Well, last night, I saw a renaissance.
J.J. Abrams' new Star Trek film has left me with a lot to think about, so much, in fact, that I'll likely have to see it again if I want to really come to grips with how much has just changed.
I'll handle this in two parts; without spoilers, and with spoilers. Read on carefully.
I went in to Star Trek with a single thought: If I liked the film, I would hate myself. It took George Lucas 25 years to take a dump on my childhood adoration of Star Wars, and J.J. Abrams set out to do the same in barely two years with this new Trek film.
After the way he screwed the pooch with "Alias", and created the aptly-named "Lost", I have really grown to foster a serious grudge against J.J. Abrams for the way he stuffs up everything he touches. Given the fact my ultimate opinion here is that this is the best trek film since Wrath of Khan, you might have an inkling of the dilemma I have.
Star Trek as I know it, is over. This is Abrams' brave new world, and to be honest, I loved every minute of it. It was fast paced (In fact, I think it may have been too-fast, and felt the film could have easily last another half hour.), gritty and very, very bold. If you have not seen the film yet, then go and do yourself a favour and read the four issues of the Star Trek: Countdown comic that was released as a 'prequel' to the film. It explains nicely how the new film follows on from Nemesis, and provides a good deal of context to events that are only mentioned on screen.
The strongest aspects of the film were without doubt the new cast of the "Big Three" (Kirk, Spock and McCoy, for those unfamiliar,) the story direction, and even the art style. The villain, unfortunately, does not work anywhere near as well, reinforcing the point that you should really read Countdown before hand. To summarize, however, Nero is a Romulan, and without saying too much, he has come back in time from the era of Post-Nemesis to exact some very serious pay back against his ancestry. The ramifications of this in the film are utterly shocking, and when I said I expected the film to continue another half an hour, it's because I refused to believe that Abrams could have had to stones to finish the film in the manner he did.
As Paramount have already announced their plans to proceed with a sequel to this film, I can only say "bring it on," because I cannot fathom how much Abrams may yet completely change what I know about Star Trek.
Highlight below for a more in-depth (read: spoiler-ridden) analysis...
This is a new Star Trek timeline. I was so concerned about what happened in the film, and what it meant for everything else we have seen and loved in Star Trek, that I googled the idea of a "multiverse" setting for Star Trek to be completely certain. So, while The Next Generation continues as we have always known and understood it, this film takes place in an unapologetic "alternate timeline" where things are no doubt going to get a lot nastier before they get better.
Abrams pulled no punches with this. Before the film even started, the comics (which are canon) set the stage by destroying Nero's home world. That's right: the Romulan Empire is dust, destroyed in 2287 by a supernova that the crew of the Enterprise-E was unable to stop. An elderly Ambassador Spock had planned to destroy the star with a black hole, thus saving what was left of the Alpha Quadrant. While the star was stopped by this black hole, it was too late to save Romulus... And so Nero got to watch Rome burn, all the while feeling somewhat vengeful for our pointy-eared hero.
Unexpectedly, his ship was pulled in to the singularity and thrown back through time where for 25 years he started on a course that would alter the course of Star Trek history radically.
His ultimate revenge? The destruction of Vulcan.
There was of course much conjecture leading up to the film's release as to the identity of the dusty, brown planet that we saw being consumed by Nero's weapon. Many of the rumours postulated that the planet was Vulcan...
Well, with the conjecture how settled, it becomes very clear why this is a new Star Trek, and I am forced to wonder just how differently the Federation will evolve without one of the most important founding members. J.J. Abrams has made a clear statement in this act: no one is safe. For all we know, Kirk may die in the second film, and Earth may be reduced to a ball of ash.
This, more than anything else, is what has given Star Trek such a new, radical lease on life. What's even more impressive about is how Abrams has done it without re-writing canon. The first event in the film begins to change the course of Star Trek history, and in the twenty five years it takes James Kirk to grow up, it's easy to understand how in that time Nero could have drastically altered the mechanics of everything we've seen to date, including the design of the Enterprise.
This is a revelation... And this time I feel only luck that I was here to see it start.