Stardate 10905.9 *Cough* I mean…
Oh my, where to begin? Haha, I can imagine that the ones who know me well aren’t surprised one bit to see an article on the eleventh Star Trek movie here. Indeed, it’s no secret that I’m a Star Trek fan- To be more precise, the franchise is one of the few things that can get me really worked up! So naturally, I’ve been following the development of Star Trek XI closely, and now that I have had the opportunity of watching it, here are my thoughts. (By the way, if you plan to watch it, I suggest you not read this. There are spoilers thrown left and right, mostly so I can discuss the film in full.)
I have to say, Paramount did a great job with this movie! As the credits rolled with the wondrously familiar Original Series theme, I was completely at a loss of how to describe the movie. What more can I say? The movie absolutely took off with style.
The most obvious changes for me were the special effects and sets. After initially seeing promotional pictures of the bridge and the ship, I had mixed feelings as to whether or not I liked the changes or not. I mean, I know that J.J. Abrams was trying to make the series more accessible to today’s society, but I was also afraid that the movie’s changes would alienate the fan base that was used to the “classic” series. I was wrong. I must admit, while I was enjoying the movie, I could not help but cringe at the obvious incongruities such as Chekov being on the bridge and Spock’s mother dying. However, once the “alternate timeline” theory was introduced, it all made sense.
That’s another point I have to address actually… the alternate time line deal. Before the movie’s release, I recall reading that the film would have time travel in it. Now, seeing as there was a completely new cast playing the bridge crew, I was worried that Paramount would use a pathetic time travel concept as a cheap way to reboot the series. I wouldn’t have put it past them- After all, the movie Star Trek Generations had its entire plot centered around a time paradox to create the final scene for Kirk to die, thus allowing for the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast to take over. Once again, I was glad to have been wrong in my assumption as Old Spock uttered the the iconic line from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, “I have been, and always shall be, your friend.“
Thus, the movie itself can be enjoyed on two levels: As a newcomer who is becoming acquainted to the action packed nature of the crew’s changed destinies, or as a veteran who can pick up every reference to the crew’s original destinies while being awed at the sheer magnitude at the changes at hand.
Star Trek XI starts out with an opening sequence to set the mood of the film, similar to Star Trek: The Motion Picture‘s overture. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier had an opening sequence too, but it was poorly executed, just like pretty much everything else in that movie. So as the movie opens with the busy corridors aboard the USS Kelvin, one is thrust into the new alternate reality that the audience will soon find out exists. At once, the screen is alight with chaos, panic, and yells, clearly defining its nature as an “action movie.” Amidst all the confusion, we hear something that sounds a bit more familiar. “Kirk.” But this is not our beloved captain… no, as the Kelvin hurtles on its crash course, we experience something remarkable. “Tiberius? Nah, that’s terrible. Call him Jim, after your father.” The audience has experienced the birth of James Tiberius Kirk, soon to be one of the greatest men alive… in an alternate reality.
I wasn’t sure if the audience caught on that “Jim” was the to-be Captain Kirk. Thankfully, this was clarified in the bar scene with Captain Pike. Upon introducing this “new” Kirk, it was evident that Paramount would be portraying the characters in a slightly different way than how one would expect. In the ’60s, no one would expect young Kirk to be such a rebel and typical “white trash” despite the fact that he is a risk taker. Paramount portrayed the characters in a way that would suit out modern day society, while keeping the little details that let the veterans think “Yeah, I can see him becoming Kirk.” I gotta say, I wouldn’t have expected Kirk as that sort of kid, but I can definitely see him becoming into that familiar Captain Kirk image as he grows.
Along with the modern portrayal of the characters, the humor in the film is also adjusted to fit today’s society. This was one adjustment that I was glad for. Sure the Original Series had deeply philosophical and scientific themes/humor, but this new style certainly made it more accessible, and enjoyable, for normal people. I have to say I was thoroughly amused to see a sarcastic Uhura blow Kirk off by saying, “…and I thought you were just some dumb hick who likes to have sex with farm animals.” It was a little vulgur, but honestly, this is exactly the type of thing a college-aged student is going to say in this modern society… Nice to see this translated over to the movie. Actually, I have to say that most of the characters were portrayed very well by their new actors, with the possible exception of Sulu.
Kirk was pretty well portrayed. I can see the not-afraid-to-violate-the-Prime-Directive defiant personality in him… they did well to express his cockiness, but they might have slightly overdone it; Of course, this can easily be described by the fact that he’s still young. Not really much to discus… Chris Pine really nailed Kirk’s personality. The only thing to add would probably be a bit more confidence to his character, but this would probably come with experience.
