With Star Trek Beyond out on BluRay and DVD, we beam down to 2009, for a nostalgic return to the first incarnation of the JJ Abrams reboot, Star Trek.
In fact, it’s probably worth going back even further to the first teaser trailer. For some Trek fans it will be easy to recall the mad excitement created by that first glinting footage: Leonard Nimoy’s voiceover, the music … the waiting thereafter seemed endless.
As with all reboots it’s very hard to stay indifferent when you’re a fan. It’s a mixture of mad glee, hope and trepidation. The Star Trek franchise is different in some ways – it depends which version you grew up with, which particular crew – but it was still a heady time. For fans of the Original Series it was almost excruciating.
But when the movie finally did arrive, while it had its critics, it was really a complete blast and a moving tribute too, and it’s remembered fondly here at One Giant Read. The sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness, suffered a bit in the bright lights of the first incarnation (although not as much as you sometimes see) and you can find out what we thought of Star Trek Beyond soon – but how is Star Trek 2009 holding up?
Well, partly because of all the subsequent negativity around the Abrams lens flare, what immediately strikes you is, well, all the lens flare. It’s everywhere! At the time, it just didn’t stand out so much – the whole movie had a kind of turn of the earth to the sun spacey horizon about it – and it was great. It still is, really. You notice the effect more now because of the fuss, but it still looks really exciting.
There’s a scene early on – in the brilliant opening sequence in fact – that somehow signals that this is a different sort of Star Trek – a new, harder version. A crew member is ripped out into the silence of space, and it’s terrifying and haunting and brutal all at the same time. There’s a physicality about this part of the film, as well as an undercurrent of realism – as real as imagined space travel can be. And horror – there’s something horrible about the depiction- and later, there is a similar visceral impact when a redshirt is killed. This sort of gut ferocity is echoed in the thrilling bang the starships make as they smash into warp.
The casting is what stands out the most, and arguably they got this spot on. Our favourite is Karl Urban as Bones – Dr Leonard McCoy. Urban captured DeForest Kelley’s mannerisms incredibly well, while still giving the character an even edgier feel to keep up with the rest of the casting. Urban has been a Star Trek fan since childhood – and it showed. His portrayal is uncanny and yet succeeds totally in being its own thing.
The rest of the cast are excellent too – and the appearance of Leonard Nimoy as Spock Prime is unforgettable. Abrams was apparently ready to cancel the whole thing if Nimoy was against it, and by all accounts the initial approach was a fairly tense encounter. But Abrams was right – the film is elevated by Nimoy’s appearance, and there is something genuinely heartbreaking – even more so now since Nimoy’s passing – in the enormous impact and screen presence of the great star and the echoes in Zachary Quinto’s perfect appeal as a younger Spock.
It’s an exciting, action-packed movie that is full of 21st Century trickery and bellwhistles – not least Kirk & Sulu’s wild space jump to the drilling platform, but what’s most notable about it is the respect for the history of Star Trek, especially the core group of legendary characters from the Original Series and the deep meaning the saga has for its fans. Frankly, there are people like us who blub at the end of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, so Abrams really was facing a kind of Kobayashi Maru of his own.
But he did just fine.
In the New York Times, Manohla Dargis summed it all up very well indeed: “Star Trek isn’t just a pleasurable rethink of your geek uncle’s favourite science-fiction series. It’s also a testament to television’s power as mythmaker, as a source for some of the fundamental stories we tell about ourselves, who we are and where we came from.”
If you haven’t seen it, it’s well worth seeking out Star Trek – the 2009 imagining. You can even win it, and its two sequels on BluRay in our Flash Fiction Competition – not to mention a fantastic Original Series boxset extravaganza.