How do you reboot Star Trek? Look to what they did in Doctor Who and repeat. That at least is what the new Star Trek movie felt like.
Before going further in my review, I will state that I did not, and still do not, think there was a need for a “reboot.” I will also point out there will be a couple “spoilers” contained in what follows.
When Doctor Who returned to the BBC screen, the Doctor became the last of his people, his home planet destroyed in war. To bring the Doctor out of his grief, Russell T. Davies decided it would be best to add a romantic interest to the show, changing the dynamic and feel of the companion/Doctor relationship. Moreover, in the new series, the story is told on the fly, often leaving little to no room for explanations if things did not appear to be right. Finally, the Doctor has found himself in a universe in which he has the ability to change time, to change what he knows – and, as to be expected, this is used to explain away inconsistencies between the new series and its classical counterpart.
Fast forward to the new Star Trek. Here it was decided they wanted to create an alternative universe so that the story can move forward without being burdened by the show’s history. In this universe, Vulcan becomes destroyed, with only a handful of Vulcans left; while Spock isn’t the last of the Vulcans, he is one of the last. Finally, romance is brought into the show – not, as expected, through James T. Kirk, but through Spock – where Spock and Uhura fall in love. No mention needs to be had that the pace and speed of the new movie is on par with the pace and speed of the revised Doctor Who – save for one slow, over-explanative scene between the young Kirk and an elderly Spock.
For many, this new Star Trek will be supported because it is “hip” and “bold,” but for me, I felt, despite all the changes, as if it rehashed all the previous Star Trek movies and put them together as one. The villain, Nero, feels too much of a mix between Khan and Dr. Soran. And that, in my mind, is a part of what is wrong here. It isn’t as fresh as it could have been, should have been. To camouflage that problem, there is an attempt of humor in the movie. But it just doesn’t work. It’s not Star Trek IV comedy, it’s Starship Troopers. And that just isn’t right for this.
The story itself is a bit weak. Nero wants to destroy the Federation and set up Romulus as the last remaining power. But the plot seems as if it were a secondary concern. The primary interest appears to be in bringing the characters together. While some elements of that setup works, some of it does not. Everything for Kirk is too forced. I didn’t like the emotional Spock. I really didn’t see why Bones took to Kirk as he did. I didn’t think it was right to have Scotty off the ship for so long. But the central problem is that I don’t see how this Kirk and Spock and Bones could become the trio of friends as they should be. Spock, more or less, is forced into a friendship with Kirk by his older self. And this Spock is far too emotional, and, I suspect, will be in the future (I suspect he will now follow his “human route” as a way to give him an edge over the old series) And yet, with all these changes and problems, it also felt as if, despite them, they wanted to hedge everything in, following a line from the Doctor Who audio story, Kingmaker, “Change, the story, the ending remains the same.” That is what ends up here. The story is changed, but the ending remains the same. If you are going to change the personalities and characteristics of the heroes, why do you have to make them end up in the same kinds of positions with each other? If you wanted to reboot, and to do something bold, don’t give up with what you set up, such as having Spock as captain over Kirk, or keeping Kirk and Spock as rivals. Just do something. Saying this, I do think the actors do a good job with what they were given. I have no complaints there. The direction, on the other hand, just felt a bit too pedestrian.
What was the need for a movie like this? There is so much more one could have – should have – focused in the Star Trek universe. I fear I will be one of the few voices to say – this just doesn’t work. It close, but not there. And I think in the future, once the hype is over, and people start to pick apart the storyline, they will see that it is the truth.