To boldly go where…ah, to hell with it

Hi, my name is Megan, and I am a huge Trekkie. I like Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, don’t get me wrong, but I’ll always have a soft spot for the original series; I love the melodrama, the broad humor and the shameless ’60s color palette.

J.J. Abrams has just hit me in that soft spot. With a car.

The Star Trek movie, due out in May 2009, had one trailer in theaters ages ago—it’s a lot of mysterious shots of welding and an overlay of actual space-related soundbites. (“Godspeed, John Glenn.”) At the end, the camera pulls away and you see “U.S.S. ENTERPRISE” on the distinctive hull. I’ll admit I got chills, even though the trailer didn’t show anything. More of teaser, really.

Yesterday, a real trailer was released, and I watched it today in horror. It opens with a red car going very fast through some desert. This sequence takes long enough for me to make a Warp Drive crack and a “compensating for something” crack, and then, as the car goes off the biggest mothering cliff I’ve ever seen, it’s revealed that the driver is a twelve-year-old Anakin Sk—I mean, James Tiberius Kirk.

We jump to older Kirk on a motorcycle, looking at the Enterprise-in-progress and contemplating his destiny. Seriously, this is not The Phantom Menace. Star Trek was never about individual destinies, but about the mission, the adventure, the scrapes, the escapes! If Kirk seemed destined to be awesome, that’s one thing. He had drive and ambition, and the real James T. Kirk never mooned over whether he was “meant for something better, something special.”

We move on to little baby Spock, then older Spock. Actor Zachary Quinto looks remarkably like Leonard Nimoy in one shot and not at all in another, and it’s downright distubing when Quinto’s Spock lets himself be goaded into attacking Kirk, on the bridge of the Enterprise, no less, in full view of the crew. (And Captain Pike, I assume.)

I can see them trying to portray Spock’s angsty younger years, but he would still have the Vulcan version of angsty teenagerdom. The fact that he’s temperamental at all is human enough—but let him struggle with it in a cold, tightly-controlled way like he does in the classic episode “Amok Time.”

Then there’s a big action montage. The music is a generic, full-orchestra John Williams rip-off that makes me miss the theremin. Shots of Sulu and Chekov are too brief to judge…please, please, please don’t let Kirk and Uhura be getting it on…Scotty doesn’t look anything like James Doohan, but the accent is always cute.

I don’t even recognize Bones in his extremely brief appearance, although Karl Urban has something in his delivery that put me in mind of DeForest Kelly on a re-watching…the line is awful, though. “Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence.” Sounds like a menu item at a Goth sushi restaurant. Can I get that to go? I would have loved to see this trailer structured with three origin stories that converge on the Enterprise. It’s not just Kirk and Spock that matter, it’s the Kirk-Spock-Bones dynamic. I love their antagonistic friendships, and along with the space-creature-du-jour, it’s the tension among the three of them that drives the show. (Hush, slashers.) I would say that I hope the movie doesn’t relegate Bones to the background, but the trailer sure does, and I may have given up all hope at this point.

I’m not saying there can’t be good re-imaginings of classics—I would love to see a Star Trek without those weird too-short pants—but as we’ve all seen, prequels are hard to do. You have to give the audience what they expect and surprise them at the same time. We want to have our affection satisfied; otherwise, it might as well be a movie about three guys called Spork, Brock and Jones. We also want to be interested. We know the characters aren’t going to die, so what, other than mortal peril, will keep us engrossed? A sense of fun, maybe? The originals had that in spades. Good writing, maybe?

“Are you afraid or aren’t you?”

“I will not allow you to lecture me.”

The thing is, I can see Shatner and Nimoy having that exchange and having it work. The old series wasn’t Shakespeare (except for that one episode…nevermind), but it had heart. This just takes advantage of a brand. Like the Andorian ambassador in “Journey to Babel,” it looks pretty good but just isn’t the real thing.

Sigh. I have now re-watched the trailer several times to write this post and it makes me crankier every time. I hope they all get eaten by this guy:

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