Sunday, November 23, 2008

Weighing in on matters of galactic importance

On Friday night Best Mate Jo and I went to see Kevin Smith's latest movie, Zack and Miri Make a Porno. I thought it was a wonderful little movie; great performances, likeable characters, some terrific jokes. The ending felt a bit rushed, but on the whole I enjoyed it immensely. On the way home, however, I turned, as I often do, to the subject of Star Trek. Now, Jo and I have been friends for … well over 15 years, I'd guess. And in that time she's never - not once - expressed an interest in anything remotely to do with Star Trek. She's tolerated my obsession, as all friends do with this sort of thing (right back at you with the Robbie Williams obsession, Jo), but I know never to call her up and say "why don't you come-on over and we can watch Wrath of Khan, Search for Spock, and The Voyage Home back-to-back?" No point, not gonna happen, never in a million years.

On Friday, though, I handed her my iPhone, and said "watch this."

Last Monday, as many of you will know, a new trailer for the new Star Trek movie came out, and over the course of the last week I've had many people ask me my thoughts on it. Now, obviously Star Trek is very important to me; I've been a fan for as long as I can remember, and it pays my bills.

Before we go any further, if you haven't already seen it, here it is.

So yeah, a fair few people have been asking me about it, so here's my two-pence worth.

Really, when it comes down to it, I'm a classic Trek fan. Yes, I love TNG, DS9, Voyager, and even the other one Enterprise, but at the end of the day Star Trek is, for me, all about Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. I've said before that I've got a lot of faith in J.J. Abrams to produce a vision of Star Trek that's worthy of standing alongside the classic episodes and films such as The Wrath of Khan, and from where I'm sitting the new trailer does nothing to dispel that notion. If anything, from what I can see in those two-and-a-bit minutes J.J. has gone way beyond what I had hoped we'd see. 

How do I know that? Well, my Star Trek equivalent of spidey-sense was a-tingling. And I haven't had that since the last time I saw Captain Kirk in a Star Trek trailer, waaaaaaay back in 1994 when Star Trek Generations was looming. Let me repeat that: when I saw Captain Kirk. As I said, I love all of Star Trek's incarnations, but while I was always excited to see trailers for the TNG films, they never quite elicited the same response as seeing those for the original cast movies. First Contact was a brilliant film, but it was no Wrath of Khan; Insurrection … Insurrection, I've always felt, was possibly the most Roddenberry-esque concept for a Star Trek movie, but somehow I think it would've served the original cast better; and Nemesis? I actually like Nemesis. Sure, it's not amazing, but there are some nice bits in it, and by the time it came out it was pretty obvious that the TNG franchise was winding down so I kind of felt a little more emotional towards seeing Picard and his crew again - almost like I was saying goodbye. But still, Kirk and co they were not.

The chief complaints I've heard against the new movie are all based around the fact that it's a new cast taking on the characters, the set designs and the exterior of the Enterprise itself look different, and it seems like the all-important continuity is being violated all over the place.

Now look here: nothing would please me more than to see William Shatner back on the silver screen as James T. Kirk, but the last time we saw the character was in a movie in which he was killed. I really don't want the latest film to spend two hours explaining away his resurrection using some god-awful sci-fi cliche. And honestly, how much longer could he go on playing the role? Shatner himself seems reasonably comfortable with his character passing to a new actor, so if it's good enough for the mighty Shat, it's good enough for me. As long as the character is being served well I'll be a happy fan, and Chris Pine looks to be doing a wonderful job.

As for the rest of the cast, they all seem to be great too. Zachery Quinto as Spock? Wonderful. Karl Urban as Bones? Good god, from just the one line he has in the trailer I'd say he's nailed that role to utter perfection. Zoe Saldana? Beautiful. Sulu, Chekov? Great! Perhaps the only cast member I've been unsure about is Simon Pegg as Scotty, simply because Simon Pegg is … well, rather well known as Simon Pegg. Whereas the other actors are relatively unknown to me, I look at Scotty as Simon Pegg playing Scotty. On the plus side, from reading interviews in which he talks about the role it's clear that he is a Star Trek fan, and he's approached it with the sensibility that he knows it's more than just a normal acting gig: it comes with a degree of responsibility - to the fans and to James Doohan. So after my initial uncertainty, I'm happy to say that I think Scotty's in good hands.

Now… the look of the Enterprise. More than anything else, the appearance of the Enterprise, both inside and out, is iconic - but we'd be foolish if we thought this movie, with its immense budget, would replicate to the nearest millimetre, the exact same sets that appeared in a 43 year-old television series. Of course they won't. But what they have clearly done for the interiors is to take inspiration, from the general layout and vibrancy of the old sets, and apply it to a new design - which, quite possibly, is what Matt Jefferies would've created back in the sixties if he'd had the time, budget, and technology that today's production designers have.

