Tuesday 5 February 2013

Star Trek for the 21st Century

Star Trek for the 21st Century

In an age where the influences our culture include the PC and Internet, CGI technology, increasingly realistic video gaming and reality TV, as well as a loosening on censorship key words, the Star Trek franchise needed to approach the 21st century with a Star Trek that is relevant to this generation, trading a few of the values (use of profanity and overt sexual situations) for a more contemporary mentality long before we hit the big 2000. The latest in the franchise has gone further to relax on some of the standards, changing the original look and feel without departing too far from all that makes Star Trek so loved.

Yes, it's a new century and new generation, unlike those of my generation that were raised on Star Trek reruns (before there was ever a Star Wars) to compare to and as such have a special place in our hearts for the Original Series, making the transference of that love to The Next Generation and three following spin offs quite easy. But the 21st century SCi Fi fan raised on video games with incredible graphics, raised on movies with ever improving CGI provided by a myriad of production houses (in my generation Industrial Light and Magic cornered the market they created... well cornered the market they set new standards for) add to that the fact the current generation is far more desensitised to violence than those that came before and you have a tough climb ahead. Want proof?

Bye Bye Old Republic

Despite the years waiting and watching the advancements in CGI technology improve year after year and knowing that there were other stories to be told, we were finally given the news there would be another trillogy. Even better, that we would finally see the story of how Skywalker became Darth Vader. It was slated to be released the same weekend as the first Spider man, I was convinced Star Wars would blow Spidey out of the water (I'm glad I didn't bet my brother in law) yet, Spider man took the number one spot by quite a margin. What happened? I think back to seeing images of people camping out for days, standing in lines that round the the corner even circling the building, I remember people being interviewed saying how many times they had seen it within the first month... so what happened?

At the time I couldn't explain it. I remember how much of a effort it was to see Empire Strikes back (multiple sellouts, power outages, projector issues) but I understand now what happened. Star Wars was no longer a fresh new idea. Since it's late 70s success, we've seen Aliens, Blade Runners, Scanners, three Superman films, three Terminators, Total Recalls and two Ghostbusters, we've been Back To The Future three times, we've been Cocooned twice, gone on three ride alongs with RoboCop, dove into The Abyss, went on hunts with the Predator twice, cupped ourselves during Species, there was Judge Dredd, 12 Monkeys, Fifth Element, Starship Troopers, we've lived through Armageddon, Deep Impact, Soldier, X Files (TV and Film) Galaxy Quest and of course... Nine Star Trek films. Add all of this up and what you get is progress.

Back in the day Industrial Light and Magic was the place to get your SFX done (if you could afford it) Star Wars as a concept (Space Opera) had never been done before. It redefined Science Fiction back then, by 1999... not so much. Thing is, all of the higher end films efforst were themselves groundbreaking (perhaps if they had released a year before the Matrix, a movie that unequivocally enjoyed the same accolades Star Wars did, being the most influential, most copied (for style and feel) maybe it would have lived up to the tower high expectations we had for it. But what can't be disputed is the fact the Sci Fi fan also progressed.

With a PC in nearly every home, growth of the world wide web at a seemingly geometric rate, hand held devices just waiting for parents to buy for their young, better stories in TV and Film, today's Sci Fi fan seems to know more than us writers (not to mention unlike before the 21st century, being a nerd is now cool) and they have no bones about letting the industry know when their expectations have not been lived up to (but don't worry about Star Wars, the next trilogy is in the same hands responsible for the successful revamp of Star Trek.

J.J.Abrams and the Pretty People

So, how do you revamp a forty year old franchise for the next generation of highly intelligent, more worldly, tech savvy, genre loyal Sci Fi fans who have grown up in a culture where everything as their fingertips but you don't know where to begin? Hire the director responsible for one of the most popular (or at least most talked about) Sci Fi TV show Lost, hire the hottest established and up and coming celebrities to play our beloved Star Trek characters, celebrities the 21st century Sci Fi fan can relate to, take all of the Sci Fi inspired technology (even those still on the drawing board) to new glamorous heights, insert edgy camera work, relax on some of the elements unofficially written into the Federation Charter (no profanity or in your face sexuality) and you've got a very good start.

Abrams on why he ultimately decided to direct the 2009 film:
Source: The Nerdist via Star Trek.com

ABRAMS: "The reason I wanted to direct it was because I thought, "When in the world, ever, am I going to get a chance to do a space movie? That’s cool." And I really loved the script that Alex (Kurtzman) and Bob (Orci) wrote, and I thought, "There is a version of this movie that is sort of surprisingly intimate and emotional and about these two men who are kind of displaced and who are both orphans in a weird way and they find a family." And I thought, "That is kind of a cool story. It happens to be called Star Trek. It happens to be Kirk and Spock, but cool." Casting that movie was tough, but it was a crazy joy to find that amazing cast. So, the whole experience was sort of bizarre, in working on something that I never in a million years I thought I’d be associated with, doing it with people that I would have loved to have worked with in any capacity, and getting to do things, cliché things, that feel like as a kid filmmaker you want to do… spaceships flying, huge things crashing and planets exploding, stuff that you’d only dream of doing. So it ended up being, oddly, of all things, a dream project."

