With the reboot upon us, it’s time to reboot the format of this featureWith no further ado, let’s get to this.

Somehow the title galls. Just plain Star Trek as a title is not an addition to the franchise, but a challenge, a replacement. The “not your father’s Star Trek” tagline is, similarly, a message of replacement. Forget all that silliness, here’s a Kirk and Spock for the dubstep generation! For all the flailing about “the regular timeline is still in place,” the film’s timeline is the one that the series followed from then on out. There was no fixing of the timeline. This is the timeline that matters, the one that obliterates everything except Enterprise, of all things. Enterprise! Who could have imagined that? Who even wanted that?

And yet, in spite of all of this…I really don’t have a problem with the movie. At least not enough of one to completely outweigh the enjoyment of it. It’s not my favorite–badly limited by Director Abrams’s need to keep things moving quickly and a too literal mythology focusing on the destiny of the main characters. Contrivances pile upon one another in a movie that doesn’t really have a premise, a story, or a theme, other than “destiny” I suppose. Honestly, I’m not so sure Abrams knows the difference between contrivance and destiny since they’re essentially the same force working to get all the characters onto the ship in their familiar roles. If you really look at it, it’s just so dumb, a combination of fan service and little touches that would aggravate real fans. I feel like I really should hate this movie for so many reasons, including dumb time travel and the stupidity of the red matter. And yet, somehow, the movie is almost teflon-coated. It’s hard to really hate on it somehow. It’s just the damnedest thing. Much of that has to do with the things that they get right. For one thing, the movie really is fun. Nemesis was the franchise in full-on miserable mode, and it was a disaster. But this movie really is a fun action-adventure film. The characters are well-drawn and enjoyable to spend time with. The movie ultimately boils down to a series of vignettes, which means every 20 minutes or so you’re in a different mini-movie with different characters and a different tone and look and feel, which honestly is the most Star Wars-y thing about it. And there is plenty of competition there.

The real question is, why do I generally like this movie? There’s really no substance to it, it’s not very Star Trek-y. I’ve heard people argue that the movie is anti-torture because of the failure of Shinzon Nero to get the information he needs out of Captain Pike, which is something, I guess. But to me, the major thing I get out of this movie is the romance and intoxication of youth. There’s such a high-energy exuberance, even giddiness, to virtually all of the characters in the movie. The Plinkett review isn’t wrong to talk about how all the characters are “hypercharged” and all are turned into supergeniuses even though on the original crew, not all were, of course. But what I will say is that this is a repivoting of the concept of the Original Series toward an almost Sorkinesque ideal, where everybody is a witty supergenius who’s brilliant at their jobs but not so great at relationships or keeping their work lives separate from their personal lives (or, honestly, even remotely professional). It’s actually easy to imagine the movie filled with Sorkin’s banter since all his other elements are pretty much there. This is not how the Original Series was conceived, but it’s not so bad an idea I suppose. I will say that I do not rewatch this one as much as other movies in part because it’s so heavily in the realm of this upbeat, high-energy spirit, with only a couple of brief departures (like when a few billion people die, say). For me, I just prefer a bit more variety in a film and this one stays at eleven the whole time. Then again, this movie seemingly was engineered for eighteen year olds, an age I was past even when I first saw the film in theater. (Though given that, it is odd that the film’s big pop music moment is a Beastie Boys song from two decades earlier, and decidedly not on point, though I guess it fits the moment and it winds up being a setup for something great down the road.)

One of my favorite reviews of the film summarizes it as exactly as smart as it needs to be, and this is extremely accurate. But intelligence wasn’t the point. Abrams’s vision for the film was clearly one of youth, rediscovery, and energy, all elements missing from Nemesis and the other TNG films. Honestly, this movie isn’t hugely dissimilar in many ways from Nemesis. But damn if it doesn’t work out okay in the end. The weirdest thing really about this is that Abrams didn’t just follow the same formula for the next movie. I guess there’s only so far that the intoxication of youth can take you, but it’s at the very least some sort of take on how to present the characters. Obviously this will be gotten at next week, but perhaps the reason why the follow-up failed to match the original on every level is because basing the first movie on something so shallow didn’t create a firm foundation for something darker and (putatively) more searching. Star Trek is loopy, carefree fun, but there would be a hangover afterward.


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