Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Her ongoing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life-forms and new civilizations; to boldly go where no one has gone before.
If you’ve already read my History of Star Trek article, this is the future of the franchise, by returning to its past.
Let me get to the bottom line first: this is the best Star Trek movie ever. Indeed, it’s the best movie I’ve seen this year. Why?
This is the movie I’ve been waiting for 40 years, the first original episode of Star Trek: The Original Series since the show went off the air in 1969. As I mentioned in my earlier article, usually even-numbered movies are better than odd-numbered ones: but not with this eleventh movie — unless you want to call it what it really is, Star Trek 0.
Without giving away any plot details, this movie has action, drama, romance, humor, adventure, fisticuffs, and terrific space battles. $30 million were spent on special effects alone, of course by Industrial Light and Magic. The movie starts with a bang, with a truly emotional event, and keeps up the excitement right up to the end. The writing is both smart and lovingly detailed at times, and there are genuinely touching scenes of realization and revelation. And the ending, well, it brought a tear to my eye.
Yes, this is the prequel, as it were, of the original show — how the original crew met up at Starfleet Academy. This is essentially an origins story. It is also a reboot of the franchise, in the same way as Batman and James Bond have gotten a fresh start decades after the original movie series began. But this movie is accessible to non-fans as well.
Many Trekkies, Trekkers, and Trek junkies may bemoan the fact that this movie does not stick strictly to "Star Trek canon" — for example, this Spock raises his left eyebrow, not the canonical right one — but there is a reasonable explanation given for this. You’ll just have to go see the movie to find out.
Director J.J. Abrams had a difficult task of appealing to longtime fans, while attracting a new younger audience. He walked this tightrope well, mixing loving respect for the original while adding fresh and fun improvisations on the iconic characters for a post-modern age. Nostalgia and newness.
The music of Alexander Courage is peppered throughout the movie. He did the original score of the TV show and I had the privilege of seeing him in the Bay Area at a space music concert. The familiar 4-note introduction appears four times and makes chills run up one’s spine. But that’s not all, even the familiar bridge sounds are there for the old fans to relish.
Pay attention to catch a couple of prominent product placements in the movie.
“I have a good ear for accents.”
When I looked at him quizzically, he added.
“Both of my parents are Russian.”
The bridge looks like a white iPhone: shiny, new, clean, and not black. Rather than the old TV-sized monitors, we’ve got widescreen. Rather than the gooseneck lights on the helm and navigation consoles, we’ve got swing arm extensions. But, what’s with all the lens flare on the bridge?
The transporter room looks very much like the original show, with a two-person console and a display on the wall. And next to "Scotty" appears Christopher Doohan, the son of the original Engineer Scott, as an extra, as he had on Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
Bruce Greenwood assumes the role of Captain Christopher Pike created in the very first pilot "The Cage" — rejected originally by NBC — filmed in 1965. He handles the role with maturity and grace.
Ben Cross, who played the character Harold Abrams in the 5-Academy Award-winning movie "Chariots of Fire" appears here as Spock’s father Sarek of Vulcan. He’s excellent in the role, and gets a chance to deliver amazing lines, some unexpected.
Winona Ryder is Amanda Grayson, the human Earthling mother of Spock, and wife of Sarek of Vulcan. Ironically, her name means "worthy of being loved."
Jennifer Morrison, from the TV show "House" has a brief role as James Kirk’s mother, and explains (another possible) reason for Kirk’s middle name.
Grade: A. Swing, hit, a home run.
You’ll like it if: action, humor, vitality and space are your final frontier
You won’t like it if: you’ve been on another planet for the last 40 years.
Trivia Question: There is one performer who has been in the original show, ST: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Enterprise, the animated series, and many of the movies — including this film as well. And is in this film’s dedication at the end. Who is it?
Yes, this is a deeply gratifying movie. I’ve already got tickets to see it again tomorrow!
Bill Petro has been a technology sales enablement executive with extensive experience in Cloud Computing, Automation, Data Center, Information Storage, Big Data/Analytics, Mobile, and Social technologies.