Star Trek Gets Real

Before I say anything else I must make this clear: Star Trek, much like Transformers, is not about the plot. The plot is good, but that’s not the point. This movie is about the characters, and the plot seems to be nothing more than a means to develop them (which is convenient, because it gives me the chance to review the film without spoiling anything [Ed: Nonetheless, those of you who want to go into Star Trek with a completely clean slate should probably refrain from continuing this article until after you've seen it] — and Transformers was less about characters than about cool mecha sequences).

In short, the characters were magnificent. Each had enough of the original to be recognizable, without being an impersonation (One exception was Karl Urban in the role of McCoy. I could hardly take him seriously with his forced accent and constant catch phrasing). Simon Pegg was hilarious as Scotty. Chekov, Sulu, and Uhura all have their big moments on screen and own their scenes.

Chris Pine as James Tiberius Kirk does a great job resisting any temptation to channel William Shatner. The character is all his own. Zachary Quinto leaves Spock’s emotion right below the surface; you can see the tension behind the mask, and sense the character’s feeling. The best part is that the friendship that develops between the two feels totally natural.

These well-formed and well-played characters fall into a story that seems to have driven more than a few Trek fans to madness over the last few days. A ship captained by a Romulan name Nero emerges from a “lightning storm” and attacks the USS Kelvin. In the tussle we find out that Nero has come from the future, and George Kirk, Jim’s father, is killed just moments after Jim’s birth. At that moment, the timeline splinters. You don’t see it on screen, so much as hear it: When Nero returns, 25 years later, and the situation becomes apparent, Uhura says, “An alternate reality?”

At this point each character has to start dealing with some new questions. What is it like to live your life knowing that the future once laid out in front of you has been changed? What if you know you are living in your own alternate reality? What if you know it was caused by the actions of an agent from outside the system? At one point Kirk asks a character from the future, “In the alternate reality, did I know my father?”

(I’ve been told that what follows is a forced comparison. I would agree, except that it wasn’t. My brain is just weird.)

We have to deal with two similar situations. Our timeline was broken first in the garden, when Eve was deceived, and Adam careless. What should have been a blissful existence inside the garden became a difficult one filled with pain and work and fear and death.

Our timeline broke a second time, with the Incarnation. This time the outside agent came to right our wrongs and to take on himself the punishment for the incident in the garden and all that it brought about in us.

We’re a lot like Captain Kirk, separated from the father we might have known; we’re drunken, disorderly, and delinquent. We give in to our emotions and desires with little restraint. But Jesus comes to right the ship.

There’s no Christ figure in this movie, and I don’t think that these characters are examples for us to follow. But the use of this back-story for the most prominent character in the film, and the way it resonates, shows that even though we haven’t all lost a parent, we know we’ve lost something that we would have — should have — known, and that loss has crushed us. But if we, as Capt. Pike suggests, live for something bigger, it doesn’t have to destroy us.

So, tell me, what is it like knowning that you’re living your own alternate reality?

About Charles Jones
  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    Star Trek looks cool and fun (and despite the fact that I’ve never really been a fan of Star Trek, I kind of want to see it). Transformers was pretty much the opposite of both. It was a tech demo, proof-of-concept thing. It wasn’t a movie. It didn’t even hold together as well as a twenty-two minute episode from the cartoon series it pretended to be built from.

    As far as living in an alternate reality? I don’t know if I can accept the whole alternate reality thing. God is, of course, in control. The world and the way its history rolls out has been ordained by God. And even if there were possible other futures, each of those are obliterated the moment a choice is made that cannot lead to such a future. In essence, by the nature of reality, there can only be one reality.

    The Danes last blog post..20090417.teaParty

  • http://pos51.org/ Charles Jones

    Oh, Dane, you and your “realism”. Of course there’s only one reality. But suspend your disbelief for just a moment, and imagine that there are two events in history that from a particular location in space and time altered every quarter of existence.

    The idea that we’re living in our own alternate reality doesn’t imply that there are other dimensions alongside ours, like in Sliders or The One. It’s acknowledging that those events altered reality for everyone.

    And while every choice eliminates possible futures, our choices and actions from inside the system are quite different from Christ’s entry into the system from outside.

    And we’ll just have to disagree about Transformers. I thought it was cool, and fun, and I still like watching it.

    Charles Joness last blog post..“Outrage!” and Other Tales of Emptiness

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    I’m totally onboard with the idea of the universe and all its inhabitants experiencing massive (even cataclysmic!) paradigm shifts. I just presume that those drastic shifts have always been a part of the singular reality, both expected and planned for. It’s kinda like day and night. Though these are drastic alterations to our experience of reality, we don’t refer to them (usually) as alternate realities because we expect and plan for them. Night and day are part of the order of things.

    So too, I would argue, are the fall and resurrection.
    ______________

    As far as Transformers, maybe we’ll have to stage an intervention. Don’t you feel embarrassed for the movie when the autobots are all trying to be quiet in Sam’s yard and they keep making noises? Aren’t you disappointed that Sam doesn’t give prime the thingy after being told that it’s the only way to save the world and instead, thirty minutes later gives it to Megatron even though the obvious effect the thingy has on machines is to turn them deadly? Didn’t you scratch your head thinking you had entered an alternate reality when you realized that Jazz listens to hip-hop instead of jazz? Were you torn apart by the fact that the Megan Fox left her once-pristine Vespa behind without a second thought?

    We’ve got to save you Charles! We must!

    The Danes last blog post..20090417.teaParty

  • http://www.christandpopculture.com/ Richard Clark

    Charles, this is a safe place. We are here because we care.

  • http://pos51.org/ Charles Jones

    I don’t have a problem…I can quit any time I want. I just don’t want to, that’s all.

    Autobots are really big, so quiet is hard to do. And I thought all TV and Movie characters made decisions the way Sam does. Besides, real adults make worse decisions than this fictional teenager. Isn’t Jazz the robot version of Jazz from Fresh Prince? He listened to hip hop. And what’s a Vespa when the world’s going to end? Not to mention she probably had comprehensive coverage.

    The most important part of all this is to say that I thought as hard during this movie as I did watching Beverly Hills Ninja.

    Now intervene already! How long until I can relapse?


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