by Jef Burnham
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Let’s face it, most everyone who wanted to see Star Trek has already seen it. But there are those few die-hard fans of the original series like myself, who were put off by the promise of a “Star Trek for everyone.” Well, if that’s the case, I’m telling you to put your fears aside and go see it… now!
This Star Trek is definitely more accessible to general audiences, but director J.J. Abrams and crew obviously went out of their way to please long-time fans. Guest appearances, classic lines and referential jokes only those educated in Star Trek history could possibly understand abound. The cast plays true to the characters and never as caricatures of the original performances; and bless the filmmakers, for they even got the character relationships right.
Knowing the film is a prequel, Trekkies go into the film thinking about all the pre-series information gleaned throughout, worried about things such as the handling of the events surrounding the Enterprise’s original captain, Christopher Pike. These worries are quickly dashed— in the first few minutes of the film, in fact— in a move by the filmmakers to set their Star Trek apart from the original by creating their own timeline in the Star Trek multiverse, which has been done in the series and comic books for years (since the original series in fact). So how can we possibly complain about the changes, when they’re playing by rules established in the original run of the series?
However, as great as this film is and as true to the original series as it is, there is one major discrepancy. And it’s a problem I’m sure Abrams will have rectified in future installments, of which I am sure there will be many. The problem is that the film is fairly hollow thematically. Every episode of the series dealt with some sort of moral or ethical dilemma. Whether it be racism or the necessity of evil in human beings, this was par for the course with Star Trek and carried into The Next Generation in a big way, the thematic material taking precedence over the science fiction material. Hell, the first episode of TNG found Capt. Picard on trial for all of humanity! In Abrams Star Trek, theme is thin at best. The primary goal of this film, however, is to establish the characters, not only for new audiences, but for the old audiences, who need to become acquainted with the slight variations herein. Given that, I suspect this problem will be corrected in the coming sequels… or at least the Trekkie in me hopes so.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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