May 7, 2009

EVEN IN THE FUTURE THE LOGICIAN IS SERVANT, NOT MASTER:

Go See Star Trek: It's logical. (Dana Stevens, May 6, 2009, Slate)

J.J. Abrams' Star Trek (Paramount Pictures) is a gift to those of us who loved the original series, that brainy, wonky, idealistic body of work that aired to almost no commercial success between 1966 and 1969 and has since become a science fiction archetype and object of cult adoration. For fans who grew up watching the show in ubiquitous after-school reruns and who commandeered the La-Z-Boy as an impromptu captain's chair, Star Trek is neither a franchise nor a property. It's a world. Abrams' cannily constructed prequel respects (for the most part) the rules of that world and, more importantly, retains the original Star Trek's spirit of optimism, curiosity, and humor.

The near-universal enthusiasm for Abrams' film (it currently has a critical rating of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes) may partly spring from sheer relief that it isn't awful. The idea of "rebooting" Star Trek seemed ill-augured, not only because the 40-year-old show has been through so many big- and small-screen recyclings already, but because—well, how do you "reboot" something that's so thoroughly analog? The very charm of the old Star Trek was its low-tech rendering of a high-tech world, with futuristic medical implements represented by salt shakers and aliens fashioned from nothing but green body paint or a glued-on pair of ears.

Star Trek's vision of the future, as guided by creator Gene Roddenberry, was also a relic of its time, the age of NASA and the Cold War and Kruschev pounding his shoe on a podium at the UN. The show's faith in diplomacy and technology as tools for not just global but universal peace might seem touchingly dated in our post-9/11 age of stateless jihad, loose nukes, and omnipresent danger. Yet in a weird way, Star Trek's cheerfully square naiveté makes it the perfect film for our first summer of (slimly) renewed hope. It's a blockbuster for the Obama age, when smarts and idealism are cool again. In fact, can't you picture our president—levelheaded, biracial, implacably smart--on the bridge in a blue shirt and pointy ears?


Yes, as a useful subordinate to the passionate, idealistic, maverick commander.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 7, 2009 7:24 AM
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