Boldy Go…or Go Home…

Posted: September 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

Image

On Tuesday, September 10, JJ Abrams’ follow up to his 2009 reboot of the Star Trek franchise, Star Trek Into Darkness, was released on DVD and Blu-Ray. I’m a huge Star Trek fan. There seems to be a commonly accepted line between whether you’re a Star Trek fan or a Star Wars fan. Apparently you can’t be both. It’s like living in Chicago and being a fan of the White Sox or the Cubs. Pick one. You can’t have it both ways. Personally, I never adhered to this line of thinking. I like both because they tell different stories. Where Star Wars is an adventure franchise telling familiar mythology in a space setting, Star Trek is about humanity as a people exploring space and encountering new cultures….with some fairly epic space battle shenanigans tossed in there from time to time.

It’s true that if asked which one I like more I’d have to go with Star Wars. Despite everything that happened in the prequels it still holds less disappointment on the whole. There’s a lot of boredom to be endured with the various Star Trek TV series and even a few movies. With less in the mix, George Lucas’ space opera tended to be more entertaining. That said, and speaking as a Star Trek fan, I think Abrams did a great job with the reboot by preserving certain elements that make Star Trek what it is as well as adding a much broader scope of action and adventure for the casual movie goer just looking to have a great time for a couple of hours. And I don’t agree with the recent poll that Into Darkness was the worst Trek movie ever. I mean, like any other movie, yes…it had it’s problems (and I’ll get into some of them further down when I reach my main point) but it was fun. It was entertaining, emotional and clever. Abrams point was to appeal to average, non-Trek fan movie goer but it still held the true Trek fan in high esteem. It essentially covered all of the bases.

Now, it should be pointed out that I like ALL of the Trek movies. Even the so-called “bad ones.” Maybe my opinion doesn’t mean much on the matter because I actually think my least favorite was Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (aka Save The Whales). This may come as a surprise because many consider it to be one of the best but to me a Star Trek movie should take place in 24th Century outer space. Not 1980s San Francisco. I also feel like Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier get a bad rap. Especially the latter. I’ve heard it argued that it was silly to have them searching for God…but why not? Is it really so far fetched of an idea? And you even got what was probably William Shatner’s best performance of the whole franchise out of that film.

Returning to the crux of the matter, though, despite enjoying both of Abrams’ forays into the newly rebooted Trek universe I do find a certain disconnect from what came before. I have nothing against reboots and remakes. If it’s warranted then by all means knock yourself out. You may have seen my previous blog in response to the recently released trailer to the Robocop remake, in which I discussed my views on remakes. They are fine. They aren’t always necessary or better than the original but on the whole they are okay. The problem I have with the reboot of Trek is that it’s not really a reboot. Abrams included a specific detail that, although sounding good at the time I’m sure, actually destroyed the reboot aspect. He tied it into original continuity by having Leonard Nemoy reprise the role of Spock in a time travel angle. With that it’s suddenly not a reboot. It’s a new timeline in the canon universe but now everything is inexplicably different. And I’m not referring to the alternate timeline events that resulted from [SPOILER ALERT] George Kirk being killed when the Romulan Nero time traveled and destroyed his ship in the 2009 film. I’m talking about the Romulans looking different. The radical re-design of the Enterprise and the new look of the Klingons. “Beaming” and warp speed have new, original special effects. These are all well and good as a reboot. Hell, they’re even encouraged. But if you’re dealing with a time travel storyline in original canon then these are things that shouldn’t be changed.

THE FOLLOWING SECTION CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR INTO DARKNESS. If you haven’t seen it yet you might want to skip down to the section where I say “[END SPOILERS].”

Star Trek Into Darkness features the crew of the Enterprise tracking down a terrorist named John Harrison who turns out to be Khan Noonien Singh, a villain quite popular from the original series and the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, played by English actor Benedict Cumberbach (who did an absolutely amazing job, by the way). All of that is all well and good if you’re just dealing with a straight reboot. However, in the original series, Khan (played by Ricardo Montalban) was a genetically engineered superior being of Indian ancestry from the 21st Century. In Into Darkness he’s the same thing except that he’s British. Now, having originated from the 21st Century, his nationality would not have been altered by the death of George Kirk.

Star-Trek-Into-Darkness-Khan

Also in the original series (season 2 episode Space Seed to be exact), John Harrison was an Enterprise crewman. Not a fictional identity bestowed upon Khan or anyone else. Sure, one could argue that somehow George Kirk’s death stopped Mr. Harrison from being born but what are the odds that someone would then use that name as a false identity for Khan. My chances of winning the Spanish National Lottery and inheriting the fortune of my dead Nigerian Prince cousin are far more likely, I’d say. So with Into Darkness the lines between reboot and canon get increasingly blurred and the weave really starts to fall apart. But again that doesn’t stop the movie from still being loads of fun. I just can’t seem to grasp a solid hold of it being a true Star Trek film.

[END SPOILERS]

It’s not just the plot holes and inconsistencies of trying to have both a reboot within a canon universe, either. I think the biggest part of why the new films don’t feel 100% like true Star Trek to me stems into a rather important realm of the reboot angle. The cast is different. Again, going back to the idea that reboots and remakes are fine, a new cast isn’t that big of a deal. However, also returning to the idea that these films are both a reboot and canon, new actors filling in these iconic roles becomes a small issue. Many people may not think so and that’s fine. These are just my humble opinions. Imagine though, if you will, that when Star Wars: Episode VII goes into production (and this is all hypothetical) it is decided that Harrison Ford didn’t want to reprise the role of Han Solo. Or maybe the filmmakers decide they want to go in a different, unexpected direction where those characters aren’t quite as old so they recast Josh Brolin as Han Solo. Again…this is hypothetical. I can’t stress that enough. I’m just making a point. Nobody would accept Brolin as Han Solo. Sure, they’d still go see the film and it would make over $1 Billion globally. But there’d be a lot of griping and the whole thing just wouldn’t feel right because we’ve spent the last 30 years associating the role of Han Solo with Harrison Ford. Ultimately that’s how I feel with the new Star Trek. They are fun movies and they couldn’t have got better people to fill the roles. They really couldn’t have. But the real Captain James T. Kirk will forever be William Shatner. The real Mr. Spock will always be Leonard Nimoy. And no matter how much he looks the part, Karl Urban just can’t beat our DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy. When the same people play a part for almost 40 years it’s hard to watch new people step in. And if it had just be an honest remake it would be easier to swallow. But when you throw time travel in you’re forced to accept something rather than do it willingly. It breaks the illusion. It shows you the strings.

I like the new Star Trek movies. They are entertaining and JJ Abrams is a great filmmaker. I guess I just kind of wish he had truly gone where no man had gone before instead of trying to bridge two separate universes together with a lot of the same storytelling.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s