OK, I’ve seen the movie twice in one week, collected all the Burger King glasses and even one of the kids’ meal toys, and yet can’t get enough “Star Trek.” I have a lovely friend from high school days who tried to convince me to watch “Trek” at the time, but it was on opposite “12 O’Clock High,” so there was no contest. Today, you can get multiple video editions of The Original Series of “Star Trek,” and you still can’t get Frank Savage’s adventures with the 918th Bombardment Group in any format. The people have spoken. Star Trek rules.
The movie is just so darn clever in the way it reboots the franchise. We’re back at Square One, Ground Zero, the Starting Gate, in re-imagining the universe of Gene Roddenberry, who dreamed of a time when diversity would be celebrated as a strength and curiosity as an asset. America responded, and “Star Trek” has become our national mythology, the way we see ourselves in the best light possible. Today’s White House administration looks more like the bridge crew of the Enterprise than ever before. (As opposed to the last Administration, who resembled Nuremberg defendants.)
Mythology is the medium by which the inchoate hopes and fears undercurrent in modern society play themselves out in pop culture. Other than the level of technical expertise in presenting the vision, there’s not a lot of difference between a screening of “star Trek” today and hearing a tale around a campfire 10,000 years ago. The same magic applies — “Star Trek” is a way of seeing out beyond the horizons, of engaging the human imagination in warp drive.
I grew up on Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke and Arch Whitehouse. The science part of the science fiction of the new “Trek” is pretty awful. More like science affliction. Black holes, in particular, seem to behave like vacuum-cleaner portals rather than event horizons. The dramatic aspects are specious too. The chances that Kirk would be given command of a starship while he still needs Clearasil are pretty slim.
Nobody cares. This movie is a rocketship, all roar and bang, and still has a heart. The primary dramatic architecture of the series has been reconstructed: Kirk wrestling with the problems of command, with Spock and McCoy giving voice to the two haves of his brain — logic vs. emotion, detachment vs. embrace. It’s a sturdy foundation for iconic stories.
In this 11th iteration of “Star Trek,” we’re seeing the characters of our national mythology come to life again, and that’s way wicked cool.
Here’s some fanboy whinges about details.
And here’s how Hitler reacts to the new “Star Trek” movie.