“The thing about Star Trek is, I was never a huge fan,” said JJ Abrams at a presentation in London for the new Trek film earlier today. “I didn’t even know that there was ten films!” However, despite the director’s lack of background in the franchise, it is clear that he has a great passion for this project. “I remember being a kid when the first film came out – my brother liked it, his friends liked it, but it always felt like someone else’s film to me. But I do remember the optimism, the sense of adventure.”
For Abrams, however, it wasn’t this that was the overriding concern for him taking the project. “When I was first asked if I wanted to do Star Trek, I just said yes. I don’t know why, it felt right, but I said that I wanted to produce and not direct,” he reveals bashfully. “The real problem with doing this right was making it seem real. But the key for me was the cast, and the script. They made me go from wanting to produce, and just produce to being kind of… really jealous if anyone else got to direct.”
Abrams has received a lot of criticism for what fans have perceived as his hijacking of Star Trek, and the sense of apprehension has been vivid. We have to hold up our hands here and say that we were foremost in that, as you’ll know if you’ve ever listened to one of our podcasts. However, SciFiNow had the chance to see around 20 minutes of the film, and we were blown away. Don’t let the Michael Bay tone of the trailer put you off. The film is quintessentially Trek, except it has a harder edge to it that not only enhances the feel of what we know to be familiar, but infuses it with new life and a new direction. Karl Urban is fantastic as Bones, his mannerisms obviously studied from DeForest Kelley. John Cho is amusing as Sulu, and Anton Yelchin is Chekov, if a little younger and more annoying. We didn’t see much of Quinto’s Spock, but he nailed the idea of a man struggling with two sides of himself – indeed, this is a central theme of the film itself. But Chris Pine is better than all of these characters in his role. Tough, cocky, outrageously masculine, this is just like looking at a younger Kirk.
For those who are wondering, Pegg also nails Scotty. His Scottish accent is good, despite it slipping a little at times, and while he retains a glib sense of humour he doesn’t let it override his performance. Those of you who have followed his career will know that Pegg is a fan of the series, but when speaking about it he appeared to become genuinely emotional. “I can’t tell you how pant-wettingly excited I am to be a part of this film as a fully paid-up geek. I’ve known this character – not this part, but this character – since I was nine years old and… I just can’t put it into words.”
For those who don’t wish to read spoilers, stop here, as we’re going to give you a rundown of the film’s premise. It focuses around Kirk’s entry into Starfleet, and his cadet cruise. That black shirt he wears? It’s because he’s still training – the gold captain shirts are still there, Trek purists. After sneaking aboard the Enterprise, he finds himself caught in a fight where the Romulan villain Nero (who it seems was responsible for his father’s death years ago) is attacking Vulcan. Leonard Nimoy appears as an older Spock, who travels back in time to unite the nascent crew. The difference between Quinto’s version and Nimoy’s couldn’t be more pronounced at first, but as the film wears on, the little flashes of characterisation give you a glimpse into what is to come.
This won’t be a film for the die hard Trek fanatics, who insist that an intergalactic spaceship should be controlled by levers and pulleys. This is a film for fans who love Star Trek as it should be – fun, optimistic, and daring. If the footage we saw is anything to go by, Dr Manhattan may well be crying plutonium tears when it comes to picking the best genre film of the year. May 2009 can’t come soon enough.