Although Star Trek has been a part of pop culture since the 1960s, in the mid-2000s the franchise hit a rough patch. The most recent TV series, “Enterprise,” had been cancelled, and the last Star Trek movie in theaters had performed poorly at the box office. The franchise needed a shot of adrenaline, and it received one courtesy of J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot, simply titled “Star Trek.” The film brought back the Original Series characters but featured a plot with a time-traveling element, setting up an alternate timeline that allowed film makers to change the characters’ destinies.
Over the weekend, I re-watched both “Star Trek” and its 2013 follow-up, “Into Darkness.” Here’s some of my brief thoughts on both:
“Star Trek” (2009)
To me, this film is pretty much flawless. Although it’s action-packed with dazzling special effects (that first full-on shot of the U.S.S. Enterprise in the space dock is still breathtaking!), I feel like most of the focus is placed on the characters. The new actors do a great job honoring their Original Series counterparts and while also bringing their own touches to the characters, allowing them both to pay homage to what’s come before but also re-imagining these well-loved characters in an interesting way. Another thing I appreciated is the use of humor in the film; the Original Series is a fun TV show, and J.J. Abrams captured that same spirit. And of course, one of the most important highlights is the extended cameo from Leonard Nimoy, the original Spock; his presence helps pass the torch to this new generation of actors.
I could probably keep gushing on about this film, but I’ll stop myself. 😉 It’s one of my all-time favorite movies and it’s probably the single movie I’ve watched the most times (I lost count after about 15). However, I do know that some Trek fans have mixed feelings about the reboot films, and I’ve even read comments from some who feel that “new Trek” fans aren’t even real fans.
I’ll always have a special place in my heart for J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot film, though, because for me it was the gateway to the rest of Star Trek. Even though I had watched Star Trek reruns as a kid, it never really clicked for me, and I’d always been more of a Star Wars fan. I actually went to see the 2009 film because some friends of mine who were really into Star Trek wanted to see it and I thought the trailer looked “interesting.” However, walking out of that theater I felt exhilarated. I started going back and re-watching the TV series and movies featuring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and the other Original Series actors, and I fell in love with them too. I started really understanding the magic of Star Trek.
I think it’s great that these films are introducing a new generation of fans to Star Trek, and it’s possible the success of these films helped make the upcoming 2017 TV series happen.
“Into Darkness” (2013)
Although J.J. Abrams’ follow-up “Into Darkness” was also well-received by critics, it was a bit more polarizing amongst fans due to Abrams’ gutsy decision to play around with a favorite Trek story arc: the rise and fall of vengeful super-human Khan.
A quick refresher on the plot: Benedict Cumberbatch plays a terrorist named John Harrison who is on Starfleet’s most-wanted list after bombing a building. Kirk and his crew are dispatched to find Harrison, only to discover he’s actually a super human named Khan. They also learn Khan isn’t the only villain at large; the revelation about his identity also uncovers corruption at the highest level of Starfleet. With the Enterprise left crippled and stranded in space, Kirk must to do the right thing — and make the ultimate sacrifice — to save his crew.
I actually really liked this film, even though it sometimes gets a bad rap. I don’t mind the retelling of the Khan story, especially since Abrams takes the character and the story in a new direction. I think it’s more of a re-imagining than a rehash. However, I think this film would have worked just as well if they’d simply let Cumberbatch play an original character named John Harrison with a grudge against Starfleet. There’s enough going on in this film that you don’t actually need the Khan element to make it work. I liked the film’s message that we have to be careful not to create our own demons.
Chris Pine gets to show off more of his acting range in this film, as Kirk begins to face some of the consequences of his actions. After bucking the rules too many times, Starfleet takes the Enterprise away from him — and Pine makes you feel the gut punch of that loss. I also liked how they switched up the famous scene at the end of “The Wrath of Khan,” where Spock died saving the Enterprise crew, and this time it’s Kirk that dies. I felt that both scenes show the power of Kirk and Spock’s friendship, and they demonstrate that both are equally willing to die for each other and their crew.
So, what do you think of the Star Trek reboots? Love them? Hate them? Somewhere in between?