A Few(Thousand)Words about the “New” Star Trek (Spoilers Dead Ahead, Cap’n)

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I am a Trek fan.

There I said it.

This is the part where I would usually dive into a long ass personalized story about what Trek means to me, how I’ve never seen STAR WARS because I couldn’t take the Death Star seriously with that stupid hole in the middle of it, a couple of photon torpedoes and game over, Death Star, game over and how you should have been watching all those years so Hollywood wouldn’t feel that they needed to overhaul the franchise because…

See, there I go. Breathe.  Just give the review.  Breathe, unclench the anus, give the review.

The New Star Trek should make for a fantastic roller coaster ride at Six Flags.  You better get your popcorn ready because the party gets started right after the previews and it doesn’t really let up until the end credits (when, for us classic Trek fans, we FINALLY get the classic “Space…The Final Frontier Trek opening.)

There is a scene early in the movie that I initially thought wasn’t really needed. Young James T. Kirk has just taken a “ancient” 1960’s muscle car for a joy ride. He’s speeding down the highway, heeding (Product Placement Alert!) a call on the 22nd Century Nokia car phone from the angry owner not to wreck his car. Kirk hangs up on the angry voice and puts on Sabatage by The Beastie Boys (more symbolism for your ass).

Kirk zooms past a classmate who is walking on the side of the road, an early sign of the “hey, look at me, I’m an attention whore” mentality that is the template of the future Captain Kirk. The good times are just beginning when Kirk takes a look in the rear view mirror and sees that he’s being chased by robot cop on a flying cycle. Young Kirk, instead of pulling over and giving up, goes into evasive maneuvers and the chase is on.

Man, that's a big ass hole in Iowa.  I blame global warming.

Man, that's a big ass hole in Iowa. I blame global warming.

The chase is brief due to our young hero driving the 20th Century relic into a deep canyon (in Iowa, Kirk’s home state? nah, maybe a ravine, yeah, a ravine) but seconds before he leaps out of the car as it begins its fall towards oblivion. Yeah, that will show you how much of a bad ass Kirk is and something more (in my opinion).

You're outta here confusing, complex Star Trek history!

You're outta here confusing, complex Star Trek history!

Being a fan of J.J. Abrams, the man responsible for New Trek, other work, such as TV series ALIAS, LOST, FRINGE and the movie CLOVERLEAF (no comment about MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III or FELICITY), I know that he rarely wastes a scene without having a reason. This scene seems pretty simple to figure out. Kirk in the old car (the original series) being chased by the new, the future, represented by the robot cop. The screaming voice on the product placed phone being the loyal fans issuing a warning not to damage the old car. Then the car going over a deep hole in the ground, never to be seen again but Kirk leaping to safety, avoiding the abyss.

J.J. Abrams mission was to make Trek more accessible to the rest of the free world.

In other words, get rid of that Old School Muscle Car of a show. It looks great, it’s powerful, a classic. But the reality is that it really doesn’t handle that well, is a gas guzzler, costs more to upkeep than its “worth” and only a few diehards refuse to let go. So do what you have to but get rid of the old girl, save only the parts that you can salvage and give those old diehards enough of an insurance settlement to pacify, um, satisfy their cravings for the good times that they once shared with their old classic.  Moving on.

In between the ACTION there’s a old Trek staple, the time-travel plot.  If you want to see the time travel plot worked classic Trek style, check out…just about 50% of the TV series episodes and at least two of the last big screen movies.  The Star Trek series made Time Travel it’s bitch.  Everybody had their turn with Time Travel.  Used and abused more than Andy Warhol using spray paint, Time Travel was the ultimate plot device.  You wrote yourself into a stupid situation on Trek, pull the Time Travel card, BAM!   You put Baby in a corner?  BAM!  Time Travel!  Mulligan!  Do over!  Time Travel, son, Time Travel will straighten this mess out.  Thank you.

This time, however, things get really funkified, this time for good and quicker than you can say WOW, YOU’RE REALLY GOING TO IGNORE OVER 40 YEARS OF TIME TRAVEL STORIES THAT ALWAYS, ALWAYS WORKED OUT IN THE END TO CLEAN THE SLATE AND DO YOUR OWN THING JUST SO YOU CAN GET A BUNCH OF NEW, DUMB ASSED ACTION MOVIE FANS WHO DON’T KNOW THEIR PHASERS FROM A HOLE IN THE GROUND, REALLY? REALLY?