As for the exterior of the Enterprise, well, I'll be honest: the first time I saw a shot of the new ship I kinda went "oh wow, that's … uh." And I looked at it some more, turned my head this way and that, then I closed down my web browser and stared at the image of the Enterprise-A that I have as my desktop background. It was not the same, and I didn't like it. Over the course of a couple of days, though, I kept going back to the single image of the new ship, and in that short time I looked at it and I began to think that I really should practice what I preach: were they really going to stick so closely to the old design? No. Does it have the necessary parts? A saucer section, two warp nacelles, an engineering hull? Yes. Are they all in the right place? Yes. And since then it's grown on me quite a lot, which is an impressive feat because I've had to put aside god-knows-how-many-years of love for the original design. Hell, even Shatner's happy with it!

Finally, there's the whole issue of cannon violation. Ooo, there's Romulans in a pre-TOS setting when they actually shouldn't be seen until the episode 'Balance of Terror,' and there's the whole thing about Kirk serving alongside Pike when in 'The Menagerie' he says he's only met him once, and - ooo, ooo - Kirk can't drive in 'A Piece of the Action,' but he's seen in the trailer driving a Corvette! To this last one, I say this: I've been driving for 14 years now, and I'm pretty sure I'd have a bit of difficulty driving a car from the 1920s. And anyway, wasn't that car built by the Sigma Iotians from something described in a book? Who knows what technology was powering it! 

As for the other two points, well, let's not get our knickers in a knot unnecessarily. The film's writers say everything will be explained in the movie, and from everything I've read those guys seem to have done their homework. Obviously I've not seen the new film yet, so I'm quite happy to wait until it's released before moaning about violating this, and violating that. 

(Of course if those issues aren't addressed in the movie we can all jump online and bitch to our heart's content. That is, after all, what the internet was created for)

Oh, and as for Best Mate Jo, she who does not do Star Trek, after two minutes watching that trailer in silence, she handed me back my iPhone and said with utter sincerity "that looks f*cking amazing."

I've got my tingle back, people; May 8th, 2009 really can't come soon enough.


Tara said...

I have my doubts about Simon Pegg too, as I'll always know him from "Shaun of the Dead". Scotty seems like a more serious character and we'll just have to see if Pegg pulls that off! Karl Urban - yeah, I like him a lot.

I thought for a second that the guy playing Capt. Kirk was the guy who played Ice Man/Bobby in "X-Men", but nope.

watch*paint*dry said...

Oooh I think it looks fantastic.
Star Trek scared the life out of me when I was little I remember listening to it from behind the couch!

I quite like Simon Pegg. I hope he rocks at it.

Inexplicable DeVice said...

I relented and watched the trailer on tiny little YouTube. Now I regret it, because I was underwhelmed.
Of course, I will withhold judgement until I see the actual film on the big screen (ugly old Enterprise, and all - I'm hoping that picture was taken from a bad angle...)

CyberPete said...

That's a long wait, May 8th.

It does look quite good, even I may go watch it.

Tim said...

Tara - My faith in the Pegg is growing, so hopefully he'll turn out to be a good choice. I'm totally sold on new Kirk, though. Seems like a top chap.

Watch*Paint*Dry - It does, doesn't it!

Inexplicable Device - D'oh! You should've watched it in all its hi-def glory at the Apple trailers page! And "ugly old Enterprise?" HEATHEN!

Cyberpete - It is a long wait, isn't it? I don't know how I'll manage…

CyberPete said...

It resembles Star Wars with a dash of matrixy sci fi fun dialogue which is not a bad thing I suppose.

I didn't follow half of what you were writing. I should watch the series but there are so many.

Tim said...

Star Wars and The Matrix?! How very dare you!

CyberPete said...

ooops! Sorry.

T-Bird said...

I just hope it's not going to be fanboyish. I've been worried about all the 'Spock meets Kirk Love a First Sight LOL!!!!1!' speculation.

I can't appreciate Trek on the level you do, Tim (I don't think many people can) but I am looking forward to it. As an aside, I First Contact is up there in my top ten flicks. It's a great, tense little story.

Tim said...

Cyberpete - I want you to go and recite 10 "hailing frequencies open" as punishment.

T-Bird - I don't think it will be. I expect there'll be the odd nod and a wink to the fans, but nothing too OTT.

And I very much doubt there'll be any Vulcan sex-grips - at least directed towards Kirk.

First Contact? Interesting… I love it, but it never really pops into my mind as a film I want to watch like, say, The Wrath of Khan is.

T-Bird said...


I liked the scariness of the Borg in First Contact. It's been yeeeaaars since I saw the Wrath of Khan. I used to watch them all the time with Dad and his brother. Hmm. I should really rectify that.