5.15.2009

Star Trek: Redefining the Final Frontier

I just returned from a showing of the new Star Trek movie here in Kuwait. I'm lucky that this is the second time I've seen it (the first was an advanced screening in April), and after the second time around, I like it even more.

For those who don't know, I'm a pretty big Star Trek fan. No, I don't go to conventions or have any costumes - though I did dress up as Capt. Kirk for Halloween in 4th grade - and I don't speak Klingon or anything like that, but I have always loved the original Star Trek and The Next Generation as well. My fondness for the series is probably responsible for my hesitation to cut NASA funding like so many of my fellow conservatives.

Anyway, the point of this rambling is that even though the new movie is a pretty big break from what many fans refer to as the "canon" of all things Trek, it is a great movie. It's also exactly where Star Trek needed to go to continue to be popular.

I know a lot of people have criticized the movie for changing too much or becoming like a "90210" style franchise, but to quote a famous Shatner SNL skit: "Get a life!" It's a movie. It's fantasy. It isn't real. I loved the old movies. I still think they're great, but in true Star Trek fashion, this new movie has boldly gone where the other movies had never gone before (sorry, I couldn't resist). It's alternate reality version of the original series, and what's more Star Trek than that? It's only been used in every single series of the franchise - often more than once.

The most important thing to me, is did they get the characters right? The answer is a resounding yes.

You still get a brash, arrogant, womanizing space cowboy named James T. Kirk. There's the acerbic and sarcastic Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy. Scotty, Chekov, Sulu, and Uhuru are all there and exactly as they should be. The biggest difference is that Spock is less stoic and monk-like and much more obviously half-human. This may be a stark contrast to the iconic Vulcan, but different isn't always worse - it's not always better either - but we should at least wait until the inevitable sequel to pass judgement.

My two favorite characters have always been Bones and Scotty, and the new actors knock it out of the park. Dr. McCoy was always best when he was sarcastic and abrasive - in a gruff, lovable way - and Karl Urban absolutely nails it. Scotty was also always a bit of a comic. Not in the traditional Simon Pegg type role, but in terms of his lines and attitude. Pegg is the perfect new Scotty.

The Star Trek franchise is very important to understanding today's culture and technology. A generation of physicists, rocket scientists and engineers grew up dreaming to make the future of Star Trek technology a reality. The History Channel has done a few specials on many of the technological advancements inspired by the Enterprise and her crew.

I think anything that reintroduces that bold vision of the future to a new generation of Americans is a good thing, J.J. Abrams has done just that.

If you haven't seen the movie, go see it. Whether you're a Star Trek fan or not it's an entertaining film.