Star Trek - A New Beginning? Yes!!!By Heiko Thoms
First of all (before getting into details): ST XI is fantastic and has the potential to re-start the ST universe (and franchise!)
I have watched the film in its German and original version within two days, and there are so much (lovely) details enclosed that it is worth watching every minute.
But it is also a J.J.Abrams movie and those of you that know and love LOST and CLOVERFIELD will have their fun, too.
I'd like to avoid giving a detailed summary of the story and get right into a few specific aspects of this fantastic (!) adventure and my reaction to them.
Starting with the death of Kirks father and the birth of James Tiberius Kirk during the first minutes of the movie it is clear that Abrams will show us an alternate reality that is not similar to the known adventures of TOS.
These events are set in motion by Nero, a Romulan bent on exacting revenge, invading from the future. In my opinion Nero is a less interesting character and is only brought into the story to supply an explanation for the altered reality.
In short: because of a supernova that will destroy the planet Romulus 120 years from TOS time (and will not be prevented by the future Spock who promised to save Romulus), Nero goes after Spock and tries to destroy the planet Vulcan. During the ‘supernova event’ Nero is pulled into the past and there he destroys the USS Kelvin on which Kirks father, his wife and the unborn Kirk are present. Kirk’s mother can be saved and James T. Kirk is born on a shuttlecraft.
Years later Nero can capture the future Spock (Spock is pulled into the same past as well, but arrives years later) to make him watch the destruction of Vulcan.
Kirk, meanwhile, grows into a wild and undisciplined child but finally joins Starfleet as a cadet where he meets Leonard McCoy and Uhura, as well as the young Sulu and Chekov on board the Fleet's brand new flagship ENTERPRISE that is sent to Vulcan to fight Nero in his attempt to destroy Vulcan.
Again, for me Nero (even if well played by Eric Bana) is only a tool to explain and install the alternate reality.
But what are (in my opinion) the important changes in this alternate reality?
Vulcan: I was shocked during the first view of the movie because the planet Vulcan has really been destroyed (!!!) by Nero (by placing red matter forming a black hole in the planet’s core). This means that a total civilization that plays a major role in the known reality and timeline of ST (movies and series) has been extinguished; the only way for the surviving Vulcans is to form a new society on a new planet; that will possibly lead to interesting future events in a second movie or a new series?
Spock (fantastically played by Zachary Quinto): Spock’s mother Amanda is killed during the rescue attempt of the Vulcan leaders (in TOS Amanda is a recurring character, e.g. in ‘Journey to Babel’); this leads to an emotional young Spock that is strongly affected by the death of his mother and who is in an astonishing relationship with the young Uhura (yes, Uhura!!!). This leads to the conclusion that ST XI is a ‘Spock movie’ specifically describing and explaining the ‘emotional state’ of the alternate young Spock. Very interesting at the end of the movie is the meeting between young and future Spock. The future Spock (again excellently played by Leonard Nimoy) realizes that his young counterpart is a different person that definitely will act and behave in different ways. This provides much potential for storylines in further movies or series again! Unfortunately we do not learn more about the relationship between Spock and Uhura (maybe this will be told in the next ST XII?).
Kirk: due to the death of Kirk’s father during the attack on the Kelvin Kirk himself develops into an impetuous and angry child. Later he seems to grope for meaning in live, has not many friends, and is constantly seeking trouble. His life changes after Pike offers him a position as a cadet in Starfleet; there he meets his close friend McCoy, nicknamed Bones, and evolves into an ambitious and sometimes difficult cadet. Although Kirk’s past and background is well acted (by Chris Pine) and directed, the ‘Kirk story’ in ST XI is not my favorite and seems only to be a kind of subplot to carry the ‘Spock story’. Let's see what comes next!
In addition, I would like to point out that all TOS characters are lovely played and show some specific behavior aspects known from our heroes from Classic Star Trek (try to find them while watching the movie, I will not reveal them J).
Finally, let’s take a look at the J.J.Abrams label of the movie. If you watch LOST or Fringe you might recognize aesthetic similarities in the title and end sequence and captions.
And last but not least: the monster on Delta Vega hunting the young Kirk seems to be an homage to the CLOVERFIELD monster with its creepy limbs and its horrible roaring (in a much funnier way because it can be banished by a simple torch!). Superb!
In conclusion, I was stunned by the movie. I have known ST very well for years, and this movie is a convincing continuation of the Star Trek universe. It’s funny but also tragic; and it defines new settings and storylines that have the potential to bring Star Trek back to life!
Well done, J.J. Abrams; go on!!!
You think this article is missing Spock Prime? Well, I can be of assistance with that. If you'd please move a step to the right and prepare for transport?