Or can you? Or… can you?
All you people not in Hong Kong have already seen ‘Star Trek’, right? Well it only opened Thursday over here, so bear with me. Cos we saw it last night and we fucking loved it.
I was worried, going into the cinema. I’d heard good things, but I wasn’t prepared to get excited and let myself believe they wouldn’t somehow fuck it all up somewhere between script and screen. The cast looked promising, the trailer looked trustworthy. But how many times have you been tricked into the cinema by an impressive cast, only to find the script should have been pulped, salted and burnt rather than be let anywhere near a screen? How many times have they cut together a trailer so fab that you get sucked into buying tickets, and then when you see it you realise they put all the very best bits into said trailer, and the rest is complete and utter shite?
Too many times, for me. So, as I said, I was apprehensive. I like Star Trek, I’ve been a fan of a few series throughout my GCSE and A Level years, and yes, even afterwards, too. And I was worried.
Then we get in there and it starts and I realise the basic premise is the same, the plot is the same, the sub-plots are the same, the characters are the same, the whole bloody thing is exactly what it should be, and I’m relieved.
Then I move from relieved to impressed. Being impressed gives way to sheer enjoyment. This, in turn, gives way to a kind of geeky joy I haven’t experienced since I watched the re-runs of the original Star Wars trilogy (parts four, five and six - the only truly decent Star Wars films, in my house). They picked and no doubt trained actors so bloody well - Chris Pine, you ARE the new Kirk: you kick ass, take names - and ladies’ phone numbers - and you do it in style. No doubt this is exactly what the audience was thinking in the 60’s when William Shatner went ‘Hey ladies!’ and an entire fanbase was born. Pine is Kirk like Daniel Craig is James Bond - not in competition with any original, but able to bring something new to the character without actually changing him too much. (‘Cupcake’. Excellent.) Karl Urban, you ARE the new Bones, and I will love you forever for having the same kind of pessimistic, realistic, cutting, objective view as he always had on things. As soon as he climbed on that shuttle and plonked himself down, giving his speech about how many ways there are to die in space, I knew we were in for some fucking funny moments - and he didn’t disappoint. His crusty rendition of ‘Jim!’ made me giggle every goddamn time, cos he did it so well. And his calling Spock a ‘green-blooded hobgoblin’ under his breath - genius. See? Things never change! And Zachary Quinto - aceness. I haven’t seen much of ‘Heroes’, but I knew of him before he turned up in requisite pointy ears. He did a fucking fab job - not easy, but he did it. At one point I actually mistook him for a young Leonard Nimoy as he did that knowing semi-smirk, and I loved it.
How To Endear Yourself To An Entirely New Legion Of Viewers: See: Anton Yelchin. Oh Mr Yelchin, you are a star, for instead of going with an authentic Russian accent, you went with the spirit of it all and went for your best ‘this is how we talk to the tourists cos it’s what’s expected’ voice. You were absolutely bloody marvellous, mate. You were everything I remember of that lovely cheeky chappie Pavel Andreievich Chekov as played by Walter Koenig, and I am so very happy you were on the bridge. Uhura - definitely still sassy, definitely still the top of her field. I don’t remember her having a fling with Spock all those years ago, but hey, so what. Thought she was fab.
And Sulu getting his sword out! How ace was that? Although John Cho didn’t have too much to do, apart from chop up evil baddies through his mad fencing skillz ("Guns for show, KNIVES for a pro!") - oh, and have a nice moment with the warp engines - he was yet another working piece of eye candy, and he did a grand job of Sulu.
And then we come to my favourite - Simon Pegg. Not always the most spot-on of accents, and at times it did slip, but who cares? It’s not like original Scotty was even Scottish either, so ditto on the whole ‘going with the spirit of things’ and being balls-out fake-Scottish-and-everyone-knows-it. Fucking ace-o-rama. Loved the ‘the engines are banjaxed!’ - but my favourite had to the moment his little mate Keenser protests that he needs food too, and Scotty turns to him and goes ‘Oh, get tae--!’ Knowing he can’t finish that sentence cos, lest we forget, they never used such naughty words in the original. Canon, see? It’s all following canon... Not many people in our Hong Kong audience caught the ‘I tested it on Admiral Archer’s beagle’ moment, but I did and I near-wet myself laughing. Nice! Was that a ‘see, ‘Enterprise’ is canon, so just shut up and deal with it?’ moment? Whether it was or not, I giggled for a long time over that reference to purr wee Porthos. But Scotty’s shining moment: Kirk asks for more power, and Scotty’s legendary response? ‘I'm giving her all she's got, Cap’n!’ That line got a smatter of applause from our row. Fucking excellent stuff.
And the rest of it all just went so like Star Trek but not quite like old Trek: There’s time travel, there’s nasty Romulans, there’s Cardassian kanar (not ‘canar’) at the bar, there’s Orion girls who aren’t slaves cos they serve in Starfleet, there’s fisticuffs and valour, best friends and learning to trust people, officers in red EV suits getting killed off on away missions (yeah, that’s right - kill off the English chief engineer!), there’s cool ships and retro communicators, proper old colour shirts and turbolifts that need a handle, big blocky buttons and updated chucker boots. It was so lovely to see.
One question - if you’ve ejected the warp core, doesn’t that mean you’re left with only impulse engines? And you’re around Saturn. That’s about, what, 130-odd million kilometres from Earth and a refit (unless they were using the shipyards at Jupiter Station - was hoping we’d get to see the famed Utopia Planitia shipyards around Mars, even though this ‘Enterprise’ appears to have been built in Iowa). So how long would it take to get back there on full impulse? Er… Never mind. I’m sure some other ship (the Columbia NX-02? The Defiant? Arf arf!) took them out a spare and the impossibly talented Scotty had it in and running within a week. Trip home shortened to allowable tolerances for a film; job done…
And so to canon. This was supposed to be a re-boot, am I right? Well it did just that. I see what you did there, Messrs Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (mostly of Xena, Jack Of All Trades, and Eagle Eye writing fame):
Write a script whereby you use all the original characters and show how they got together, using the canonical framework in place that is already well-known by a few million people around the globe. You must manoeuvre the ending to a point where you have the technical, canonical and fan-supported opportunity to re-write what happens next, in direct violation of said canon.
I think… they achieved it. And with Majel Barrett Roddenberry (still miss you!) as the ship’s computer, too. And I thought it was great. Even the music was bang-on!
I loved the in-jokes so much, but I loved the action and actual presence of a story more. It managed to do two things very well: bring in the old bunch, and cater to newbies who’ve never seen a Star Trek episode - in any of its incarnations - in their lives. It was witty, sly, brave and fresh. It was everything that is fine and shiny and good about Star Trek - without any morals of stories or Greater Good or preaching of the Prime Directive going on. It was everything I had hoped it would be, and I left the cinema a few inches off the ground.
What more could you ask of a film? Well, a sequel, obviously…
Star Trek ~ Chris Pine ~ JTK ~ Karl Urban ~ Leonard McCoy ~ John Cho ~ Hikaru Sulu ~ Anton Yelchin ~ Pavel Chekov ~ Simon Pegg ~ Montgomery Scotty ~ Zachary Quinto ~ Spock