Monday, May 11, 2009

Life O'Star Trek

Part of the $112 Million that the new Star Trek movie made last weekend came out of my pocket. I popped for the IMAX version, which is probably twice as much as a regular theater ticket, so from a marketing standpoint I guess you could say I’ve seen it twice. I went with two great pals, with whom I’ve seen many an opening-day Star Trek flick. As it turns out, I enjoyed myself thoroughly and would even consider seeing it a “third” time.

I’ve been a Star Trek fan since the show debuted in the Sixties. I’ve seen most of the movies. I’ve seen all of the movies with the original cast. I like Patrick Stewart as Captain Picard and Marina Sirtis as Deanna Troi is stunning, but I don’t think I went to the theater more than once. I don’t have the emotional attachment to the Next Generation stuff that I do to the original characters. So, that being said, I loved this new movie with the new cast. I think Chris Pine is a completely believable Kirk who burns with competence and emotion. I think he’s taken the role in a much-needed different direction than William Shatner found himself going. Shatner was almost a caricature of himself as Kirk. But of all of the original cast, he is the only one who created a completely different memorable character. Boston Legal’s Denny Crane is a classic TV character and Shatner has to take enormous credit for creating him and putting him into the lexicon. As an actor, Shatner will not always be thought of as Captain Kirk. Even though Shatner defined the role, Chris Pine has created an equal character with all of the contradictions, but without the almost campy wryness that was threatening to overcome the entire franchise.

The trinity of Kirk, Spock, and Bones McCoy is in good hands. Zach Quinto and Karl Urban are true to their characters and bring humor and the needed energy to their younger versions. You can believe these guys when they respond to dire circumstance.

The secondary characters played by Zoe Saldana, Simon Peg, John Cho, and Anton Yelchin are also excellent. Like I said, the campy stuff is gone. These are vital young characters that have somehow arrived and continued without some of the baggage the older versions had developed over the years. The plot vehicle of time travel and parallel universes helped with this too, but it is truly a character-driven series and they pulled it off. It would have been easy to screw it all up, but the production values and the writing did not allow it.

Gene Roddenberry created a series of fables, if you will, that examined a multitude of ethical questions and philosophies. These were presented obviously and the outcomes were almost never in doubt or ambiguous. The new actors have imbued the franchise with a new energy and subtle character changes, which has ignited the potential to create sweeping epics, whose stories may enlighten the human experience in ways that transcend what Star Trek has previously given us. Philosophy and ethics may be artfully revealed rather than simply stated. There is room for darkness and a deeper examination of the human spirit. Villains and heroes alike are complete beings and not just cardboard cutouts. The intrinsic friendships that carry much of the emotional weight throughout the series have new potential for growth and increased depth.

It’s a lot to hope for, but after the first episode in this incarnation, it certainly seems possible.