The film has only been out a few days, so I’ll try my best to let you know what I thought, without spoiling the surprises. I might write more when I can do so without fear of spoiling things for others.
The First Impressions:
Star Trek (2009) is an extremely enjoyable reboot of the franchise, with a fresh approach and a fresh cast the franchise owners can build upon for the foreseeable future. The writers have figured out a way to create an origins story well grounded in the canon, while simultaneously giving themselves absolutely clear territory into which they can move forward. That which was, is relatively safe from meddling. That which will be, is a tabla rasa. Quite a neat trick when you think about it, which is when the trouble starts… thinking about it.
So, how and where does Star Trek 2009 fit into the realm of cinematic science fiction? This episode occupies a region I find interesting because it moves Star Trek further from its ostensible grounding in scientific plausibility and further into the realm occupied by franchises like Star Wars, which gleefully make use of the tropes and symbols of science fiction, but leave the science behind as unwanted baggage. Of course, Star Trek has always been suffused with techno-babble and regularly careened into the patently ridiculous, but, you always felt that science was viewed as an asset instead of a hindrance to good storytelling.
Wait. Is this truly a shift in positioning? A search through IMDb seems to indicate that other than the first Star Trek film (where Issac Asimov filled the position) , science advisers or consultants haven’t been credited members of the crew, as opposed to the televised series where folks like André Bormanis, David Paige, and Dave Krieger are included in the credits for Star Trek: The Next Generation, Enterprise, Deep Space Nine and Voyager as scientific consultants.
I think I just contradicted myself. So be it. “I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.”
It seems then, that there is a differentiation in the importance of scientific accuracy as a production element between the televised series and the films. By the way, a quick web search reveals that as recently as early 2008 Carolyn Porco was acting in, and giving interviews in this role, but she is missing from the movie’s credits (at least on IMDb). An oversight? Perhaps. It’s one of the little things I’ll look for when I see the movie again.
Yes, I’ll see it again. Gladly.
So, where to now? Paramount has an unqualified hit on their hands which has breathed new life into a profitable piece of intellectual property. But, we might ask, what kind of life? Has Star Trek become even more unhinged from science fiction and moved ever more fully into the realm of magic clothed in technical jargon? Nyaaa. The cinematic half of the franchise was there already.
What Abrams and co. have undeniably done is re-invigorated the relationships between the core characters. The chemistry among and between them is new, lively, surprising and emotionally charged.
In the end, it is probably a mistake to expect a Star Trek film to be great science fiction, not to mention, a great film. If that’s what you’re looking for, rent Blade Runner or Ghost in the Shell or A Clockwork Orange or 2001 or Primer or Terminator or The Thing or Children of Men or The Andromeda Strain or, or, or…
I’ll try not to think about it. Pass the popcorn. Wow, the new Enterprise sure is cool looking.