YOU DON’T BELIEVE ME, THESE SCHMUCKS JUST JUST MADE THE DEAD IN THE WATER THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS SERIES ANOTHER 300 MILLION WORLDWIDE AND GUARANTEED ANOTHER SEQUEL AND ALL THEY HAD TO DO IS TAKE OUT “THE” FROM THE TITLE OF THE MOVIE.

“This movie is something like Armageddon + Fast and Furious with a little touch of some romance and humorous scene”

KIDS.  YOU GOTTA LOVE’EM.

THESE ARE THE “FANS” YOU WANT TO SNATCH UP THEIR EASY TO TAKE FUNDS FROM?

Actually, that’s not a bad idea.  It’s just been done before.  We can call this alternate reality Trek, Ultimate Trekverse!  Brian Micheal Bendis is gonna sue!

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The new, fresh and so clean Ultimate Trekverse is, as stated earlier, heavy on the action.  So much so that some of the big plot holes and somewhat confusing explaination of why things aren’t like they should be due to the ALTERNATE TIMELINE angle aren’t given time for you to go “What?  Wait a minute” before there’s more ACTION!  The comic relief has been kicked up a notch (Letting the tongue twisted Checkov tell the crew why they are on a mission to “Wulcan”; Kirk allergic reaction to a vaccine as he runs to tell Captain Pike that there’s danger ahead all the while Dr. McCoy sticks him in the neck with attempted cures; the crew being saved from certain disaster by Mr. Sulu’s forgetting to release the Starfleet’s version of the parking brake, the classic Red Shirt Away Team member not making it back on the ship alive, if at all; anything involving Scotty and his Ewok-like assistant)…speaking of the crew…

The core members of the old series are all accounted, young Checkov (Anton Yelchin) with his Boris & Natasha Cold War accent.   Mr. Sulu (John Cho of Harold & Kumar Goes To White Castle fame…I swore that I saw Kumar in a crowd scene…nah! no way, right?) is still quiet yet he gets in on the ACTION in one of the movie’s best scenes.  As I discussed earlier, eventually finding his way on board and to his post in Engineering is Gruff but loveable Montgomery “Scotty” Scott (Simon Pegg), or I should say, less gruff, more pep, like he’s on uppers or something (wonder if they have drug testing in the 23rd Century?).   Lt. Uhuru (Zoe Saldana) who’s, um…more about her later.

Of course, you would have to have Bones along for the ride.   Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban) more than anyone else in the movie, captured the spirt and vibe of their counterpart in the original series.   Urban makes his version of Dr. McCoy as paranoid and digusted by the germs around him as DeForrest Kelley’s Dr. McCoy was appalled by the practitioners of barbaric 20th century treatments” while walking through a 1980s era hospital in Star Trek IV.  I’m nominating Urban for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar just for nailing the “Dammit, man, I’m a doctor not a mathematian!” line.

Then there’s Kirk & Spock, the heart and logical soul of everything that is Trek.

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In this new Ultimate Trek, Kirk (Chris Pine) is still Kirk.  Since we’ve never seen a Kirk this young, it’s easy to imagine that he would be one cocky SOB, not scared of a thing and willing to take on all comers.  The Rebel.  The Badass. The Jerk.  The Hero.

Abrams did the right thing by not tampering too much with the Kirk Formula.    Kirk is a dick and that is his superpower.

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The biggest change was with Mr. Spock.  Calm, cool and collected aren’t the only things that apply to our guy any longer.   Young Mr. Spock is a Vulcan on the core but underneath, his half Human DNA is all man and, baby, he’s open for business.   Say something about his Human mother if you want to, this Spock will open up a can of Whoop Ass on you.  You can push his buttons,  Jim Kirk, and you will get choked slamed all over the main deck.   Kirk still gets the girls, “even the green ones”,

Kirk Wuz Here

Kirk Wuz Here

now Spock’s getting in on the action.

Spock Love

Space, the Horny Frontier just ain’t Captain Kirk’s romper room anymore.

Sure Spock always kicked ass and got the Vulcan Seven-Year Itch aka Pon-Farr but he was/is calm behind the Kirk storm.  Spock’s one of the greatest wingmen, ever.

