem as too vital to the plot with his bare-minimum amount of screen time, but that's because the film wasn't about him. That whole problem will be put right by Cumberbatch's John Harrison in the new film, anyway. Abrams did seem to get a bit power-hungry after rewriting the Star Trek story, however, when he decided to rewrite the laws of physics for the sake of the plot, too (Fire explosives into the black hole! The blast will shoot us away from the event horizon!). But Star Trek was never praised for its technical accuracy. As long as your disbelief is satisfactorily suspended, this film is a sci-fi dream that should satisfy hardcore fans as well as hook non-trekkies.

Follow me on Twitter: @crunro

No comments:

Post a Comment