Well, this is . . . interesting. Star Trek, the television-turned-multimedia franchise that thoroughly wore out its welcome on all fronts, has been resurrected by two writers and a television director who take continuity — the foundation of sand on which the franchise narrative is based — as their starting point. The movie might as well have begun with a rolling script that said, “Attention Trekkies: You now have a new Kirk, Spock, and McCoy who are markedly different from the ones you grew up with on television. Here is how that happened.”
It’s all Back To The Future plotting, which, when scrutinized too closely, raises more questions than it settles. It's also a bizarrely astute strategy for getting Trekkies on side. We argue about this stuff over weekends in convention centers the whole world over. A series writer takes the podium, his trembling hand lifts a glass to his lips, and we preface our questions with, “I know I’m not supposed to take this so seriously, but isn’t it a problem when . . . ?” Groups of us move these discussions to neighborhood pubs where eventually the most ardent of us concede that none of this makes a lick of sense but we still like it anyway. And we LOVE IT whenever writers/directors/producers demonstrate that they’ve been paying attention.
Attention has been paid. Like most of the people in the audience I thought there were moments when the crew members had been updated with appreciable improvement. I was especially fond of Uhura’s* steely, smart-girl impatience, and Chekov’s** nerdy enthusiasm. Chris Pine’s Kirk is still figuring out how to employ his charm for nobler purposes than pantie-removal. He’s clearly got some daddy issues, but boy is he surprised to discover a Vulcan with an even bigger chip on his shoulder....
And so it goes with the rest of the crew. We recognize them, and their actors seem to recognize a few motivations we somehow missed while watching all those repeats. Most of us, including me, want to see more. But unlike most of the audience, I sighed whenever a character’s catch-phrase was trotted out. Was this really what we wanted to rescue from the old universe to dress up the new one?
You’ll notice I haven’t revealed the movie’s plot, or said anything especially profound about character development. There is a plot of sorts, and some basic character development, but nothing that really sticks to the ribs. Abrams & Co. were primarily concerned with enticing a jaded audience back into theaters, and re-launching the franchise. Between revved-up action sequences and deliberately "borrowed" slapstick scenes from Galaxy Quest (a movie I insist you watch if you haven't yet) they pretty much got the job done.
If this was the first episode of a new television series I’d be ecstatic. But as this is the first of a new movie series, I’m afraid I remain reserved. In two or more years we’ll get another Star Trek installment. And in the Star Trek universe, yesterday’s movie is only as good as tomorrow’s.