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Spock Prime (the original Spock (Leonard Nimoy) the only remnant of the Trek We Once Knew that remains, now as a Guru/Guide to Ultimate Trek) logically (of course) informs Spock 2.0 (who really doesn’t like Kirk all that much, hell, who can blame him, the guy is a dick) at the movie’s end is that together they can/will be great, alone, not so much.

So Spock 2.0 swallows that Vulcan pride and takes his side by the Johnny Knoxville Of Space and lo, a old classic has been watered down for 21st Century mass consumption re-vamped for the…Next Generation.

SIDEBAR

There are a lot of changes in Ultimate Trekverse.  But there are somethings that painfully remain the same.  The classic IN LIVING COLOR sketch, THE WRATH OF FARRAKHAN put it best:

Spock is the strongest and most intelligent mofo in Starfleet, yet he’s only second in command.  Spock played a major part in taking out the movie’s big bad, showed big guts in his rescue of the Vulcan elders yet Kirk gets the ship and the crew and Spock gets #2.  That’s shit, yo.  But he does get Uhura.  So he’s got that going for him. Now about Uhura…

For obvious reasons, I have always wanted to see Uhura DO SOMETHING besides call Starfleet or look pensive as the rest of the crew did something dangerous.

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Back when the original Trek series aired, Nichelle Nichols (original Uhura) didn’t really have much choice in the matter of how she was portrayed.  Yet her role was a trend setter for women on Television in general and African American women in particular.   Times were much different then.  It was a slam dunk, I thought, that in this new movie, Uhura would provide a much more important role.

WRONG.

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43 years later, give or take a day or two and Uhura is STILL the “Chocolate Fantasy”.  That was harsh.

She’s always been as cool as she is sexy and now she’s involved in a romantic storyline.  Okay, that’s fine and I found it to be touching.  It would have been fantastic if she had more to do.  Yet all she had to do is run from Kirk’s advances while she was running after Spock and getting her suck face on.  I take that back, she did flash some “attitude” (sigh, all that was missing was a neck roll and “don’t make me read you” fingersnap) when she didn’t get assigned the ship she wanted to be on in the Starship Trooper-ish pre-battle scene.  (I will admit that I found the movie’s running joke about finding out what her first name, never mentioned on the original series, amusing.  It’s Nyota for those of you keeping score.)

Nichelle Nichols on Ebony as Lt. Uhura

Back when the character was created, it was to show that the future had moved past things as race being a major issue.   The irony of the show being created in the 1960s, during a major change in American race relations.  Uhura was a background player for most of the original series run, the execption being the infamous kissing scene with Kirk.  Nichols wanted to quit the show due the lack of anything for her to do and was persuaded against doing so by none other than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. because she was a role model for the Black Community.  She was an inspiration, indeed.

Abrams with Saldana on the New Trek set.

Abrams with Saldana on the New Trek set.

I expected to see an different Uhura in the New Trek.  J.J. Abrams has created some of the strongest, toughest women on Television over his career and I thought it would be a slam dunk that my girl would be more than just a communications officer.    Women certainly do more nowadays.   Some even fight and die in combat.  I just knew that Uhura was going to bring the pain!

Never thought that I would see an Abrams version of Uhura acting more like a David E. Kelley (TV writer who doesn’t have a clue how to write for black characters, especially black women) version of Uhura.  Lovestruck and on the sidelines for the most part.  Yeah she starts off a cadet and gets a battlefield promotion to Communications Officer in warp speed time but if she knew like I know, she wouldn’t be there long.  Girl, that is a dead-end position.  You best get on the good foot and find something else.

The upside is that Abrams did the tough job of reviving Trek without pissing off old diehards, like me, (too much.) and gaining a whole bunch of new ACTION movie fans.  (He deserves Nobel Peace Prize nomination for that, alone.)

So he will have at least three more films before he gets tired of hauling loot from the set to his vault in his mansion.  I hope that one of the things that he takes care of bringing Lt. Nyota Uhura from 1966 to the 21st Century, inspiring the…Next Generation (I can’t resist) of girls out there.  Let her fly the ship, shoot a Klingon, go down to Engineering and replenish the Dilithium Crystals in the warp engine…SOMETHING!  Or the only thing she’ll be inspiring is tomorrow’s Space groupies.

Man, I got so caught up in this that I didn’t even make one Commander Madea joke.
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