- Chancellor Gorkon, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Okay. So by now, you've seen the new trailer for J.J. Abrams' Star Trek movie (premiering May 8, 2009). If you haven't seen the bloomin' thing, check it out here and then come back.
Still here? Good. So what do you think?
Here some of my thoughts on the trailer, the film, and this new iteration of the franchise.
Call me an optimist all you like, but to me Chris Pine looks and sounds right as a young Captain Kirk. He has that "eye of the tiger," or something; that peculiar brand of sparkle behind the eyes that Shatner always flashed so easily and with so much charm. You can see it in the trailer when Pine (as Kirk) slides by Spock on the bridge and says -- kind of sideways -- "buckle up." Reminded me of a few moments in Star Trek VI, actually.
I'm having a wee bit more trouble with Simon Pegg as Scotty. Unlike some people, I don't think everything the man's ever done is mad genius. I was even sort of 'meh' on Hot Fuzz. For me, it became the very thing (the very mechanical, empty thing) it tried so hard to parody. Scotty can't be just comic relief here...he has to be smart too. I hope Pegg can pull it off.
I'm not entirely confident with Zachary Quinto as Spock either. Not yet.
I like Quinto very much as Sylar on Heroes, and think he's a good actor...I just haven't really "seen" him as Spock yet in these particular clips. Oh, sure, he's physically perfect for the role. But Klinton Spilsbury was also physically perfect for the role of the Lone Ranger.
Specifically, these clips don't reveal the cool iciness of Spock; the curious intellect; the finely-formed sense of irony. The sense of gentleness. The respect for life. All life...no matter the shape or form. I sure hope all of that is present in the movie.
Getting to the hardware: the "new" U.S.S. Enterprise looks damn fine in motion; not so damn good in still photograph. In other words, she looks like a beauty in the trailer, when she's in action warping about and firing weapons. She's not as sleek as the NCC-1701 model in The Motion Picture, but I would say this Abrams Enterprise is far more beautiful than the dreadful Enterprise E design featured in First Contact, Insurrection and Nemesis. Or, for that matter, the NX model from Enterprise.
In total, I dug the trailer (though I could have really, really, really done without the kid doing gymnastics while leaping out of a speeding car, going off a cliff...).
Random thoughts about the film, vis-a-vis the trailer:
1. This has to be a Star Trek for 2009, not a Star Trek for 1966 or 1979 or 1987, whathaveyou. Otherwise it fails.
2. The visual changes in the Trek universe seen in the trailer don't seem any more drastic or radical than the visual changes we saw between the original series and The Motion Picture. The bridge, the Enterprise, the corridors, the costumes -- they are all still immediately identifiable as "Star Trek." So far, so good.
3. Next Gen, Voyager, DS9 (to an extent) and Enterprise all proved that the "new crew"/"new ship" approach is washed up. Not one of the new character ensembles ever matched the mythic nature or chemistry of the original crew. Example: when Data said "the hell with our orders" in First Contact it didn't seem organic, much less real...it seemed like a rip-off of Spock saying "go to hell" to Star Fleet Command at the end of the Undiscovered Country. My point? The best the other crews could ever muster was an imitation of the Kirk crew. So, instead of doing the same thing again -- giving us another new crew -- and expecting a different result (the very definition of insanity) Abrams did something different here. He may well fail (and fail big time...), but we already know what's down that other road (Insurrection, Nemesis, etc.). So if it's between this or another Next Gen movie, count me in, J.J.
4. It looks to me like Abrams is not so much re-defining Kirk; but trying to actually define Kirk. Which is a good thing. Kirk's history has always been somewhat contradictory. He cheated on the Kobayashi Maru test...but in "Where No Man Has Gone Before," Gary Mitchell said young Kirk was positively "grim" in the Academy (a stack of books with legs, or some such thing). Tell me: how do those two images of Kirk jibe? Was he a positively grim cadet, hassled by Finnegan ("Shore Leave") or the brillant, improvisational rebel who cheated on the Kobayashi Maru test?
I suspect Abrams and his people looked back at the TV show and decided that they had to pick one Kirk or the other; either the "grim," "studious" Kirk...or the Koyabashi Maru/"I don't believe in the no-win scenario" Kirk. They picked the latter. We might quibble with their selection, but I respect that they had to choose. I do hope the new movie remembers that Kirk is an intelligent guy too...well-educated and knowledgeable. He was a student of history...
5. With a huge budget, plus recent advances in special effects, this movie provides the opportunity to visualize Star Trek on a Star Wars scale...and I'm thilled about that possibility. The values of Star Trek (optimism, brotherhood, etc.) coupled with the visuals and pace of Star Wars? Should be awesome...
6. Finally, it looks to me from the trailer that Uhura, Sulu and Chekov are no longer window dressing, but valuable characters and important movers in the stories. This is actually an improvement over old Trek.
7. Leonard Nimoy, Leonard Nimoy, Leonard Nimoy. How bad can the movie be if Leonard Nimoy signed on? I mean, this is the guy who worked so hard to improve the scripts for The Motion Picture and The Final Frontier. The guy who turned down Generations. But he chose to do this movie. Let's have faith in Leonard.
I understand why there's considerable trepidation about this new Star Trek. I do. This is the true "passing of the torch" moment for the franchise. Oh sure, Kirk passed the torch to the Next Generation at the end of The Undiscovered Country, but that happend in Star Trek's universe, not ours. This moment is the passing of the torch in reality: moving Star Trek beyond what it has been to Boomers and Generation X, and transforming it into something new. Starting over with a new sensibility; with a new generation -- not me! -- as the intended audience.