Mother’s Day and Star Trek

When trying to decide what to do on Mother’s Day, I simply asked my beloved of 27 years, “What do you want to do?” She offered up Brooklyn’s Pizzeria at Firewheel and I countered with Brooklyn’s and a movie which I knew would be playing at the AMC in Firewheel. She, of course, knew exactly which movie it was and, soon, it became a family affair.

And that’s how you segue from Mother’s Day to a Star Trek movie review.

Of course, watching Star Trek on Mother’s Day became problematic; the opening sequence involves a young mother giving birth on a shuttle while her husband (and new father) sacrifices his life in a desperate attempt to cripple the enemy starship so that all the escape shuttles can … well … escape. And than there’s Spock’s mother …

I thoroughly enjoyed Star Trek. It is one of the odd-numbered movies but if anyone could break the mold, it would be JJ Abrams and the great performances by the cast. It’s fun to watch, the action sequences are spectacular and it moves along at a good pace.

The first time we see James Tiberius Kirk, he’s taking a vintage convertible Corvette out for a joy ride (nice to know that fossil fuels are still available alongside dilithium crystals). We know it’s a convertible because young Kirk tries to ‘pop the top’ going full speed with predictable results. The car is not completely restored as the erstwhile owner of the car calls Kirk through the advanced, on-board Nokia communications system, warning him not to put a scratch on that car. Of course, Kirk responds by driving the classic car over a cliff, having jumped out at the last possible second.

The nice thing about this sequence is that it brings the audience to a common ground. Star Trek will attract trekkies but this sequence involves an earth that everyone will recognize and a teenage angst with which we’re familiar. It is a different perspective than the gleaming cities of the Federation from other movies and the TV series. JJ Abrams brings the grittier feel that we’ve seen from other sci-fi efforts like Battlestar Galactica and Serenity.

Kirk manages to survive to young adulthood (Chris Pine makes his entrance) in an oddly cornfield-less Iowa and is challenged by Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) to join Starfleet, daring Kirk to be a better captain than his dad. For canon-minded trekkers, the appearance of the Romulan ship at the opening is somewhat explainable but Kirk’s encounter with Pike and subsequently joining Starfleet clearly marks the beginning of the departure from canon. I spent part of the time thinking ‘it didn’t happen that way’ but slowly got engulfed by the movie. The girls sitting behind us got engrossed far earlier obviously having not spent a significant part of their lives watching anything related to Star Trek. They no doubt ignored the presence of the earthbound Enterprise-under-construction in Iowa (another canon-tweak) instead of in Starfleet shipyards.

In any event, I was waiting for the Kobayashi Maru to see how Kirk deals with the notable scenario. Again, the canon-tweak came into mind with the involvement of Spock as the developer of the test. I overlooked it, however, because the sheer smugness and confidence that Pine demonstrates as Kirk during the test was very entertaining. Kirk eating the apple is a nice reference to Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan and the scene is one of my favorites. In fact, each character manages to say their signature lines at the times when it seems most appropriate. The trekkies will get it and the normal folks won’t groan; it’s really the best of both worlds.

There is far less of Horatio Hornblower in this version of Kirk than Shatner’s. Chris Pine shows us a brash, arrogant Kirk with a wry smile and a cunning mind. Pine does an admirable job as Kirk but Karl Urban as Leonard McCoy was tremendous. Urban simply disappears into the role and it’s as if you’re actually looking at a young McCoy. Zachary Quinto looks the part but offers a less mature version of Spock; another canon-tweak as Nimoy’s Spock would have already served eleven years on the Enterprise under Captain Pike by this time.

Zoe Saldana’s portrayal of Uhura sometimes hits the mark but doesn’t have the same impact in these contemporary times. Nichol’s version of Uhura (fourth in command of the Enterprise) was played out against the backdrop of the feminism and racism in the 1960’s. This latest version of Uhura occurs in the shadow of our first black President and a female Secretary of State (who happens to be fourth in the line of succession to the President). Where Nichol’s Uhura was revolutionary, Saldana makes the most with what she’s given. Especially, the relationship with Spock (another canon-tweak).

All the canon-tweaks aside, Spock finally offers up the explanation about why the canon-tweaks exist; Nero’s presence altered the timeline and events as they might have transpired (Star Trek canon) takes an alternate course. This explanation effectively negates the canon and presents a fresh perspective of an established complement of characters. By the way, Eric Bana’s depiction of Nero is pretty good. Vengeful Romulan in command of an advanced and sinister looking starship looking to destroy the homeworld’s of those who have caused him so much pain.

While Star Trek is a great action movie, it has some flaws, particularly in the plot. A series of unexplainable, coincidental situations occur that most of us will overlook because we want all the characters together on the Enterprise. We really don’t care how they got there; we just care that they do.

A significant absence was the underlying social commentary that was so prevalent in the Star Trek mythos. Not every episode or movie made a social statement but we instantly recognize those that deal with the issues of feminism, sexual preference, militarism, pacifism, materialism or race relations. Lacking this, Star Trek is a new action adventure with familiar characters cast from a different perspective.

The triumvirate of Kirk, Spock and McCoy establishes a good basis for the film. I’m anxious to see this cast in another Star Trek movieand, since it will be an even-numbered one, it should be fantastic.

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