OK, shall I be the last person to review Star Trek? I saw it last Thursday at the first UK press screening in Leicester Square, but assumed, dutifully and unquestioningly like I always do, that there was some kind of embargo. But if there is, nobody’s taking any notice of it, and in fact, I rather surmise that the film company, Paramount, will be delighted to ratchet up some more advance publicity before the actual May 8 release of the new, JJ Abrams-produced-and-directed eleventh Trek motion picture. The Times of London, for whom I have written a big piece on the franchise (due this Saturday, a mere fortnight before the actual May 8 release date), was just one national newspaper to “go big” on the Star Trek premiere, which took place last night. In their case it was a huge photo of Zachary Quinto who plays Spock. On the front of Metro, it was a huge photo of Simon Pegg and his wife Maureen. The media have gone Star Trek crazy! And to be fair, they have reason to be.
Star Trek, with its big old lack of a subtitle and number, feels like JJ Abrams wiping the slate clean, like Chris Nolan did with Batman Begins. This is basically Star Trek Begins, and it’s a very shrewd way of “rebooting” a 43-year-old franchise which is pretty battered after the almost universally disliked Enterprise. So, Abrams and his writers get to stamp themselves all over the original series without literally remaking it, and both clueless new generation and precious old generation have some stake in it. Although it’s a state-of-the-art digital fireworks display, with much spectacle to gawp at, you’d have to say this is a blockbuster about relationships (Kirk and Spock, Kirk and Bones, even Spock and Uhura), and that’s no mean feat in this brainless age. Abrams is not a Trekker/Trekkie but his screenwriters are, and it shows in all the in-jokes and nods to the heritage. They hold back Pegg’s Scotty till about halfway through and they know exactly what they’re doing. (He’s as entertaining as you hoped he would be.) I was certainly among those who laughed gratefully when Karl Urban’s well-judged McCoy said, “I’m a doctor, not a physicist.” There’s a lot of crowd-pleasing.
Oddly, since it was Star Wars that paved the way for The Motion Picture in 1979, it felt very post-Star Wars. I don’t really want to say any more, as it’s going to be a while before most people get to see it (and I want you to read my piece on Saturday, with exclusive interviews with Pegg and Jonathan Ross). Needless to say, Abrams has not fluffed it. And no, I wasn’t able to write 2,800 words without using a variation of the phrase, “It’s ____, Jim, but not as we know it.” I’m only human.