That's the kicker, "That is kind of a cool story. It happens to be called Star Trek. It happens to be Kirk and Spock, but cool." He wasn't weighed down by the standard he had to live up to. It was a rich, emotionally deep story that happened to be Star Trek. Making it an alternate reality was a big gamble that happened to pay off well. He went on to say "We’re not saying that what happened in that original series wasn’t good, true, valid, righteous and real. Let people embrace that. We’re not rejecting that. That, to me, would have been the big mistake. We’re simply saying that, "At this moment, the very first scene in the first movie, everything that people knew of Star Trek splits off into now another timeline." and embrace it we did.

Defining Moments
Right from the first scene, the J.J. Abrams Star Trek grabs you by the torpedos and doesn't let go till the end of the film.
First: The U.S.S. Kelvin investigates a strange disturbance. The Narada, Romulan mining ship emerges from a spacial disturbance (lightening storm) like a giant, backwards swimming squid and attacks the over matched
<--  Star Fleet vessel the U.S.S. Kelvin
 with superior firepower and demands the Captain beam aboard to discuss terms of surrender. The Captain is immediately murdered during questioning and Kirk's father takes command and orders all hands to abandon ship.
During the evacuation, the Kelvin returns fire (holding their assailants attention long enough for the escape pods and shuttles to make their escape then sets a collision course, sacrificing himself to save his wife and new born son. James Tibereus Kirk grows up without his father's influence, apparently without a positive male role model, and as such is lost, with no direction or sense of purpose, and turns out to be kind of a jerk actually.

 Spock, the half human half Vulcan is introduced as a young child who is taunted daily by three older children, having tried over 300 different times to "illicit an emotional response" trying everything from his father being a traitor for marrying his mother, but it is messing with his moms that sets him off. He trounces one of the students, is lectured by his father, and as a late teen turns down a position at the Vulcan Science Academy because he is referred to as being an excellent candidate despite having been born with a disadvantage... because his mother was human.

Ok, so the two characters who know and love turn out to have parental issues. Kirk growing up a wild child without the father he never knew, Spock is the consummate Vulcan but is easily undone when his mother is tossed into any fray, sounds like the start of a beautiful friendship right? With so much in common they'll be best friends from the get go no...? No. That would have been to easy and this is an alternate reality. They don't start out as friends.

Next Stop... Bizzarro World

Ok, it's an alternate reality, we get it, but matching Uhura with Spock was just beating us over the head with it don't ya think? You know something is wrong in nature when Spock, not Kirk gets the girl. But funny enough, it doesn't come off as a cheep plot device, the actors make it work. They're convincing. End of story. Well... not quite. We find out Kirk's famous defeat of the Kobi Kobayashi Maru simulation is the start of their hate hate relationship, as it the test is actually Spock's love child. Although he doesn't show his emotion, it obviously urks him.

Conveniently (before the hearing is finished) all crew is called to scramble to duty. Nero and the Narada are back and attacking Vulcan. In another twist, Spock is not only Kirk's superior, but is second in command after Captain Pike (another alternate event, as Kirk and Pike never met in the original series before Spock's court marshall) so from that point on we know Kirk will eventually be in command (Nero already paved that road with his insistence on the Captain being the one to beam over) especially with the setup that Spock is an emotional train wreck when it comes to his mother, all they have to do is kill her off... oops, spoilers.

Supporting Characters

So we have the love interest of a Princess playing Captain Kirk, an evil superpower stealing psychopath as Science Officer Spock and Columbianna as the Linguistics Officer. Rounding out this cast for the 21st century Sci Fi fan is a middle aged slacker turned zombie killer,

 the future father of the leader of the A.I. resistance,

                                                                                            a slightly uptight stoner

and the Hulk
playing Scotty, Checkov, Sulu and Nero. They took actors younger movie audience members would recognise and appreciate (the bait) updated the technology of the Star Trek franchise (the hook) ramped up the intensity of the performances (the line) then bashed it over the head, cleaned and boned it, packaged it in a recognized brand then viola, we have a Star Trek for the 21st century. The truly brilliant angle here, is that it leaves to board wide open for future endeavors, we can see an alternate Next Gen, alternate DS9, alternate Voyager, hell they could even revisit Enterprise (I'm still convinced they planned to do an entire season in the Mirror Universe) as long as they don't use the same sorry intro music.


Does the new Star Trek fit the mould of those that came before? Probably not, but change is never easy (recount my resistance to TNG while they were still making movies with the original series cast) they in truth, having a lot to live up to pulled it off. They didn't have to be exactly the same (I thank God Pine didn't try his own Kirky version of the character- there can be only one Shatner)

At the end of it all, alternate reality, and overly bright bridge lighting aside, this STar Trek definitely hits the mark both for fans of the original, the next generation, the 21st century Sci Fi fan and possibly beyond.... as long as the stories are good and the time travel plot device doesn't continue to be over used to the point of killing the Sci Fi industry. Yah, I said it.

you can also follow me on


No comments:

Post a Comment