It is not an easy thing to reboot one of the most popular science fiction film and TV series of all time. But in this new casting of the original characters of "Star Trek," J.J. Abrams is successful.
Originally created by Gene Roddenberry, the characters of the original Star Trek are legendary in their cult standing. The ensemble group included the ingenious leadership of Captain James Tiberius Kirk (played originally by William Shatner and now by Chris Pine), the committed intellect of Commander Spock (originally Leonard Nimoy and now Zachary Quinto), the emotive loyalty of Medical Officer Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy (originally DeForest Kelley and now Karl Urban), the mechanical brilliance of Montgomery "Scotty" Scott (originally James Doohan and now Simon Pegg), the communication expertise of Nyota Uhura (originally Nichelle Nichols and now Zoe Saldana) and the analytical skills of Pavel Chekov (originally Walter Koenig and now Anton Yelchin). Together, this group of people has been sent into the universe to "boldly go where no one has gone before."
In this recreation of the familiar ensemble, we have part action film and part cult remake. Though the characters are familiar, the actors bring a nuanced difference to their roles which is both pleasing and necessary. This film presents us with not only advanced technology which is able to represent a far more sophisticated "Starship Enterprise" and computer generated action scenes, but also the acting abilities of the ensemble have also advanced. With a few notable exceptions, this current ensemble gives an even better performance than the series' original.
But to say that this is a clean reboot of the series would be inaccurate. Through a convoluted use of time and cosmological phenomenon, and with a new fictional substance that is not explained, this remake creates an alternative timeline causing the characters' lives to be changed in remarkable ways. This is seen primarily in Capt. Kirk, but it is also dramatic in the life of Cmdr. Spock. We won't spoil how this occurs except to note that these shifts are helpful in accepting the new actors in the old roles.
The villain of this tale lacks some of the depth of such arch villains as Khan in "The Wrath of Khan" or the Borg Queen in "First Contact," but this new villain, Nero (Eric Bana), uses familiar techniques of subjugation and interrogation that remind us of both. A Romulan whose heart is grieving, Nero's genocidal vengeance plots against the entire Federation.
Although the film ambitiously attempts something many claimed could not be accomplished, "Star Trek" 2009 is successful. With the reboot the ensemble is in place, the alternative time-line has been created and the universe is before them. Now all there is left to do is to wait for the inevitable sequels. We look forward to their arrival.
1. The creation of a substance that has yet to be given a scientific rationale is unusual for Star Trek. What do you think "Red Matter" refers to? Is it analogous to the blood of the universe or what do you believe it is?
2. The introduction of each character in the ensemble ends by finding Scotty on an abandoned, frigid world along with a marooned Spock Prime. Did you find this way of introducing the ensemble distracting or engaging? Why do you answer as you do?
3. Did the love relationship between Ahura and Spock remind you of anything from the original series? Why do you think the writers inserted this into the new timeline when it was Kirk who had most of the love relationships in the original?
Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of the Free Methodist Church. For more reviews: www.cinemainfocus.com.