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?