Of all the summer movies this year, I was probably most excited to see Star Trek. At least until another loud trailer with slow motion and epic choral music reminds me otherwise. But I really was excited for Star Trek. I grew up on Star Trek: The Next Generation. After watching Reading Rainbow when I was younger, how could I not love anything LeVar Burton was in? I even followed Deep Space Nine some and watched nearly every episode of Voyager. I saw all the original movies and a few episodes of the Original Series here and there whenever it was on Sci-Fi. Sure my Star Wars obsession eventually overpowered it, but that doesn’t negate the fact that I owned a technical manual, a Klingon dictionary, a model of the Klingon cruiser from Star Trek IV, and model ships of the Enterprise A, D, and Voyager (all of which are biding their time in storage until I get a home with my awesome game room someday).
I didn’t know much of anything about the plot going into the new Star Trek movie. I had heard whispers of time travel coming into play, but all I really knew was that JJ Abrams already had my love, and the trailer gave me chills.
First, a review of the actual movie. I say this because for someone who loves Star Trek and knows Star Trek, it always goes much deeper than what plays out on screen. There are ramifications for every scene, every line of dialogue, especially with a prequel. I know how bad that sounds. I don’t care.
The movie itself was awesome. If I knew nothing about Star Trek and was looking for a way to kill two hours while stuffing myself with popcorn, I would’ve loved it. The battle scenes were intense, it was beautifully shot (with exception of the overindulgent lens flares), and the CGI looked great (unlike Wolverine). I even thought the comic relief was well timed and actually funny. The cast did a great job capturing the characters while making them their own. With exception of the random ice monster chase, everything fit together and the movie was well paced. For the most part, this is how summer movies should be made.
So why did I leave with a sour taste in my mouth? After everything I just said, combined with the fact that there were tons of inside jokes and creative “first moments” to please hardcore fans, I should’ve made my pre-order for the DVD already, right? Not so fast. There were two things about this movie that bothered me, one as a fan of Star Trek, and one as a fan of movies.
The first thing that bothered me was the whole time travel thing. Cover your ears for the next two paragraphs, unless you want STAR TREK SPOILERS:
The whole alternate reality thing bothered me. If they wanted to create early adventures of the starship Enterprise and its crew, fine. But they decided, “nah, we can do whatever we want if we do it this way!” In essence, this storyline means that none of the other Star Trek we’ve seen ever happened. Maybe something similar to the events that already played out, but not exactly, because we’ve fallen into “alternate reality” area. This means they can create all kinds of crazy stories with this young new crew, but it also means we can have a young Picard and Riker a decade from now in “alternate reality” land.
I suppose if they treat it as two parallel timelines, I’d be ok with it. They could even play with some cool storylines in that regard (imagine more wormholes and alternate reality characters meeting), much like the DoctorDonna and Rose trapped in a parallel universe in Doctor Who. If that is the case, I could get used to it and enjoy it. I am bothered that they took it to extremes and destroyed the planet Vulcan though. For the rest of the movie, I kept telling myself there was time travel and it would be brought back, but it wasn’t to be. I couldn’t believe that a franchise would destroy a planet that plays a major role in much of its history. Then I reminded myself that Alderaan was destroyed in the beginning of Star Wars. Then I remembered that while Alderaan plays a large part in the canon of Star Wars, nobody knew this when it was destroyed at the beginning of the first movie, so it wasn’t as great an impact as losing a planet as vital as Vulcan. Then I got a nerd headache and had to lie down for a bit.
Moving on, I’m done with spoilers and have a more serious issue. Yes, I saw the Onion video and yes I thought it was funny, but there’s something to it. Why is it that to be appealing to the masses, things have to be dumbed down? I can kick in my sense of elitism and answer that one, but I’d rather not, because I know films like Iron Man or the Harry Potter movies were able to find a good combination of style and substance. It pisses me off that highbrow fare can be so openly mocked: “oh look at them doing all that…talking”.
Not only that, but also the fact that we praise and seek out bright flashy lights. The new standard is to make thing faster and shakier than ever. I love it as a style, but in moderation. If the general public agreed that chocolate ice cream was the best, we wouldn’t all switch to an all chocolate diet, would we? So why must we do this with our films? Why does every event film need to have A.D.D. cuts, lens flare, pretty people everywhere, and a resistance to dialogue with depth? Films can be fun and intelligent, I swear.
It doesn’t bother me that people loved this re-imagining of Star Trek. It bothers me that people talk approvingly about it by citing the fact that it’s not over their head, nerdy, or too involved. That’s part of what made the original great. It’s what makes sci-fi as a genre great. This is a growing problem with people’s approach to cinema in general, and the studios are running a business, not creating art, so they bend to the appetite of the masses. I only hope that other filmmakers out there can continue working hard to keep that appetite honest.