Further Trek Talk

You know those times when you come out of a film having really enjoyed it, and end up giving a fairly detailed but largely positive run-down of the film to your friends – but when you hear someone else actually talking about what didn’t work and why, you find yourself thinking “You know, I don’t actually disagree with them…” Well, people like Abigail Nussbaum and Adam Roberts have been going into major detail on the new Star Trek film in a way that’s far more intelligent (and entertaining) than my general burblings, and they’ve also put into words some of the things that have been bothering me about the film. Because once I’d calmed down from the nostalgia sugar rush and let the good aspects of the film settle in my head, the more idiotic aspects have been a lot harder to ignore. There’s a monologue about 2/3rds of the way through that’s there to bolt together various disparate levels of plot, and it does it in a way which even with my “I am enjoying this film” hat on I found somewhat troubling and messy. It is the kind of film that basically moves so quickly that it hopes you don’t notice the problems until they’re long gone – and I have the worrying feeling that in trying to broaden Trek out, they’ve ended up shaving off just a bit too much of the original ethos. (And yes, after my mostly gushing previous post, this probably sounds like desperate backtracking. So sue me…). The one thing that all this reassessment does bring into focus (other than the fact that the genius of Spock was that he was a balance between humanity and logic, where the film marginalises the logical nature of the Vulcans in favour of can-do, all-American heroism) is the one aspect that really sat badly with me while I was watching the film – Chekov – and why it bothered me. The new version of Chekov is, to be honest, all about the funny accent – alright, Chekov was hardly blessed with the most rounded character, but it’s as if they looked at the “Nuclear Wessels” scene from Star Trek IV and said “That’s all we need!” He’s a comic character and nothing more – when, as Adam Roberts points out in his review, it was actually kind of a daring thing to have a Russian character in the original series, back in the Sixties when Russia was the enemy (and that the modern-day equivalent would be having someone on the Bridge from Afghanistan or Iraq). It’s the trouble with a nostalgia trip like this – the Trek movie is driven by tapping into the precise formula of what Trek was, but by sticking so closely to that formula they end up missing the point. It’s still an entertaining film – but it’s a very 2009 blockbuster, and anyone who actually says this is ‘top quality science fiction’ (a phrase I’ve seen thrown around a few times) really doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

Boldly Going (The New Trek Trailer)

I’m a bit late with this, but the new trailer for the upcoming Star Trek reboot is finally online, giving us more than just a nicely shot tease of the Enterprise being constructed. The whole prequel ‘Young Kirk’ idea did originally have me rather worried, and I’m still somewhat concerned about the Time Travel element of the story, as it’s a device that can backfire and overcomplicate very easily (Yes, we’re looking at you, Heroes), but J.J. Abrams getting the gig was something that gave me confidence that we might at least get an enjoyable film. Then, the first pictures started coming out, and one of the things that pleased me most of all was the fact that they’ve actually gone for the original uniforms. Yes, there’s some redesigning here, and yes the sets themselves are bigger and more spangly, but the look of the costumes simply shrieks ‘Original Series’– and it’s exactly what I wished they’d done with Enterprise, the amazingly dull prequel that simply ended up looking like all the other Trek series. I wanted them to go retro, and with the new movie, it looks like that’s exactly what they’ve done.

The other thing that’s really notable about the new movie is that it’s the first time since Star Trek: The Motion Picture back in 1979 that Trek has actually been treated as a blockbuster, and not as a relatively low budget production that’s really mainly for the fans. Here, Trek is getting the chance to be big, epic and genuinely widescreen (something you could never have said– frankly – about the last four Next Generation movies (Let’s face it, even First Contact was just a glorified episode)), and by the look of the trailer it could be an awful lot of fun. It’s Star Trek that actually feels grand and epic, on a tremendous scale (one of my favourite shots is Kirk on the bike, with those barely visible but actually ginormously huge sci-fi constructions lurking on the horizon). Yes, there are bits in it that feel a little OTT, and there’s no guarantee that I’m going to love what I see next May – but it does look like the dull beige-ness that had infested the franchise has been swept away, and they’ve let a bunch of filmmakers loose who simply want to tell an enjoyable story with the original series (and the Kirk/Spock/McCoy triumvurate) as their benchpole. Right now, it’s one of those trailers that simply makes me want to see the rest of the movie RIGHT NOW, and while I am mildly curious about Watchmen, I’m actually excited about Trek – and that hasn’t been true for a very, very long time…