The old school Star Trek lads are back, ameliorating interplanetary conflicts in the vast law-deprived domains of outer space but things are a little different this time around: James Kirk isn’t captain, Scotty isn’t fat and an Australian, Eric Bana, emerges as the villain from beneath a mountain of makeup and prosthetics.
This surely-always-inevitable franchise reboot comes courtesy of director J.J. Abrams, the guru of TV’s Lost who was two months old when the original Star Trek series began in 1966. Abrams resolves an issue long beleaguering the series: the problem of entry points. Do potential Star Trek fans start by chewing through one of ten movies or one of 100,000 TV episodes? Set in the days when Kirk, Spock and Scotty were whippersnapper recruits, this origins-adventure is nakedly titled ‘Star Trek’ and is a decent place to begin – at least in terms of narrative chronology and at least until the next surely-inevitable reboot comes along. Give it a few decades.
Like all Star Trek movies, Abrams’s mise en scene maxes out on flashing lights, dials, buttons, panels, levers and switches, conveying a future of gadgets and gizmos no ordinary mortal could hope to understand, though the crew of U.S.S. Enterprise frantically pretend to. With a conspicuous lack of error messages one can only assume mankind has ditched Microsoft for good; probably for the best as BEAM ME UP SCOTTY has a better ring to it then BEAM ME UPSCOT>T#&*&*@ Windows has experienced an unexpected error and must be shut down. No Apple logos on set yet, but we can assume the offer was lucrative.
Abrams immediately jumps into the thick of it and the audience have to get their bearings quickly amid the bedlam of lasers, explosions, crashes, panicked men and a child birth. The bub is Captain James Kirk, who grows into a dashing bad ass in search of a cause. Played by Chris Pine, whose face is like a pastiche of every conventionally good looking young male actor in Hollywood, Kirk grudgingly agrees to join the Starfleet Academy in the footsteps of his martyred father.
Then there is the man with iconic ears, Spock (Zachary Quinto), a half-human half-Vulcan, meaning he is volatile to human emotions but driven by Vulcan work ethic. He’s also a bit of a twat, the straight man to Kirk’s bent. Kirk, Spock and the crew must find a way to stop the evil Nero (Eric Bana) in a plot that integrates destiny, time travel, parallel universes, black holes and an ice monster right out of Superfluous Action Scenes 101.
Tie-ins to the other movies are carefully placed and tinker around the edges, alluding to the franchise’s sheer obesity. Without revealing too much, older characters with a sense of perspective tend to drift into the story to nudge the younger ones along – it’s as if they’ve sat through every episode of Voyager and are keen to justify the time expenditure.
Crowded perpetually flashing sets and voluminous space gibberish will leave some audiences gasping for a little more earthy air, but it’s all in good spirit, Abrams tapping into the franchise’s trademark pseudo intellectual storylines and flavouring them with modern day editing room panache. This means slicing up the action scenes into thousands of quick woozy cuts, the word ‘pace’ considered only when preceded by ‘fast.’
On the rare occasions Abrams slows down the tempo slightly some of the set pieces, such as Nero’s lair, look a little, well, shonky, but dodgy sets are vintage Star Trek and we wouldn’t want it any other way. Abrams’s reboot is a faithful retelling, not a bold one, the director keen to tap into the Trekky spirit without putting too distinctive a spin on it. Star Trek is original enough to more than satisfy basic expectations and nondescript enough to open the flood gates for another gazillion fully clothed titles.
Star Trek’s Australian theatrical release: May 7, 2009