What’s romantic about Star Trek? The series and films are not exactly famous for long-lived happy coupledom (yes, I am looking at you who killed off Jadzia Dax), and the focus is hardly ever on characters’ serious romantic attachments. Yet Star Trek offers the ultimate romance in its determined, occasional stubborn optimism in the face of great odds. In the new movie, Spock explains to Kirk the function of a simulation that is meant to prepare for the worst and promote dignified actions in the face of death, and Kirk isn’t having any of that. He refuses to think either death or defeat, and similarly the whole Star Trek universe is about overcoming (or having overcome) racism, poverty, inequality of women, environmental damage, and general selfish greed. It’s the people as a whole who get their HEA.
In addition, Star Trek carries strong personal romantic associations for me, because I met my husband through a Star-Trek-related computer password that he used, and our acquaintance started off with comparing notes about Enterprise. You can imagine our astonished delight when we discovered that the new Star Trek film was to open in Germany on the day of our wedding anniversary – the perfect treat!
The new Star Trek, directed by J.J. Abrams, is a prequel to the original series, and so it’s set earlier than anything in the Star Trek franchise except for Enterprise. The movie begins with high drama in space: Out of a thunderstorm, a huge and ugly ship appears and threatens the USS Calvin. The captain goes on board the alien ship, where he is soon killed, and leaves his first officer, George Kirk, in command. In order to give the 800 crew of the Calvin a chance to reach safety, among them his pregnant wife, George sacrifices the ship and his own life, dying the very minute his son is born.
After some short scenes from Jim’s and Spock’s childhood, we meet Jim Kirk (Chris Pine) again as a rebellious good-for-nothing, getting into a bar brawl. Captain Pike of the USS Enterprise picks him up, reminds him of his father’s heroism and encourages him to enter Starfleet as a cadet. Three years later Kirk is a rebellious as he ever was and quarrels with an Academy instructor named Spock (Zachary Quinto), when an urgent emergency call from Vulcan forces Starfleet to man a number of ships with cadets …
The film is full of action, loud noise and fast-moving close-ups, and in this it is little different from most other contemporary action films, tailored to please a young audience. Yet at the same time, the film pays loving attention to creating and developing the characters. There they are, young actors that only look a bit like the well-beloved characters one has watched so many times, and they both resemble their originals in mien and gestures, and give the characters their own stamp. And it works – the way they interact, the way that you can see an older Kirk with his brand of self-irony in this young, hot-headed man, a less secure version of Spock, an enthusiastic Chekov (Anton Yelchin) who wants to prove himself. I also loved the design, as it pays loving homage at what we know and what lies yet in the future, while granting the movie its own esthetics. While not everything fits with what we know of Star Trek – for example, Uhura (Zoe Saldana) is far more kick-ass –, and only some discrepancies are addressed, there are numerous references to the older series and movies included. There’s action and a suitably nasty villain (Eric Bana) and humor and a hint of a romance. My only (minor) quibbles are that I thought Scotty (Simon Pegg) a bit over-the-top and his companion (as borrowed from Star Wars) an entirely unnecessary addition.
I enjoyed the film hugely and plan to see it again soon, hopefully undubbed. As for a possible sequel, there are several promising story lines left open, and I hope there will be one! Although the latest Star Trek movie means a departure from what the last films did, in my opinion the new direction is taken with respect and love for what Star Trek as been so far, and determination to see it on a new course. I can definitely go with that.