What I think of the new Star Trek movie

Last night, I saw J.J. Abrams’ re-envisioning of Star Trek. It didn’t suck. But I’m not about to stand up and laud the praise that so many others had. I’m not convinced it deserves it (or the #71 ranking in the IMDB’s Top 250), but it’s a vast improvement over some of the shlock that Star Trek movies have been of late.

I went in, admittedly, with higher than normal expectations (press is hard to ignore entirely, and even Wil Wheaton claimed it was awesome). So there is a certain amount of disappointment. But now that I’ve had time to ruminate on the film, the plot, the acting, etc., I’d like to think I’ve got a decent view.

And for those of you who haven’t seen the movie: Beware! Thar be spoilers ahead!

Okay, first off, let’s cover all the stuff that J.J. Abrams + Co. did (very) well:

I want to focus on that last point for a moment. This bugged me at first, but then I not only saw the wisdom in this decision, but also came to praise the breaking from pattern that came with it. In the movie (SPOILER ALERT), an event 129 years in the future creates a black hole through which Nero (the bad guy) and the Original Spock (Nimoy) get sucked back in time. This creates an alternate reality (which is actually acknowledged by the characters in the movie) where things do not follow the previous Star Trek canon.

Namely, the planet Vulcan and most of the Vulcan civilisation is destroyed.

In pretty much every previous incarnation of Star Trek, some event occurs in the course of the given episode/movie that allows the regular timeline to be returned to normal. But Abrams and crew deliberately avoided hitting the “Reset Button” (Star Trek: Voyager, I’m looking at you!). Result? Uhuru and Spock are love interests, Vulcan is still destroyed, Kirk is a captain much earlier than in the regular timeline, and the technology is more advanced that it would be normally (though this pattern was started with Star Trek: Enterprise).

What does this mean? It means Abrams (and future Star Trek movie makers) are not tied to the previous canon, and are free to create some of their own. We’ll likely see certain characters return, albeit slightly different, and some characters may never enter the new world (it’s possible we’ll never meet KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!).

The other thing it means is it (mostly) shortcuts all the nitpickers. Trekkies and Trekkers alike are nitpickers. They love tearing apart episodes and movies for continuity errors, plot issues, scientific problems, acting (especially important given the brand new cast), and gaffes. Because of the alternate reality, they can’t start claiming that something isn’t canon, or that a character wouldn’t do X, or that the planet Vulcan was never destroyed.

I say “mostly”. Because there are some problems with the movie, too, that transcend the alternate reality. Remember, I’m a reformed Trekkie, which also makes me a nitpicker.

It’s a new world for Star Trek, and Abrams’ approach to setting up that new world was done (mostly) wisely. For an odd-numbered Star Trek movie, it’s also pretty good (the only other exception being Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, which I like mostly due to Christopher Lloyd’s Kruge). But it definitely doesn’t top the charts for me. I think it sets a good precedent, though, and I am eager to see what they can come up with next.

May the new Trek live long and prosper!