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'Star Trek' debate: Legitimate update or insignificant imitation?

Everything I know about Star Trek, I learned from sarcastic comedians and Trekkers' never-ending conversations. No, I'm not a fan — which makes enjoying the new Star Trek movie so surprising. It's because the movie recognizes things about the franchise that anyone can, even without watching its previous incarnations. Here are the Star Trek constants keeping the movie fun for newbies:

1. Capt. James T. Kirk is a slut: The first time we meet grown-up Kirk (Chris Pine), he's hitting on Uhura (Zoe Saldana) in a bar. Minutes later, he's making out with her green-skinned roommate.

2. Red shirt, no future: The joke that Enterprise crew members who die first always wear red is still true.

3. Vengeance is mine (and out of proportion): You kill my parents, I kill your planet.

4. Continuum continuing: Ah, the old time-space continuum routine again, allowing anything to happen and make sense — sort of — through chrono-shuffling. Director J.J. Abrams relies on the same physics improbability to sustain his TV show, Lost.

5. Say again? "Live long and prosper." "I'm a doctor, not a (fill in the blank)." "I'm giving her all she's got, captain." All of the catchphrases are here.

J.J. Abrams probably grew up a Star Trek fanatic, because his movie basically shows off his love of the franchise. He has all the main character's cliches down pat, his young crew of actors nail the mannerisms and his movie has all the ingredients of a classic Trek film. Still, his take on the franchise is very much a step outside of what Trekkers are used to.

1. It's Men in Black: Star Trek Edition: Unlike the subtle Trek humor we're used to, the jokes here hit like a hammer to the head.

2. Different romances: Uhura is still the sex object, but her "first kiss" — like the controversial one in 1968 between William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols — opens up a totally different story line.

3. E.T., phone a new casting agent: The aliens here are more of the Star Wars cantina variety — funny-looking, but still rather anonymous and forgettable. Why not use a beloved blue Andorian or those pesky Cardassians instead?

4. It's not ship-shape: The Enterprise's bridge is state of the art while the rest of the ship looks like the 1915 Chicago waterworks department.

5. It's too wild west: No one's quoting Shakespeare or Moby Dick this time around. And forget that pesky "Prime Directive." It's all action and no intellectualism.

'Star Trek' debate: Legitimate update or insignificant imitation? 05/06/09 [Last modified: Thursday, May 7, 2009 11:47am]
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