Couch Pumpkin: Sofa Adventures
News and reviews for the big and small screens…where potatoes fear to tread.

To boldly go…

star_trek_xi_imax_poster

In recent years, rebooting old, cheesy sci fis has become rather fashionable. Doctor Who picked up where the last series left off (or thereabouts); BSG wiped the slate clean and ‘reimagined’ all but the most basic details of the classic version. But how to update one of the most beloved and long running sci fi franchises of all time? JJ Abram’s superlative Star Trek film manages to juggle all the demands of such a task: a movie that appeals to new fans, nods to the old fans, and delivers a fresh take on old characters that is, most importantly, rip roaring fun. (spoilers follow)

As someone who can tell you the difference between a Trill and a Ferengi, but not the star date of, well, anything, nor the Klingon for ‘phaser’, I was, I feel, the ideal audience member for this film. Childhood memories of loving The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, as well as catching a few Original Series episodes, allowed me to appreciate many of the nostalgic elements: the fate of the poor man who chose the red spacesuit, for example! On the other hand, lacking a serious investment in this particular set of characters, I was happy to let Abrams play around with them and their universe. His reboot certainly eschews the often pompous tone of TNG onwards (no Prime Directive!), adopting a surprisingly humorous tone. Even the action sequences, such as the ‘alien dinosaur’ chase on Delta Vega, are infused with comic moments, such as Kirk’s facial expression which was almost worth the entrance fee alone!

The aesthetic is sleek and shiny – perhaps too shiny, with an over repetitive use of lens flare. This was, oddly, not incongruent with the vague 60s feel. Starfleet’s women, for example, still wear rather impractical miniskirts. The big budget CGI is impressive and brings the Star Trek universe to life in a way that was just not possible on television. Aliens are not as heavily focused on as they might be, and I expected cameos from a few more well known races, but those that they do show are disconcertingly realistic.

The story combines a very simple, standard sci fi plot (Bad Guy With Big Guns, Must Kill) with a more complex time travel idea. Which is a total master stroke, as it allows not only the inclusion of Leonard Nimoy and his wizened, softened Old!Spock, but also the introduction of a blank slate for the characters, who, as the film so often affirms, are now free to pursue their own destinies outside of the established canon. What was posited as a prequel now becomes, in a way, a continuation of the original universe’s story through Old!Spock, as well as allowing us to revisit familiar events from a new angle. It is coincidence or something stronger that draws the crew together as they should be, even when the timeline has been changed?

The plot is, however, secondary to the development of the characters, hence why I can forgive its somewhat leaky nature and convenient Magic Red Stuff. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto steal the show as Kirk and Spock – perfectly cast, they resemble their predecessors to a sometimes freaky degree, but crucially evoke their manner without slipping into parody. Karl Urban’s McCoy nearly crosses the line at points. Anton Yelchin, Simon Pegg and John Cho make the supporting characters memorable and lovable, despite being somewhat underused. Zoe Saldana’s Uhura is also severely underused, although her relationship with Spock is both surprising and touching. In the inevitable sequel I’d love to see her save the day, or perhaps (dare I hope) they might introduce some more girls.

If you’re looking for a message from the film (which I’m told is necessary for a Trek flick, although as I said, Abrams is clearly moving away from heavy handed moralising a la Picard), I suppose we might see it in the need for Kirk and Spock to embrace the sides of themselves they tried so hard to suppress. Spock’s reluctance to yield to his human, emotional side leads him to cling to procedure when he should be following his instinct; Kirk’s reluctance to take on his father’s mantle/ let go of his ego holds him back until he realises (via Old!Spock) what he can achieve. Both make choices about the sort of man they want to be, and this ties in nicely with the ‘new timeline, new destiny’ idea. However, I think we needn’t take more from the film than seeing the beginnings of some great relationships. The Enterprise crew has a fantastic mix of personalities which bounce off each other to great effect, particularly Kirk and Spock.

The film delivers pretty much everything you could want from a summer blockbuster: car chases, bar brawls, monsters, kissing, swordfighting, space diving, space ships exploding, tragic deaths, medical mishaps, black holes, cute guys, cute girls and much more besides. I give Star Trek full marks for creating something light hearted, funny and yet undeniably touching. Especially when the source material looks like this:

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3 Responses to “To boldly go…”

  1. Great Review and it was a great movie. I’m buying it as soon as it’s out.

  2. Hi i was wondering if i could get permission to use the picture you used or even where you got it.
    please and thank you 🙂


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