Now, hold on, come back, put down the pitch forks and torches and hear me out. I have been a Star Trek fan for as long as I can remember. I fell in love with TNG, found the original series on re-runs and waited with baited breath for every series since. I have love for all incarnations of Star Trek, albeit, various levels. Even some of the movies that were seen as duds, I still love most of (see Nemesis, The Motion Picture).
It, in all honesty, has never won me any cool points to admit my love for Trek. You get funny looks, badly attempted V signs with their hands and “live prosperous and for a long time” or some other bastardisation of the Vulcan farewell. It was always seen as, well, a bit geeky. After the premature cancellation of the flawed but enjoyable Enterprise, the franchise seemed to be at an impasse. It needed something, some energy, some fresh ideas and, well, a reboot.
Enter Jeffery Jacob Abrams, Wunderkind TV producer (he co-created Lost, created Alias & Fringe), Film Director (Mission: Impossible III) and all round big nerd. A self confessed Star Wars fanatic who, by his own admission, had never been a massive Star Trek fan. Was this really the guy Paramount wanted to put at the helm of their next entry into the Trek canon?? I mean come on??? He doesn’t like Star Trek that much???? Burn him!
When J.J.’s Star Trek was released in 2009, I remember thinking “OK, what can he do differently?” “How can he freshen this up?” & “if he fucks this up, I’ll hunt him like a Targ!” I had been reading all of the coverage and promotion stuff (mostly in Empire because it’s the best film magazine in the world) and loving the redesign of the uniforms and being quite excited by the casting. They all looked the part and had decent pedigree.
Thankfully having thoroughly enjoyed the finished product, J.J. was safe. I found the way *SPOILER* they rebooted the whole universe using time travel very clever and quite satisfying. I can still enjoy the prime universe but now they have given themselves free reign to tell new stories with the same characters in different ways without having smart arse Trekkies pointing out every minor detail that doesn’t chime with whats gone before. We get a new reason for Kirk to be Captain of the Enterprise, a new romantic relationship between crew members. We see why Scotty is the best damn engineer in Starfleet and a cool twist on how he becomes a member of the crew. We get to see a new take on how Christopher Pike ends up in a wheelchair and why Doctor McCoy is called “Bones”. All of this is done whilst not getting bogged down in too much exposition, boring dialogue scenes and chats about Dilithium crystals. It was fresh, bold and above all else, really exciting.
I recently re-watched it and I think if anything, it has grown on me in the nine years since release. The special effects have aged well, the score is absolutely amazing and the collective performances of the cast are really magnificent. There isn’t a bad performance amongst the crew. My only small gripe is that I don’t find Nero to be that memorable a villain. I love Eric Bana as an actor but I think his part was under developed.
So, in summary, I think J.J. Abrams (whilst not on his own) did save Star Trek. He not only made a film that Trekkies would love, he made a film that most cinema going audiences would love. It was an exhilarating watch, full of space battles, funny moments and some amazing action scenes. Without this film, I’m not sure we’d be enjoying the magnificent Star Trek Discovery on Netflix. He boldly went where no-one has gone before. He made Star Trek cool.
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