I don’t know … somehow I just can’t get myself all that excited about J.J. Abrams’ upcoming “Star Trek” movie. Mainly because “Trek” is so over with, to me, and we’ve been indundated with so many permutations of it over the years that my reaction has reflexively become “Enough, already!”
But now that several posters with images from the new film are starting to appear, the anticipation is beginning to kick into a higher gear, I think. Slowly, the hype will begin to build.
Frankly, “Trek” has not really been any good, in my opinion, for at least 12 years (and even then, you’re talking about a movie incarnation as opposed to TV). Somehow, “Deep Space Nine” just never did it for me, even though I know that show has many fans. The less said about “Battlestar Voyager” (yes, I’m being sarcastic) and “Enterprise,” the better.
Perhaps realizing that the height of Trek’s popularity was always with the original crew members of the Starship Enterprise, Abrams has opted to make them the focus of this hoped-for series of new movies. Of course, the story focusing on their younger days, it obviously required recasting, which initially seemed akin to blasphemy.
After all, how could some group of younger (and admittedly cheaper) actors step into the roles that have become so identified with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, etc?
Recasting a popular role or roles, whether in a remake or a prequel (and, given Leonard Nimoy’s involvement, I think the new film has to be a prequel), always strikes me as a risky proposition. There are some instances where it clearly is just a bad idea. Like Dirty Harry or Indiana Jones — could you imagine anyone other than Clint Eastwood or Harrison Ford in those roles? I think not. Once upon a time, I also would have said Norman Bates, but Gus Van Sant went and made that a moot point with his remake of “Psycho” (which to this day I will not watch, just on general principle).
But other characters fall into a grayer area. Clearly James Bond can successfully undergo a facelift every so often, even though some purists still insist only Sean Connery was worthy of driving the Aston-Martin. Christopher Reeve remains the definitive Superman for many, even though he was clearly not the first. And then there’s Dracula, with most people divided between the Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee camps. (I prefer Lee, myself.)
But the Trek founding fathers? That’s a unique kettle of fish. My initial reaction, like many people’s, I’m sure, was that no one else can play those roles. But as time went on, I started to think that maybe fresh blood is the only thing that can revive what is clearly an anemic brand by this point. Clearly, another tepid outing with the increasingly aging, out-of-shape “Next Generation” crew is a dicey prospect at best, after the reaction to “Nemesis” six years ago.
I think people would love to see the beloved old characters again, and at least this time the pundits can’t make the usual “Search for Geritol” jokes that dogged the original cast in pretty much every film released after “Wrath of Khan.” But even so, it still seems anticlimactic to me. “Star Trek” had its really golden years so long ago now, with the original show, the second through fourth movies and at least the third through sixth seasons of “Next Generation.”
Can this new film really revive interest in a franchise that has become stale? Or, as Spock so eloquently asked Kirk near the end of “The Undiscovered Country,” is it possible that “Trek” has grown so old and so inflexible that it has outlived its usefulness? And, if so, would a new film constitute a joke?
Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until next year to find out. But the pushing back of the release from Christmas 2008 is in an odd way a hopeful sign. No “Trek” movie has had a warm-weather opening since the disastrous “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.” That Paramount feels confident enough to put this one out at the start of 2009’s spring/summer season hopefully indicates the film is good enough and they have enough confidence in it to warrant such a move.
But if nothing else, I really hope they’ll explain how Bones McCoy goes from the athletic Karl Urban to the increasingly skinny DeForest Kelley. Maybe some sort of equipment malfunction? (Who knows, that might explain McCoy’s fear of transporters…)