May 14, 2009

Star Trek (2009)

By Hilary Rowe *

Let me begin by saying that I have never seen an episode of any Star Trek television series.  Nor had I seen a Star Trek movie until J.J. Abrams’s recent update of the cult classic.  No longer held prisoner by obsessive fans and Trekkie conventions, Star Trek proves itself to be a stylish and intelligent story, palatable to wide audiences.

The biggest reason I wanted to see Star Trek was that its director, J.J. Abrams, is the creator and director of Lost, the world’s most brilliant television show.  And Abrams does not disappoint, as the film incorporates many themes from the show like the dynamics of revenge and forgiveness, heroic self-sacrifice, the tension between reason and emotion, and, of course, time travel.

Star Trek tells the story of how James T. Kirk becomes captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise.  It is a prequel, if you will, to the original Star Trek series.  The movie opens with Captain Kirk’s father, George Kirk, serving as captain of another ship on the Starfleet, which is a peace-keeping entity for this galaxy and beyond.  When an unknown enemy attacks, the elder Kirk sacrifices himself to save thousands on board his ship, including his wife who is at that moment giving birth to their son.

Born of these difficult and brave circumstances, the younger Kirk lives his youth as a failure, nursing his fatherless wounds instead of using his obvious gifts of intelligence and courage (his courage is sometimes evident in the form of recklessness).  Once he is appropriately challenged, he sets his mind to being a captain like his father and enters the Starfleet Academy.

The backstory told in this film must be especially interesting to Trekkies because it contains so many sly references and inside jokes.  As characters were introduced who later become crew members on the U.S.S. Enterprise, I heard many theater patrons snickers for reasons I could not understand.  Still, the dynamics of the characters’ relationships and Kirk’s own fight to master himself are enough to keep any viewer engaged.

One of the most interesting parts of the film is the presence of an alternate Spock.  Due to a wormhole in space, Spock of the future is transported back to the time of his youth, which becomes fuel for the plot of the whole movie.  I found this device to be very creative despite the presence of a line I generally dislike: “I’m from the future.” Is there any way to deliver that line without cliché?  The elder Spock (who is played by Leonard Nimoy, of course) also delivers a line at the end of the movie that I hope will cause you to roll your eyes: “Set logic aside.  Do what feels right.”

In spite of these minor disappointments, I believe Star Trek deserves the wild popularity it currently enjoys.  The film’s content is appropriate for most audiences, with only one short sexual scene and only necessary violence.  In short, see this movie expecting to have fun and you will not be disappointed; you may even find yourself thinking about its intriguing story for some time afterwards.

Hilary Rowe received her B.A. in Film Studies and English Literature from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2005.  Since then she has worked in campus ministry for FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.  She currently serves as FOCUS Team Director at the University of Colorado.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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