This is a reboot. I really can’t emphasize that enough. This is not your father’s Star Trek. The writers here took all the main characters you remember from the original series, many of the most famous lines, various alien races (most humanoid, a few very much not humanoid), and a few little in-jokes referring back to previous movies and shows, threw them all into a blender, mixed them up for a while, and served up something that’s almost Star Trek, but different.
So yes, Vulcans still bleed green and practice never showing emotion; and Spock (Zachary Quinto of Heroes fame) is still half-human. But now his mother is Winona Ryder, and there are two Spocks. Sort of. See, since this is a sci-fi series, the writers took advantage of that fact and also rebooted it internally, so to speak — there’s a pinch of time-travel and a dash of alternate reality in this recipe, too, so if you want to believe that the entire original series is real and this is just a pale imitation spinning off from that timeline, you can do that. So I’m not sure why there are Star Trek purists up in arms about this movie, though admittedly I was never a Star Trek purist myself.
The point is, it’s a good sci-fi movie; but if you go in expecting a big-screen version of the original series, you’ll be disappointed. It’s good to know the series and the movies — there are in-jokes all over the place, of course. Most of the audience either laughed or went, “Ooh!” when Bones (Karl Urban from The Bourne Supremacy, totally channelling the spirit of DeForest Kelley) first asked Spock if he was out of his Vulcan mind. Ditto when Bones insisted, “I’m a doctor, not a physicist!” And they keep threatening San Francisco in these movies, I suppose because Starfleet Academy is there.
|Left to right: The pointy-eared hobgoblin, the Russian wunderkind, Uhura (no longer first-nameless), the captain, the Scotsman, helmsman Sulu (who gets to swordfight!), and the crusty old Southern doctor.|
Most of the crew is in the Academy, though they had to strain credibility a little to do that. For one thing, they don’t quite explain why Bones, who could be anywhere from thirty to fifty but is definitely not a young pup like everyone else, is there. I seem to recall that in another movie he mentioned being drafted (though I’m pretty sure Starfleet doesn’t do that), but here he seems to have signed up to avoid being bankrupted by a vengeful ex-wife. He and a young Jim Kirk (Chris Pine) become friends because they’re the only two cadets not wearing the bright red uniforms. All the uniforms kinda look like they came from Old Navy, actually.
Kirk hasn’t grown into his luck yet. He’s usually right about the best strategy and such, because if he wasn’t he wouldn’t be Kirk, but he fumbles through everything, sort of like Indiana Jones. He gets beaten up in a bar fight (though to be fair, he was seriously outnumbered), and Spock somehow manages to have better luck with the girls, so you know this is an alternate reality. But it’s got a lot of the feel of the original series, that recklessness, and now that they have a budget, they can really make this an action flick, with high-tech gadgets, black holes, and alien spaceships that were designed by someone with absolutely no sense of spatial relationships or even the simple ability to walk, safely, from one computer station to the next. The Enterprise even looks like the Enterprise — more modern and sleek than the sixties version, but without looking very different, really. Except on the inside. There, everything’s all white and blue and shiny and absolutely nothing like it used to be. Only a few of the noises are the same.
In spite of the time travel angle, the plot actually isn’t terribly confusing. For a while, I was waiting for everything to get weird and inexplicable, but that never happened, thankfully. So for avoiding that pitfall, for making this a sometimes funny movie without making fun (or making me cringe), and for letting Scotty (Simon Pegg from Hot Fuzz, which seems like a really weird casting choice but actually works out quite well) get one more chance to say, “I’m givin’ it all she’s got, Cap’n!” this movie gets four and a half idols. I think this is what Star Trek would’ve been like all along, if Gene Roddenberry had been around to think it up now, and I like that idea.