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Monday Review: Star Trek


I wouldn't call myself a Trekkie, but like almost everyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s I have a certain affinity for science fiction series that were created before my time. Star Trek is of course one of them, and the original show holds such an impressive place in our pop culture history that it is hard to imagine the world without it. The original series was campy yet serious, fun yet dramatic, historically important (multiracial cast, first interracial kiss on television) yet cheesy as hell. What other show could tackle racial inequalities one episode and come back the next to be about small balls of fur? Clearly J. J. Abraham's reboot of the series had some big shoes to fill as Star Trek isn't just a show anymore, but a piece of our culture.

Well the new film, titled simply Star Trek, has some very big feet that could fill almost any shoe. Abrahams has impressively captured everything that was great about the original series, updated it and shoved it into a classic Trek story of morality and friendship. I wish I could start a slow clap here that the whole world could join in on.

One of best parts of the film, and with not giving too much away, is how this reboot gives a legitimate reason for the Star Trek universe to be rebooted. They don't just jump in and say forget all the great stuff that happened in the past, this is Star Trek now, they honor the old while sweeping in with the new. I intentionally stayed far away from any plot so that the story could unfold for me so I'm not going to explain too much here, suffice to say that all the characters return, but Kirk isn't a Captain, Spock isn't his friend and McCoy -- actually, McCoy is pretty much as surly and wonderful as ever.

Which is a testament to the casting of the film. Each actor some how channels the classic characters without mocking them, but still referencing them. You'll hear all the old lines of course ("Damn it, man, I'm a doctor not a..."), but they're worked in as both referential and real. Of course Chris Pine doesn't exactly have Shatner's dramatic pause down, but I doubt any actor will ever be able to credibly deliver a pause like that ever again, nor do I think we'll want one to.

This is also a testament to how well the film captures what Star Trek is. Star Trek has always been about moral decision and interpersoanl relationships set in a science fiction world. People often credit Battlestar Galactica (which was one of the best shows on TV today) with bringing humanity to science fiction, but Trek was doing it many years before. The beauty of Star Trek though is that it was fun too and this new Star Trek captures that balance perfectly, deftly weaving punch-lines, slap-stick and emotional drama into a film that keeps you interested, intrigued and laughing.

Star Trek is what a summer blockbuster should be: well made, well directed, big budget and a fan pleaser. Not just random fans either, fans of the series, those who just had a passing interest and, I assume from the emphatic clapping and cheering of the two people sitting behind me in full Star Trek clothing at the screening, even the most hardcore of hardcore. Don't worry this time around, our pop culture is in good hands.

Oh, and yes, a guy wearing red dies.

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About Matthew Razakone of us since 2:04 PM on 04.03.2009

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