Monday, May 11, 2009
As everyone who knows me knows, I love Star Trek (ST). I may not own any costumes or belong to any fan clubs, but I have seen every ST movie and religiously followed every TV series since the original Enterprise first launched in 1966.
Like many people, I was extremely doubtful when it was announced that J.J. Abrams, creator of the TV shows Lost and Fringe, was tapped to direct the latest ST movie. I became even more dubious when the release date was pushed from fall 2008 to May 8, 2009. I marked my calendar, but had no hope for the film. A 6-month premier delay usually doesn’t bode well for any movie.
Then I saw the trailer. One of my students was watching it on his laptop during a break in class. I heard a familiar sound and went running over to see what he was watching. I was blown-away. This looked to be unlike any of the other Star Trek movies that came before. I submitted a vacation request for May 8th and began counting the days.
In the midst of deciding which theater to go to on Friday morning, I began noticing ads for Thursday night showings of the film. I checked local listings. Sure enough, the movie was not-so-secretly opening on Thursday night, so I insisted that we see it then. On Tuesday, Tim managed to snag free passes to the Landmark, the hippest theater on the west side. As soon as we finished dinner, we zoomed up to Westwood to reserve our seats. The cashier gave us the fisheye when we handed her the passes, but handed us our tickets with a smile. The first show was nearly sold-out. We got the last two seats in the back row.
Thursday was excruciating. I always have plenty of work to do, so was able to distract myself. But during “breaks” I’d sneak a peak at various Trek-related websites, etc. The buzz about the movie was off the charts. Even L.A. Times critic Kenneth Turan, who hates everything, liked it. I could barely wait!
Tim got home from work early. He had read a survey saying that 10% of people seeing the movie were going to wear costumes.
“Are you wearing any of your Star Trek pins or t-shirts?” he asked while we were getting ready to go.
“Babe, this is the Landmark,” I retorted. “Nobody there is going to dress like a geek!”
The movie started at 7:30PM. Just in case, we left the house an hour early, even though we live only 10 minutes away—unpredictable L.A. traffic, you know. Only four other people were there ahead of us. We settled in and watched everyone else arrive. Nary a costume, pin or Star Trek t-shirt in sight. Lots of fans, though. The young co-ed next to me nervously grabbed her boyfriend’s arm when the lights went down. The boy seated next to Tim turned to his father and said, “Dad, I’m so excited!” My own stomach ached, but was forgotten as soon as the film started.
Needless to say, I loved the movie. Despite an entirely new cast—except, of course, Leonard Nimoy, who (spoiler alert!) plays an ancient time-traveling Spock—and a revisionist storyline, Abrams stays very true to the franchise. The look of the 23rd century has been updated, but the uniforms (1960s miniskirts and boots) and the distinctive sounds of the Enterprise’s bridge remain the same.
Moreover, the actors, who play younger versions of the characters we all know and love, do an excellent job of capturing the essence of Spock, Bones, et al. The new Captain Kirk has the same swagger and cockiness of the old and Scotty still gets turned on by a well-endowed nacelle. Happily, it all felt very familiar. After seeing the movie twice already—yes, I saw it again on Friday; I did, after all, have the day off!—and after spending much of the weekend re-immersing myself in classic Trek DVDs, I can say for sure that themes, plot points and even dialog were directly lifted from previous versions. In particular, the filmmakers seem to have liberally borrowed from Wrath of Khan (more spoilers ahead!), a movie also filled with revenge, a spaceship run by cadets on their first mission, and the Kobayashi Maru. But that’s OK. Khan is perhaps the most beloved of all the ST movies, so why not steal from the best?
I’m hoping Tim will want to see the movie again—this time in IMAX. Maybe some night this week?
Live Long and Prosper!