Star Trek is a franchise like no other. It thrives on the big screen and the small transcending the reach of other science fiction properties with a hefty dose of social commentary and refined technobabble. It can also evolve and devolve to find a new audience when necessary becoming an action movie in one installment and a sci-fi morality tale in the next. Nowhere is this more obvious than in recent years when the franchise was in need of a metaphorical shot of adrenaline to keep going. What it received was so much more: the best reboot in cinema history.
It’s safe to say that the early to mid 2000’s was not the best time for Star Trek. The once mesmerising ‘Next Generation’ cast had lost their appeal and gave us a film, Nemesis, which came close to rivaling the ‘Star Trek V: The Final Frontier’ as the worst Trek movie. On the television front ‘Enterprise’ ran for four seasons of uneven storytelling with dull characters and then was swiftly cancelled, although not before it gave us that awful finale. Star Trek was in a bad place but lied only dormant, not dead, needing a new team to awaken it again as one of the world’s biggest and most beloved franchises.
Before I get onto why the reboot is a great Star Trek film I have to acknowledge that It’s a fantastic piece of cinema regardless of being a part of a pre-existing series. Visually the film is incredible, both in its planet based vistas and its depiction of space battles and starships keeping a science fiction aesthetic and yet making it all feel grounded, something director JJ Abrams later applied to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The music has always been great in Star Trek from the original series through to the grand orchestral pieces of The Next Generation and the 2009 reboot is no exception. Michael Giacchino’s score matches the epic visuals of the movie perfectly making the film and experience best seen in the theatre; I remember watching the movie for the first time and being blown away by the moment we see the Enterprise emerge slowly from the ring of Saturn with the score blaring, to this day it gives me goosebumps and remains one of my favourite images in cinematic history. Even if the film failed at being a good installment of Star Trek it would still be great due to its own achievements within the genre, but the fact is that it didn’t fail at being a good Star Trek movie.
The reboot managed to capture the feel of Star Trek. While the sequel Star Trek Into Darkness (and Star Trek Beyond based on the trailers) was more of an action flick the 2009 reboot was purely an adventure film. The film starts and ends with some cool looking action sequences but the majority of the film doesn’t rely of fistfights and phaser battles to keep the audience interested instead it focuses on the classic Star Trek sense of adventure and character. Recasting the classic characters was a tough feat to pull off but the film succeeds because the actors play them their own way while still being true to the original. Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk is the same character as the one we see William Shatner portray but Pine doesn’t go as far to copy Shatner’s style.
The film could have easily of rebooted the series with a straightforward prequel but instead it decided to take on the impossible and be both a prequel, sequel and something else altogether shifting the continuity to some place new. Essentially the film is everything but a remake. Somehow they pulled it off and the film’s narrative flows naturally without any excessive exposition or being convoluted. It plays out like a cool time travel story cementing the different timelines in a way that’s simple to get your head around. Take a look at X-Men Days of Future Past, while I really like that film, and the film series as a whole, it rewrites and creates new timelines in a complicated way. The continuity is incredibly messy and the numerous loose ends have been ignored. Star Trek could have gone the same way but managed to juggle the huge amount of prior material easily and rests it all in an intelligent and easily understood way with both timelines ongoing in the franchise’s future: the new ‘Kelvin’ timeline in the movies and the ‘prime’ timeline in the upcoming television show. I can’t see any other property else managing to continue a franchise and yet utterly reinvent one simultaneously better than this film does.
As well as all this the film manages to tell a good story with plot twists as natural as they are unexpected, a cool villain and perfect pacing. Somehow within its continuity explaining and shifting plot the film allows for viewers unaware of the previous entries in the franchise to enjoy it and hopefully make them want to explore the far reaches of Star Trek content. The more I watch it and the more I think about it the more convinced I am that the 2009 Star Trek movie is the best reboot in cinema history.
What do you think about the Star Trek reboot? Let me know in the comments and geek out with me about Trek on Twitter @kylebrrtt.