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Trailer Mania and Rebooting the Star Trek Franchise

by Mel Valentin

This past weekend saw the release of "Quantum of Solace," the 22nd film in the recently rebooted James Bond franchise. The first trailer for J.J. Abrams ‘s ("Fringe," "Lost," "Mission Impossible III," "Alias," "Felicity," "Armageddon") eagerly anticipated reboot of the dormant "Star Trek" franchise also hit theaters (and, unsurprisingly, the internet as well through an uploaded cam version). Fans of the television series (a.k.a. “The Original Series” or “TOS”) were obviously anxious at what Abrams, a self-professed non-fan of "Star Trek: TOS", would do with their beloved characters and universe. Obviously, a trailer isn’t going to assuage those concerns, but looked at closely, it gives us an idea as to where Abrams wants to take the newly revamped franchise.

J.J. Abrams promised a Star Trek for a new generation, a revamp, a re-imaging, a reboot along the lines of Batman Begins and Casino Royale and less like Superman Returns or The Incredible Hulk. Given the tentpole-sized budget, expectations are high, if not critically (that’s always secondary anyway), but commercially. A delay from December of this year to May of next year was necessary to give J.J. Abrams and his post-production crew a chance to deliver polished visual effects and fix any (hypothetical) script problems. Not surprisingly, the delay didn’t do much for fan confidence in Abrams’ vision (whatever that may be), but, in effect, it raised expectations for the theatrical trailer (the first trailer, a slow reveal of the Enterprise under construction, was just a “teaser”).

The trailer gives us brief glimpses of the characters and the actors playing them. James T. Kirk (Christopher Pine), the once and future captain of the USS Enterprise, hasn’t found his true calling in Starfleet Academy. Instead, he tools around on a hoverbike and listens to advice from the captain of the soon-to-be-completed Enterprise, Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), who attempts to steer Kirk in the right direction. Brief shots give us an “in” to Spock’s (Zachary Quinto) youth, presumably through flashbacks or the prologue, and his ever-present conflict between his human and Vulcan sides, between emotion and logic. The other characters, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Hikaru Sulu (John Cho), Pavel Chekov (Anton Yelchin), and Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana), are introduced in brief shots, presumably aboard the brightly lit Enterprise. Several shots also indicate a romance between Kirk and Uhura (cue fan outrage here).

The bulk of the trailer sets out to shock and awe potential audiences with a flurry of starships in battle, of the crew of the Enterprise reacting to attacks from the villain, Nero (Eric Bana), a renegade Romulan. What the trailer doesn’t tell us, however, is anything about the conflict between Nero and/or the Romulans and the Earth-based Federation or how the Enterprise, with Kirk onboard and in, presumably, a leadership position, gets involved in the fight. Additional plot details gleaned from online sources indicate a time travel element (one of the most overused plot devices in science fiction and, more specifically, on Star Trek) and the presence of “Old Spock” (Leonard Nimoy, confirmed) on hand to help with a crucial bit of plot exposition.

Continuity- and canon-obsessed Star Trek fans are unhappy with both writer-producer-director J.J. Abram’s (Fringe, Lost, Mission Impossible III, Alias, Felicity, Armageddon) initial dismissal of the original series (he’s a self-professed non-fan) or the hiring of the Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Transformers, Mission Impossible III, The Legend of Zorro, The Island). Orci and Kurtzman may be, by Hollywood standards, successful screenwriters, but their previous output doesn’t say much about their ability to work within a long running franchise and navigating the shoals of fan discontent and broad demographic appeal. With a blockbuster-sized budget, however, long-time Star Trek fans are secondary to the need to maximize the audience for the reboot.

So what’s an old-school, diehard Star Trek fan to do? Rant and rave about the new, canon-violating Star Trek, grin and bear Abrams’ changes and stand meekly in line opening weekend, or should they skip the new Star Trek altogether and miss the opportunity to see Abrams’ bowdlerization of their beloved franchise for themselves? The answer seems clear: see it and see it with rhetorical knives at the ready if Abrams’ reboot fails to work dramatically or emotionally. Either way, the focus shouldn’t be whether Abrams’ honored Star Trek by sticking closely to canon, but whether he managed to reinvigorate a moribund franchise.

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originally posted: 11/18/08 13:49:49
last updated: 11/18/08 21:07:22
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