Movie News & Reviews

'Star Trek' fans hope for the best with new movie

Tony Fisher has no reservations about Star Trek being "reimagined" for the new movie opening Friday.

"I'm so excited," Fisher, 25, says. "If there's one series that lends itself to being redone and told over again, it's Star Trek."

Fisher started watching Star Trek when the first of the original 1960s series' four TV spinoffs, The Next Generation, aired from 1987 to 1994. So, when the WLEX-TV news editor turned his gaze to the original, some say "classic," Star Trek series, "it was kind of hard to watch, with the lower production values," he says.

No, Hollywood didn't make space TV series in 1966 the way it makes summer blockbuster space movies today. But that classic version of Star Trek has gotten a 21st-century makeover that fans will get to see this weekend.

The Star Trek of Alias and Lost creator J.J. Abrams takes viewers back to before the beginning of the original series, showing how Capt. Kirk met Mr. Spock and how the rest of the iconic crew of the Starship Enterprise came together, including Dr. McCoy, Scotty, Sulu, Chekov and Uhura.

The film's mission is to attract new fans and satisfy old ones, to boldly take the foundering film series — which has produced 10 previous movies — into the future.

Even diehard Star Trek fans will tell you the film franchise had stalled. The most recent movie, Star Trek: Nemesis (2002), featuring the Next Generation cast, was a flop. And despite running four seasons, Enterprise, the most recent of the five Star Trek TV series, didn't interest many fans. Its cancellation in 2005 ended an 18-year run when there was always at least one Star Trek spinoff on the air.

"I remember it being a really big deal when suddenly there was no Star Trek on the air," says Beatrice Underwood-Sweet, 30, a free-lance writer and teacher.

So, after there has been no new Trek on small or big screens in nearly half a decade, fans are cautiously excited about the new film.

"At first, I was a little hesitant," says Natalie Cummins, who teaches English as a second language for Jessamine County adult education. "But the more I saw, the more excited I got about it."

Kalan Kucera, a material science and engineering student at the University of Kentucky, says the reboot is a good idea.

"The series needed continuing, but all the stories they were coming up with for TV series were getting kind of convoluted," says Kucera, who is debating whether to see the movie before or after his quantum physics final exam. "As long as it's not Michael Bay directing it, it should be good."

Kucera's comment echoes a concern that other fans express, that the movie needs to be true to the spirit of Star Trek.

For Cummins, even the original Star Trek was capable of veering from the path. She says the series' original trip to the silver screen, 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture, "was probably a great science-fiction film, but it wasn't a great Star Trek movie."

For her, that first movie was too science-oriented, while the Star Trek TV series was always about the characters and ideas.

"I was blown away with how much commentary there was in the TV series," Fisher says. "They were in outer space, but if they wanted to talk about communism, they would come up with a world that looked a lot like Russia."

Some advance press for the new Star Trek movie has tried to place the film in the context of President Barack Obama's administration and some of the challenges it faces. However, director Abrams resisted those characterizations in an Entertainment Weekly story, saying the movie has been in production for three years, before Obama declared his run for the presidency.

Fans of the franchise say that to be true to Star Trek, the movie can't rely too much on action — although it is a summer blockbuster, so battles and explosions are OK — and, unlike other reboots of Batman and James Bond, it can't be too dark.

"The whole premise of the show is that humans have overcome their baser instincts, and there was an inherent optimism in dealing with other worlds," Cummins says. "So it can't go dark."

But can it be sexy?

"It looks like Star Trek if it was cast by The CW," says Fisher, referring to the youth-oriented TV network that brings us young-hottie fare like Gossip Girl.

Star Trek is, after all, the poster franchise for nerdy obsessives. The original Captain Kirk, William Shatner, lampooned them himself in a 1986 Saturday Night Live skit in which he told a bunch of geeky fans at a Star Trek convention, "Get a life!"

Cummins says a friend told her that when talking to the Herald-Leader about Star Trek, she needed to emphasize that she is married, has a job and has never lived in her parents' basement.

She also says she thinks the nerdy image of Trekkers — not Trekkies — is antiquated, because science fiction has become a major facet of mainstream pop culture.

Sound engineer Wes Kawaja, owner of 328 Studios in Wilmore, thinks rebooting the series will move Star Trek further from that geeky image.

"When you look at things like Batman and Spider-Man, the reboots have done them a world of good," Kawaja says. "It brings in a whole new audience.

Lexington writer and editor Mari Adkins is a fan of the series and says she's excited about the new film.

"As long as the hard-core Trek fans can swallow their pride a bit," she says, "I think this movie very much can appeal to a broad range of folks."

Underwood-Sweet has a little ambition beyond a movie sequel: "If it gets people interested, maybe there will be another series. That would be great."

A world without Star Trek apparently isn't so great.

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