Saturday, March 07, 2009

Star Trek: Reboot...are we excited about this?

When it was announced in late 2007 that Paramount Pictures were planning to reboot the Star Trek movie franchise, the initial reaction from fans and non-fans alike was underwhelming to say the least. The last Trek movie, Nemesis (2002), performed poorly at the box office and fans felt it was little more than a pale imitation of the franchise’s arguably finest moment, The Wrath of Khan, but it was just too ‘lite’ to light up the screen and people stayed away in droves. After that, general feeling was somewhere in the region of ‘let sleeping dogs lie’. Then, out of left-field, JJ Abrams (Alias, Lost, MI:3) was attached to the project, and a Spock-like eyebrow was raised all round. Fascinating. Surely, if anyone could inject new life into Gene Roddenberry’s space baby it was Abrams?
And so the questions began: which Trek crew would it be? Not The Next Generation, that’s for sure. Not Deep Space 9. (That one was going nowhere, literally!) Not Voyager, either. (They wrapped that up pretty smartly on TV). So, surely it had to be Enterprise, the much-maligned last ditch effort of the franchise’s television arm? The show was axed once, brought back for one more season only to be axed again. (Sometimes it’s more merciful to set your phasers to ‘kill’ and not ‘stun’, if you catch my drift!)
Well, Mr Abrams, was it to be the Enterprise crew?
No, said Mr Abrams.
“Then what on Genesis could it be?” the world screamed (well, on the internet, no one can hear you scream.)
I don’t think anyone was really expecting the announcement that the franchise was going back to the Kirk/Spock era. I certainly didn’t. My initial feelings were a mixture of excitement and trepidation. I loved the Classic Crew. Star Trek 2, 3 and 4 are still among my favourite movies of all time. Those three movies form a neat trilogy and I believe it was there that Star Trek reached its zenith, exploring and expanding on the underlying ideals that were at the heart of the original TV series, and giving them an almost epic treatment. And with Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home (a.k.a. the One with the Whales), the franchise even managed to bring in people who weren’t Star Trek fans; justifiably, the movie went on to be the most successful Trek movie of all. After that everything diminished to a greater or lesser degree.
If there was a downside to the Classic Crew movies (for the uninitiated that’s Star Trek 1-6, with a slight overlap on 7) it was the spectre of age upon the cast. The sterling work done on those first six movies was undermined by endless jokes about Zimmer frames and phasers set to ‘afternoon nap’. While Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley examined the grand themes of friendship and sacrifice and loss, all people wanted to do was poke fun at Shatner’s (alleged) wig and ever-expanding paunch, which really wasn’t the point. Shame.
What people really wanted to see was the original cast (and they were a great cast) running around like they did in the original TV series, if not with those primary-coloured shirts then at least with the same energy. And that, in a nutshell, is what JJ Abrams is about to attempt. Except, of course, with a brand new cast...and the shirts. Chris Pine (Smokin' Aces) will be sitting in Captain Kirk’s chair; Zachary Quinto (Sylar in Heroes) will be donning Spock’s pointy ears; and Karl Urban (Eomer in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy) will be filling McCoy’s size 12s. Whether these fresh-faced young whipper-snappers will be able to fill the shoes left behind by Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley remains to be seen, and will no doubt be debated on countless internet forums for a long time to come.
I, for one, feel as excited about the whole enterprise (sorry) as I did back in 1979 when, aged eight, I breathlessly awaited the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the first attempt to bring Star Trek to a new audience and a new generation. Although, in retrospect, the movie was a bit of a disappointment for an eight year old. I had more fun making cardboard Star Trek figures and ships out of the movie tie-in Weetabix boxes than I did sitting in the cinema watching that overlong, poe-faced spectacle which almost killed the movie franchise before it got going, but that’s a discussion for another time.
What I’m most excited about is the prospect of taking my seven year old son to see the new movie. Star Trek was always about hope (hope for the future specifically) and I hope this latest reboot is a massive success and leads to more (good) Trek movies in years to come. Die-hard fans may already be appalled at the audacity of what they see as ‘treading on hallowed ground’, whilst the majority of fans will have impossibly-high expectations which the movie could never hope to meet. But we can always hope. Hope is good. Hope is human. It is also, as Spock would say, “not logical”.
Star Trek is scheduled for release May 8 2009.

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