Sunday, May 10, 2009


It's an accomplishment for anyone to get a Trekker to say, hey, that was a pleasant surprise. By and large, surprises in Trek history stand in the category of "uh oh" rather than "oh cool". William Shatner's infamous comment to hyper-energized fans that, "For crying out loud, it's just a TV show!" was perhaps the best (or worst) example, but the extension of the franchise to Voyager, Deep Space 9 and worst of all, Enterprise at best divided the fans into niche areas. Certain Republicans say, who liked a certain interpretation of the leadership in war themes of DS9, or a more hormonal reaction of others to Seven of Nine's body-hugging wear, or more accurately the body that was hugged by the wear of Jeri Ryan. To take up that challenge of taking Trekdom by surprise was certainly not the final frontier, but certainly one which no man had successfully gone before. And so here's kudos particularly to Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci for putting together a screenplay which managed to change the very makeup of the Star Trek formula: that you can have all those existential questions, the exposition of self and self-conflicts, without going into a monologue. Somehow they managed to put the purpose-driven, self-discovery core into what is essentially not only its regular science fiction genre, but create a great action movie at the same time.

The actors for Kirk and Spock did well (Zachary Quinto managing
to exist as the latter without much side-effects from his Heroes fame) but the one I really thought did well was John Cho as Sulu. Think about it - this is the guy from Harold and Kumar - well connecting with some comedic moments and once again with pleasant surprises in his more serious scenes.

J.J. Abrams gets his own nod simply for keeping the pace going, and not getting into the regular trap of digging too far into Star Trek folklore. He could introduce all the major characters - Kirk, Spock, Sulu, Bones, Scotty, Uhura - for the benefit of those who may not know much about Trek, and at the same time not boring those who know enough about the topic to challenge most university faculties in terms of depth of knowledge in one's specialized area. He managed to introduce Kirk's rebellious, shoot-from-the-hip nature while at the same time enhancing those already familiar with space's favourite cowboy.

His skill of juggling the seemingly impossible dawned on me when I realized that he managed to include Spock's father - iconic in his own right not only in the original Star Trek series but in reprisals later in The Next Generation - without having to drive himself into that side alley at all. In fact, he was always referred to as Spock's father (rather than to involve another specific name: Sarek) which made perfect sense to the other characters who weren't ever introduced to Sarek. Not only does this come back to what it means to have a movie - to move - but it goes one further in allowing for Trekkers and non-Trekkers to have something to talk about after the show. It's enough to act as an introduction to those new to Star Trek, and Trekkers are always keen on discussing their sometimes scarily involved knowledge of the series.

After all, it's not for nothing that I, for example, am a bit of the resident expert on all things Voyager. Never mind that I used to have the script pretty much ingrained in my head. We used to hang out at this place and I remember once at 11pm (when the re-runs aired here) friends wondering whether we should rush back to catch the show at nearby home. So they asked the cafe owner to switch to the channel for all of 10-15 seconds - with no sound - after which I could tell them about the entire episode and whether it was worth it to catch it again.

My criticisms of the film are few: Scotty was a bit over-the-top perhaps, they could have expanded the climatic scene, and the CGI while good still couldn't match some of that of the Enterprise-E. Nonetheless, like how a movie should be a movie, this review is just that - that I'm looking forward to a re-view of the show, with its spirit that with any luck will live long and prosper in more episodes of the intrepid crew.

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