January 19, 2008

The Future Begins Again, Hope Restored

The Final Frontier is back. The future is coming this Christmas, and the first Star Trek "teaser" ad is neatly packaged with the monster movie Cloverfield. We hadn't been to the movies since early December, but a teachers' in-service day allowed Kat and I to meet some friends at Salinas' Maya Cinemas yesterday afternoon, 1-18-08.

A quick aside about Cloverfield -- you may want to take some Dramamine first, 'cause the entire flick employs a hand-held camera style. Things are pretty shaky in the first 10 minutes, but thankfully it gets much better as things fall to pieces (literally) in Manhattan. Other than that, it's a scary & fun ride. The effects are seamless and amazing as the monster wreaks havoc through city streets, bridges and toppled skyscrapers.

But back to the Trek teaser.

This is the first real glimpse of a revived franchise. Coming in Christmas, the new movie goes back to the early days of the mythic series, to the first meeting of Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy. J.J. Abrams of Lost fame is directing, with a screenplay by writers from Lost, Mission Impossible 3, Transformers, and more. These guys are shaking up a series that badly needs it; Trek has been in a five-year hibernation after the last two movies were bland failures, and Enterprise was a good but predictable series. New faces are playing the classic characters, with one notable exception: Leonard Nimoy has been coaxed from retirement (he's a successful photographer these days) to return to his famous role as the elder Spock.

Fan sites had reported that a "teaser" trailer would appear with Cloverfield, so I was eagerly awaiting the ad. It's short, but wow, did it deliver. Beginning with stylish closeups of welders and torches, the view widened to reveal sections of a massive and familiar starship under construction -- accompanied by sound clips of JFK and the 1960s space program. Suddenly the distinctive voice of Leonard Nimoy filled the theater with, "Space . . . the Final Frontier." On cue, the camera panned up to reveal the U.S.S. Enterprise in all her majesty:

What an awe-inspiring, goosebump moment. What I love most is how the trailer connects us to that world -- it's our future, not a galaxy far, far away.

Admittedly Star Wars has occupied my attention for many years, and it'll always have a special place. But my roots as a Trek fan go back to the early '70s, watching reruns as a kid. Then I was hooked by the adventures and cool gadgets -- and the Enterprise, of course -- but eventually my eyes opened to a deeper meaning. Unlike much of today's sci-fi, Star Trek shows a hopeful future, populated by heroes with strength of character. It says things will get better, despite today's headlines . . . we'll put aside our petty differences and reach for the stars.

In a society obsessed with the failures of the human spirit -- political scandals, trashy "celebrities," greed, terrorism, etc. -- Trek is about the achievements. Our culture, and especially our kids, need Star Trek's optimism more than ever.

I'm happy to say that Kathryn and Jack, ages 12 and 16 respectively, were as excited by the trailer as this 41-year old fan. They are the generation that we need to inspire, like those of the 1960s, '70s and '80s. I'm hoping that Trek will shake off its "geek stigma" of the last 10 years, and that the new movie recaptures its adventurous spirit. America, and our world, needs to aim for the stars again.

-Elrond L.,

Not living at home since 1988

A high-def version of the trailer is now live on the official movie site -- click HERE to see it. And be sure to check out TrekMovie.com for breaking news, including an interview with the film's co-writer, who's a regular visitor to the comments section. Be prepared: some fans can be . . . well, rabid. Not unlike railfans.

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