Friday, May 08, 2009

Star Trek: Back To the Past

The Trek is back and you can bet your bottom dollar that this ain't yo daddy's Star Trek. The names remain the same but the feel you get from Star Trek: The Future Begins is most definitely different than the previous versions. As a life long Trekkie I considered it my obligation to see the latest incarnation of one of entertainments longest running series. So early this morning me and seven other Trekkies boldly went to a local IMAX theater to see if the wait was worth it.

And by and large it was. I'm not a movie critic and won't pretend to be one here. I can tell you that this Trek is good, well paced fare that will please Trekkie and non-Trekkie alike. You really don't need to know a whole lot about the original series (especially since more than enough ST lore is in our pop culture) to get a firm grasp of the film's plot. That said being familiar with ST will help with a number of the lines and subplots. One of the things I liked about this movie that was absent from all other TOS movies (TOS stands for The Original Series) is how the bridge crew (Uhurah, Chekov, Sulu and Scotty) actually did something other than sit there and say 'warp factor four captain'.
Kirk and Spock were portrayed with relish and in my view exactly the way an old Trekkie would have thought they'd be at the start of their five year mission.

One of the holdovers from the last few Trek films is the realization of actual, real evil. Star Trek was born with a belief in the basic goodness in humanity and by extension all sentient beings. The basic premise of the Trek is that eventually humanity and other sentient beings will evolve to a point where we will all live to explore the galaxy, cooperate with others and better ourselves. The first Trek was groundbreaking in that it featured an international crew that consisted of a Russian (remember this was in 67, the height of the Cold War) an African, Asian, Scotsman and others. TOS dealt with issues like war, racism and the existence of a supreme being. Though the Federation had enemies (the Romulans and Klingons) they were usually cast in a light that reminded humanity of what it once was. The idea seemed to be that even these folks would grow up, join the Feds and enjoy a peaceful, prosperous galaxy.

Apart from a few good episodes on other ventures within the franchise TNG, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise usually stuck with the good guys vs. bad guys theme. The movies followed the same path. After a disastrous first try (Star Trek: The Motion Picture) the folks at Trek got with the program and gave into the all too human reality that there are real bad dudes who do evil things because they are evil. I'm sure Gene Roddenberry would have loved to make shows and movies that highlighted space exploration that featured the discovery of new life and how that facilitated the exploration of our own humanity. But that don't sell tickets which is why Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek VIII: First Contact are still the most popular movies. (that Borg chica was creeeeepy)

The caretakers of the Trek either have realized or just given in to the fact that evil will be present even in the 24th century. With all of our supposed evolution, technological advances and history of our past mistakes in the end we cannot breed, education or reason our way to an existence that's devoid of real, actual evil. The villains Trek portrays may be from other 'races' but that may only be due to an unwillingness to admit that forty years after we boldly went where no man had gone before humanity is just as selfish, greedy and evil as it ever was. 1960's science fiction may have given us reason to put hope in the moral progression of humanity but 21st century science fact reveals a far different story.

So the future for Star Trek's continuing presence on the movie screen may have indeed begun. But one thing is for sure: we can boldly go as far as our warp powered ships will take us, but we will still not outrun evil. So take and escape and catch the Trek, but put your hope in Jesus.

Live Long And Prosper


CAH said...

I have read the new Star Trek has been "sexed up" for the new generation of viewers--talk of scenes with Uhura and Kirk. Wanted to know before I go???

Pastor Lance said...

yo CAH,

that may have been used to lure viewers but in my view this Trek was even more tame than the last series called 'Enterprise'.
however i can't say what will and what will not offend ones sensibilities. there was no sex, though there was one brief)bedroom scene in which characters were in their underwear.

even with that however i can say that it was less intense than the intimacy scenes in Iron Man and Hulk.

hope that helps


Jim Pemberton said...

I haven't seen the new Trek yet, but as for the human condition aspect of the Star Trek franchise in general, I think you're on the money.

I would go so far as to say that much of the angst of our current pop culture is due to the tension between a desire to believe the best about humanity while observing that it's obvious we don't live up to the ideal. This can be summed up in the naive question too often posed: "Why can't we all just get along?"

Movies that hold the ideal are disappointing to audiences because we want things to be that way, but know that that it's unrealistic. Movies that recognize the depravity of the human spirit, but show people striving to improve on it with great hopefulness are more satisfying to our sensibilities. There is where we can best engage the culture with the hope of the gospel.