We just got back from seeing the new Star Trek movie and the short version of the review: Awesome!
The long version, with spoilers:
I was skeptical of JJ Abrahms ability to pull of a good movie, since he has problems with story telling, namely his inability to handle a Third Act that doesn’t feel thin or cheat the audience of a proper resolution. But luckily, he didn’t write this script, so that was taken care of.
I’ve been a Star Trek fan since way back. Watching reruns of the original series with my dad on Sunday afternoons was a formative experience and, like many of my generation, my ethical outlook was pretty much defined by this show. And while I felt some of the later series and films were just drawing from a dry well, there was always promise of someone doing it right, given enough time. Well, this film is done right and that time is now.
The characters were all fun, and just familiar enough to be enjoyable, while allowing some elbow room for a new interpretation. And that is just what this movie is, a new interpretation of Star Trek. I was pleased at how subtle the reveal of the new time line was handled, without it being a big dramatic moment, or something that get’s retconned back to normal continuity by the end. Time travel fucked up the whole universe, and they now have to deal with the consequences. These now include subtle tweaks to reality, like Kirk having a troubled childhood, all the way to Spock being the survivor of a genocide with no homeworld. The villain had a simple motivation, revenge, and really a sense of tragedy. Here was a man trying to undo the pointless tragedy of his life but only managing to make things worse and spread the tragedy around.
This being an origin story, we have a lot of characters to meet and some of them are just not going to get the screen time they deserve (I could watch a whole movie about Chekov and Sulu). But that’s what sequels are for. And as Wil Wheaton put it, I’d watch eleven more movies with this cast and creative team.
Just one caveat: no more time travel. This one was done well, but let’s have the next one be about good old fashioned galactic political intrigue, or some weird space alien problem. A doomsday device would be nice, or a straight up, weird ass alien encounter.
Update: this lively discussion at Kung Fu Monkey reminded me of a salient fact that many non-Star Trek fans may miss, and might hinder their enjoyment of the movie: the main character is not Kirk. It’s Spock.* Remember that going in and you will enjoy the movie even more.
* There is a segment of Star Trek fandom who believe that the series, and all the films, have always been about Spock. This makes a lot of sense, especially when you consider that it’s the entire premise of the third movie, where galactic politics, Star Fleet regulations and common sense all take a back seat, so that the characters can rescue a man who is dead. Why bother? Why not simply mourn and move on? Because there’s no story to tell without the protagonist, that’s why. Beyond that, though, which original series cast member is the only one with a cameo? Leonard Nimoy. Everyone thought it was weird that there was no room for Kirk Prime. But if the series isn’t about Kirk, but Spock and Kirk is merely a foil, then it makes perfect sense. We don’t need two of him when, as Rogers points out, there’s virtually no character development for Kirk. He’s there just to be the Big Damn Hero, but Spock is our protagonist.