*Slight spoiler for those who haven’t seen it*
Okay, I may be forced to hand in my geek card for saying this, but I’ve never been that much of a fan of Star Trek. Sure there are some good episodes, but for every good episode there were two or three bad ones. The films were even more hit and miss – two, four and six being the only ones I’ve really had time for. I know enough about the programme to appreciate when it’s good, but not to obsessively worry about potential mistakes. The only thing I’ll say it ever had in its favour was that it wasn’t Babylon Five, a programme I could never get my head around the popularity of.
Sure, I’d been dragged to a convention in the past (but got to see a lot of the architecture of Edinburgh as a result) but I also remember the horror of seeing people turn up in fucking uniform to see one of the other films (can’t remember which one other than it was bloody awful). I guess outside of Star Wars I’ve always preferred Earth-bound Sci-Fi to grand space operatics, so when I saw the first advert for the new Trek reboot it must have been good because for the first time I found myself thinking “I want to see the next Star Trek film”.
So, does it work? And is it still Star Trek?
Well, it’s certainly fun and I can’t think of any problems with it. Sure, the plot is the usual summer hokum but that doesn’t really matter because even though we technically know all of the characters it still feels like we are meeting them for the first time and that’s the mark of a successful reboot. The action sequences move along at a pace (although they do suffer a bit from shaky-cam in the fights, but that’s a pandering to the censors to reduce the scale of impacts) and the major effect sequences are certainly impressive (the Saturn “Hero Shot” of the Enterprise being nothing short of stunning).
Even better though they’ve had the good sense to ditch the big problems with the show for many – it doesn’t fall back on explaining everything with pseudo techno-babble but instead assumes that we’ll accept that things work as long as it’s exciting. No-one wants to see the Science Officer expound a theory that some sort of radiation field might just work, we want Science! – you know, the sort of thing were we take for granted that root-beer will kill the giant alien slugs. New Trek delivers this in spades.
The casting is wonderful; everyone gets their moment to shine. Chris Pine comes off as a cocky young idiot who knows he’s better than everyone else and doesn’t need to prove it, whilst Karl Urban reminds us why he should be a bigger star than he actually is (bad choices – no cookie for you!). Everyone gets their chance to shine and show that it’s a crew of near genius level people and it all feels bigger than life – proper summer cinema. The addition of Nimoy also makes it feel like the baton has been properly passed and produces an interesting dilemma – this is the first time that the characters in a reboot may actually know they are a reboot, a bizarre meta / fourth wall device which presents some interesting possibilities for the future.
Two and a half films into his career Abrams’ seems to intent to pick up a reputation for producing decent, action orientated films that deliver solid entertainment and get bums on seat. It’s not a bad motivation and certainly hasn’t harmed other directors in the past with an approach to a populist touch. Plus he’s overcome that difficult second film hurdle by producing something better than the first. The big question will be whether he can deliver anything else in the long run? But for now he’s produced a solid summer film that’s certainly enjoyable.