Star Trek Relaunched
With $75 million already in the bank after 3 days at the box office, the new cast and crew of “Star Trek” have successfully relaunched a franchise long-since thought dead.
Many, including Matt Ygelsias, contend that the Star Trek premise is best on television, because of its preponderance of exposition and tackling of issues best argued over as opposed to acted on. But after 700 hours of television, and competition from a multitude of other series, the sense of wonder at a starship meeting aliens every week whose language, culture, and ethics are similar but slightly different from our own, is over.
The later series and films showed this weakness. The last film’s villain had a technobabble-sounding motivation (he needed Picard’s blood to live) that implausible shifted toward some sort of revenge (he needed a name that would outlive Picard’s in history). To paper this over, it had the eye candy of an extended space battle, a wedding, a funeral, and a subplot involving telepathy and a subplot involving an android.
Much of “Enterprise” was the same, with talk of genetics, warp engines, and even linguistic issues – but claimed to freshen the franchise by shedding some of the politically correct attitudes of the more idealistic captains of series prior. Meh.
Sure, the 2009 film has some weakness – a few unexpected character changes, an unexplained “red matter” that causes blackholes, how a cadet on probation could be named first officer on a starship, etc. – but these are far too small to matter in the grand scheme of things.
I’ve said in the past that Star Trek could live on if they got out of the television comfort zone of conveniently new aliens and villains every week and had a plot that was daring and exciting in scope. If necessary, ditch the starship to show a different part of the Trek universe.
In this film, we get both. History is changed in the first moments of the film, and changes later when billions of lives are lost. Yet, even at times when I expected a time-travel-related “reset” in the middle of the movie, it did not happen – action has consequences now! We see Starfleet Academy, and we see new depths to characters both major and minor (Uhura finally matters! Scotty is funny! Spock has a hidden but deeply emotional side!).
We are shocked, we laugh (more than I thought), we get a sense of each of the characters and they each matter at crucial moments, even Captain Pike.
Star Trek is a relaunched franchise. The tough part is finding a storyline for the sequel that is as bold and planet-shattering at this one. For, in 2009, we have gone where no one has gone before. And in this new timeline, we deserve to go on living as Trekkers, from the psuedo-Vulcan we have as President right now all the way down to the penny-pinching profiteers selling us the 6-dollar bucket of popcorn.