Why Star Trek matters again

I was afraid this new Star Trek movie would, pardon the expression, suck. I’ve seen how prequels can do that.

George Lucas must take at least partial credit for my career choices; my voracious interest in computers and special effects sprang entirely from being exposed to Star Wars when I was nine.

But I was one of many, many Star Wars fans who endured The Phantom Menace and its two sequels with first shock and then revulsion. Those responsible for that second trilogy managed to wring every last shred of joy and life out of something that had affected so many so positively – it was truly quite sad.

In a recent interview with Simon Pegg, Pegg and the interviewer agreed that The Phantom Menace et al. was nothing less than heartbreaking. I agree – it was something like a betrayal.

I was not in the beginning a fan of Star Trek. It wasn’t flashy and it was already looking really dated when I began paying attention to its reruns in the 80’s. The first Star Wars trilogy impacted me deeply and permanently, but over time Star Trek’s vision of a future where intelligence and curiosity are valued by society and not just the province of those over-educated types became a much more intriguing and desirable thing.

Unfortunately I’ve watched Star Trek’s downward spiral in film-land – after the wonderful The Wrath of Khan and The Voyage Home – with increasingly less interest. That, too, is sad.

So I worried about this movie as the release date approached – did I really want to see it and risk another epic fail?

Being a movie fanatic, the only possible answer was yes; I’d risk it.

After the first 10 minutes I turned to my husband and said (quietly, of course, so as not to intrude on the experience for the hundreds in the packed theater)  “this is a lot better than I was expecting.” He agreed.

We saw it twice the first weekend. It’s been a really long time since I was so excited about a movie that I wanted to see it again right away; the last time was probably The Fellowship of the Ring.

I was completely blown away by this film – not because it is beautiful, which it most definitely is, the art and special effects are totally gorgeous – but because it was so comfortingly familiar. Abrams and crew respectfully translated that familiarity very, very well. I didn’t recognize some of the actors, but I knew who they were. There was no question. It just felt right.

Familiarity as the foundation for a totally new set of possibilities – that’s what was so impressively done and so exciting about it all.

Those critics who feel they can’t accept the changes or the implications that having a totally different potential future presents, or that feel slighted because this alternate reality somehow negates all the things they feel connected to about this universe have been outspoken on the Web. One person’s blog claimed that ‘they rouined (sp) Star Trek in the first five minutes’ and promised that if they don’t make the next movie remove the alternate reality scenario, he or she would ‘write it off forever.’

That’s a shame, in my opinion. I think there’s enough room for both timelines.

Abrams and company have just given us years more of Star Trek; what an amazing gift.

I can’t wait to see what happens next. Isn’t that the whole point? What could possibly be better than that?

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