Spock on the other hand annoyed me quite a bit in the movie. (He’s normally my favorite too!) From the beginning, this guy was a prick. This guy is shown as a typical arrogant nerd who holds grudges against people. Overall, it just bothered me how emotional this guy was… it just seemed so out of character from the Spock I’m used to. I mean, sure it’s justifiable, but this is Spock… a lot of time he just seemed to be acting immature to me. Another thing that completely caught me off guard- What was up with the Spock/Uhura relationship? Again, this guy is supposed to have no emotions. I suppose he might still be learning to suppress his emotions being young, but the deal with Uhura really seemed out of place. His voice also reflects his slightly emotional nature; Sometimes, even during non-emotionally charged times, his voice contained certain inflections that hinted at emotions. Whether or not this was intentional, I guess we’ll just have to see. To my relief, his character seemed much more reformed after his chat with Old Spock, suggesting a more cooperative attitude.
Uhura surprised me. In the Original Series, Uhura was one of the lesser-developed characters, so I was quite pleased that Abrams gave her character more personality. I must say, I enjoyed seeing her stand up for herself and take more initiative, rather than being a simple order-taker. Again, this is a reflection of our modern society, as during the ’60s show, women were pretty discriminated against too.
I really liked how McCoy was portrayed too! Upon seeing pre-release images of Karl Urban as Bones, I was a little skeptical as he seemed a little off appearance-wise. I quickly reversed my decision upon hearing the doctor open his mouth as the whole character came together as he muttered his usual complaints and disapproval. He made sure to say all his catchphrases, which was a little forced, but in the end it worked. The fact that Kirk and McCoy become friends early on also shows how their deep relationship came about in the Original Series and hopefully this reality.
Chekov was well done too, as I can completely picture the cadet as the hyperactive teenager that he was portrayed to be. Again, a salute goes to Paramount for the hilarious “Wiktor Wiktor” scene, causing the computer to reject Chekov’s voice code because of his Russian accent. Chekov’s tendency to pronounce “v’s” as “w’s” became famous in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home when he asked a police officer where the “Nuclear Wessels” were kept. Kudos to Paramount for adding humor to Chekov’s distinctive character trait.
I was looking where the heck Scotty was for most of the movie, but when he finally showed up on Delta Vega, I was delighted with a young, fun-loving engineer. I absolutely loved how Simon Pegg pulled off his Scottish accent, and almost laughed out loud as he yelled “SHUT UP!” to his assistant. I’m also glad they gave this Scotty more personality by portraying him as a more fun-loving individual than the Original Series did. Nice!
Ok, the only one I had a serious problem with was Sulu. Sulu was… eh. His character was really not developed. To be honest, I don’t really like his appearance either as John Cho seems to be too… serious. It’s a little unfortunate that the actor falls into the “typical Asian” stereotype because it really makes it difficult to portray Sulu’s character. In the Original Series, Sulu was a bit more vocal and involved during away missions, but here… not so much. I’ll give him a chance though in a sequel.
Characters aside, I loved the references to the now “old” timeline of the previous Star Trek universe. The Kobayashi Maru sequence was really amusing as I remember Kirk mentioning that he reprogrammed the test in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan because he didn’t believe in a “no win scenario.” I also picked up on how they used the original sounds from the Enterprise’s console boards with a new “digital” touch. Old but new, I like it. The concept of “Orbital Skydiving” also returned. As one might recall, it was the scrapped, original introduction in Star Trek: Generations, a movie that was supposed to “pass on the baton” to the Next Generation crew. Whether intentional or not, I think this movie “passed the baton” quite nicely. One part that I felt was a little “forced” was when Kirk just so happened to crash land on the same planet as Old Spock, but hey, it was in the name of Plot Device! It’s interesting to note that this alternate reality Kirk’s career basically started on the planet of Delta Vega. The Delta Vega station, despite being in another part of the galaxy, was also the location of the first “mission” in the Original Series. (Where No Man Has Gone Before, second pilot of Star Trek The Original Series.) To seal the deal, the ending credits rolled with a beautiful rendition of the Original Series‘ theme. It truly filled the heart with happiness to see how far we’ve come.
Star Trek XI: End Credits with Intro
Star Trek: Original Series Opening
Star Trek XI was an instant success. Hundreds went on opening day to see the “the most anticipated blockbuster of the 2009 summer season.” Paramount really went all out when it came to promoting this movie. There was viral marketing, promotional T-Shirts and much more in action. Probably the most effective move was when a 30 second segment was broadcasted during the Superbowl when half of my friends came to me and said “it doesn’t look like a bad movie.” Indeed, I’m really happy that nerds and non nerds can enjoy the movie… I’m glad that Star Trek is expanding its horizons.
I absolutely loved the film, and the plot was captivating, but perhaps the biggest treat for me was seeing how far this franchise has come. 40 years and going strong, Live long and prosper.