Wednesday, November 19, 2008

To Boldly Geek

The official first trailer for JJ Abrams's Star Trek reboot is out. Having watched it, I can say once again regarding this project: Meh. I'm still not sold on the idea of rebooting Trek in the first place (If we've gotta have Trek, surely we can tell lots of new stories without tossing aside established continuity, and why do we even gotta have Trek in the first place? It's a wide wonderful SF world out there, let's go see some uncharted planets!), and as far as this particular project goes, I'm still less than enthusiastic. Here's the trailer:

It's a nice looking trailer, especially the space battle stuff, although I do pine for the days when every Trek tale on the big screen didn't need to have the Big E out there, phasers and photon torpedoes a-blastin' away. I'm more concerned with the character stuff. The trailer alternates a bit between Kirk and Spock, first showing a Kirk who's apparently a hothead kid who is constantly flouting the rules. Then we see that Spock's main trouble is the fact that he's half-human and half-Vulcan.

As to the latter, well, duh, and frankly, after the entire run of the Original Series and six feature films with the original cast, I don't think there's a whole lot of more interesting comment to be made about this. Yeah, Spock is the product of two worlds, and not entirely comfortable in either. If Abrams really reboots everything, resetting the entire Trek continuity to zero (as some rumors have him doing), then the entire arc of Spock's life as a character is gone too, and that bugs me a bit. In the last two "Original Cast" Trek movies, we get to see a Spock who finally figured out his place in both of his native cultures, and the character didn't suffer for the lack of all that angst. Maybe this can be handled interestingly, but I fear that it will seem like a trip into familiar territory.

And then there's the former, James T. Kirk. The popular concept of this character is that he's a womanizing rule-breaker, but I've always thought that the rule-breaking idea of him is overdone a bit. Kirk is a man who takes rules seriously at times, sidesteps them at others, but he's a guy with a fearsomely strong moral compass. I'm worried that Abrams's movie will defuse this a bit, turning Kirk into the archetypal hothead who learns to tamp it down a little. I saw somewhere online the analogy that the trailer looks like "Top Gun in space", and that's not off the mark. In truth, I hated the Kirk-as-a-kid-driving-the-hotrod bit. How does that square with the notion, established in the original series, that Kirk as a young man was incredibly straight-laced, so much so that his best friend (and future first officer) Gary Mitchell would describe Academy Cadet Kirk as "a stack of books with legs", or that one particularly gleeful troublemaker named Finnegan would decide that Kirk was such a stick-in-the-mud that he made Kirk the butt of all of his jokes? What was always so interesting to me about James T. Kirk was that underneath the veneer of a handsome young man who had an eye for the ladies, who had the bright smile and the twinkle in his eye, and who would always err on the side of what he thought was right even if the regulations said something different, one could find beating the heart of a very serious man. A man who took duty extremely seriously. The trailer doesn't really suggest that's what Abrams is doing with Kirk, and that potentially bothers me.

(Now, of course, we are just talking about a trailer here, and trailers are notorious for not accurately showing what movies are really like. Maybe Abrams has a very serious Kirk indeed, but it's hard to square that with Kirk engaging in life-threatening stunts like driving a car to the brink of a cliff, and it doesn't help the impression I have of Abrams's Kirk that every production still that's been released so far has Abrams's Kirk making a very smug facial expression.)

Finally: where the Hell is Dr. McCoy in this trailer?! I think I got a glimpse or two of him, but that's about it. And if that's any indication of the role McCoy plays in Abrams's reboot, then he can have his reboot and I'll keep my eight bucks next summer when this comes out. The key dynamic that made the Original Cast work so well wasn't the chemistry between Kirk and Spock, but the triple-chemistry between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. These three men have an extremely deep friendship that survived Edith Keeler, an extremely deep friendship that compelled two of them to set aside their entire lives to go after the one they thought dead but still in need. Dr. McCoy is every bit as important in Original Cast Trek as Kirk and Spock. If Abrams moves him into the background at all, making him more along the lines of Scotty and Uhura and the rest, I'll be irritated.

Again, I'm basing this all on a two-minute trailer, so maybe I'll end up full of bird poop on all this. That would be fine with me, but to the extent that past performance indicates future results on stuff like this, I'm still not enthused, because I've just never found the JJ Abrams Kool-aid to be my cup of tea. Alias was mildly entertaining, but it never grabbed hold of me, and for my money, LOST is just a bunch of people brooding on an island. I'm certainly not thrilled about a state of affairs where Firefly is dead outside of comics but we're getting JJ Abrams's take on Star Trek.

We'll see.


SamuraiFrog said...

I'm not a fan of JJ Abrams either, but I'm surprised by how much I liked the trailer. It's something different instead of more of the same, and that sameness has bugged me for some time. I used to love Star Trek, and I haven't liked it very much for over a decade now.

If it is a reboot, it's just something different. The entire arc of Spock's life isn't gone; it's still there, it's just not continuing in the movies. I think there's too much of a tendency to overreact (which I'm not accusing you of; yours is among the more reasoned objections/caveats I've seen, some people are losing it entirely) and say that a restart erases the entirety of Star Trek history and makes it irrelevant. Remakes don't do that, and that's essentially what a restart is.

Unrelated to that: as far as Spock figuring out his place in both cultures, I didn't like what they did in Star Trek V. I felt like they settled it in Star Trek IV, in that moment at the end between Spock and Sarek when it seemed like peace was made. With Spock reborn, he was basically given a second chance to come to terms, and he did. I thought opening that back up in Star Trek V was kind of cheap.

Anonymous said...

My big problem with the trailer is what Abrams has apparently done with the character of Kirk. Your thoughts pretty much mirror mine, but I'll just say that my interpretation of him has always been that he's driven by duty, loyalty to his friends and crew, and, most of all, by the need to know what's Out There (remember the famous "risk" speech), and I don't see any trace of those noble qualities in all the stuff in the trailer about looking for a place to fit in and being a hellraising kid. It is just a trailer, and the finished movie may be something else entirely, but I'm not hopeful.

But then, I'm opposed to remaking Star Trek anyhow. There are some things that I just don't think ought to be messed with.