Before I say a few words about the new Star Trek film, and you know I must, I need to describe going to the screening, our first 'movie date' in Israel. Israel is a modern country, and that applies to its movie cinemas. The experience was all very familiar, but just different enough to be memorable.
I knew I was going to have to deal with Hebrew subtitles; I didn't expect that everyone in the theatre would be English speaking. I expected to be able to get kosher food; I was surprised to discover that the popcorn was also pareve (as was another patron who deliberately had pizza for dinner assuming the popcorn would be 'dairy.')
I resigned myself to the inevitable commercials before the film; I never anticipated a 5 minute intermission in the middle of the film. Do Israelis have unusually small bladders? I hoped we might run into people we knew; instead, we got a lift with total strangers, and talked about the film all the way home.
Anyway, I was talking about Star trek. I've been watching Star Trek for, um, ever. I actually remember watching the original series with my Dad and recording the Animated series on cassette tapes (pre-VCRs, folks). I also have a scrapbook I started when they first started talking about a new film in the mid-70`s. Those of you who came into the series with TNG can`t imagine how exciting a time it was, going to conventions when they were still run by the fans and not those money-making scum who took them over, meeting other Trekkers, waiting and hoping for a movie or another series, or even just a chance to meet someone associated with the show. It`s easy now to be jaded, after Voyager and Enterprise, but the scene was so different during the 70`s. What a time it was. I`m so grateful to have been a part of it.
So, as one of Trek's 'old fossil' fans, I was admittedly nervous when the news of a reboot was made official. But, I was actually pretty excited, too. It's worth remembering that in many ways, Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), albeit with the original cast, also felt to many of us like a reboot. There some of the same concerns leading up to the release of the film about the new look of the Enterprise and the Klingons, and the new production team, especially director Robert Wise who knew nothing about Trek. Even Wrath of Khan reinvented much of what we now consider canon. And most of all, this is Science Fiction. What does canon mean in a genre which has already established that events and characters can be altered?
A few months ago, I found myself actually looking through my Star Trek comics and memorabilia from the late 60's/ early 70's. I started to get excited about this one, and enjoyed seeing people hyped up the way I was before the first Trek film came out. I thought: I'm sure there are going to be things about this film I hate but I don't care. As Kirk said: "Young minds, fresh ideas. Be tolerant!"
Well, I've now seen the new one and, frankly, I'm undecided. It looked great. The actors were all very good. I especially liked Karl Urban, although my wife felt he was copying DeForest Kelly rather than just playing the part like the others. The weak one for me was Zoë Saldana as Uhura. She was fine, but lacked the grace and elegance of Nichelle Nichols. I liked the comedy but felt like Scotty was a bit too much comic relief, which is I'm sure why they went with Simon Pegg rather than Paul McGillion, who would have made a great Scotty.
In all honesty, though, my big issue with the reboot has nothing to do with dialogue, plot or even casting, none of which was consistently brilliant in any incarnation of Trek. JJ Abrams, whose work I greatly respect, has said on record that he preferred Star Wars to Star trek, and that he wanted to reboot Trek in that mold for a younger, ostensibly more A.D.D. audience. But, in fact, both film genres originally ran simultaneously, with TMP actually following the first Star Wars film (because, in large part, of the success of that film, Paramount was willing to go ahead with TMP.)
For years, we had both SW and Trek, one franchise fast, fun and FX heavy, the other more thoughtful and character oriented. In a sense, they complimented each other. I have enjoyed both series for different reasons.
In other words, I don't need my Star Trek to feel like Star Wars. It was possible to reboot the series, adding more FX, introducing a new, hip cast, and even adrenalizing the stories without sacrificing the philosophical nature of Star Trek. I'm not convinced they accomplished this even though I enjoyed the film. But, I am willing to cut them a fair bit of slack because this was a first film with a new cast and crew. My hope is that a sequel will put more emphasis on the hopeful future of the Star Trek universe. I really do wish them luck. I'd still like to believe that the world needs Star Trek.