Scene Is Believing: Star Trek (2009)


J J Abrams registers births, marriages and deaths

The most emotionally satisfying and thrilling sequence in J J Abrams’ reboot of Gene Rodenberry’s “wagon train to the stars” must be the pre-title opener. Yet it barely (!) features any of the characters we know and love. What it does do is boldly set out the motivation for both villain Nero and future hero James T Kirk in a mini-epic where “the needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the one”….

Abrams means to shake things up in the Trek universe from the off, introducing in a disorientating fashion the USS Kelvin streaking past in extreme, upside down close up, before spinning it around right way up to our eyes – there is no up or down in space. The Kelvin is an older vessel than the gleaming Enterprise, though here probably in its prime –   we are at a momentous star date in Federation history, where a time-warping schism is on the cusp of being formed. The “almost Soviet-era, submarine like design” ship (named after Abram’s magic loving torch bearer grandfather) has been directed to investigate a black-hole like anomaly, from which has emerged future renegade Romulan Nero (Eric Bana) and his crew. Their vastly bigger, monstrously enhanced vessel The Narada  is about to kick the crap out of our heroes.

Nero is out for revenge on the Federation, and Spock in particular, for a cosmic foul up that caused the destruction of his home world in his own timeline. He’s not in the mood to negotiate, raining destruction down on the outgunned Kelvin, before ordering Captain Robau over to surrender. As Robau leaves to travel over, he places “Mr kirk” in charge of the Kelvin. During the broadside, Abrams whips the rug out from under our feet again, by having a crew member sucked out through a hull breach into space, the sound instantly dropping out as her body tumbles past furious phaser banks silently vaping around her.

When the Kelvin detects Robau’s life signs wink out as Nero’s patience snaps and he kills him, Kirk orders retaliatory fire, his words cut short by the impact of weaponry on the hull. The deadly encounter is fast and furious, an epic whose stakes ratchet ever higher. Kirk orders the evacuation of the ship by shuttles, including his pregnant wife Winona (Jennifer Morrison), the two maintaining a running conversation by communicator. We finally learn from her that he is George Kirk. And these events will transpire to have his son (“Tiberious? No way! We’ll name him after your dad. We’ll call him Jim.”) born in the fire of a space battle, rather than the peace of Iowa, as was intended.

Abrams originally intended to open with Spock’s birth, which would have muddied the space-time flow even more – he’s older than Kirk, too many time shifts. And he was also at one point set on Mark Wahlberg for Kirk’s dad. Thankfully, we got a pre-fame Chris Hemsworth as George, to fool the less clued in audience a little as to who we are rooting for, up to the reveal.

All the opening characters are important because they inform our emergent hero Jim Kirk’s temperament, and the choices he will make will be shaped by his relationship to these critical, defining events. An early idea was for the infant Jim to be beamed out of the womb as his mother’s medical shuttle is destroyed. Rather than make him an orphan, Abrams and his musical scorer Michael Giacchino tug our heartstrings with sacrifice.

George discovers the bridge instruments are smashed – he’ll have to manually pilot the breaking up starship into the belly of the Romulan beast to give his crew a chance to get away. He knows he’s doomed, and clutches at every last precious audio moment with his wife through her delivery. The sound again drops out as the broken back vessel is blasted on its collision course – we are intimately invested with the couple in this most dramatic of births. The score track“Labour Of Love” swells, George’s “I love you” cruelly cut short as the Kelvin impacts Narada. It’s as gut wrenching and tear jerking a moment as Han Solo’s “I know” to Leia before being frozen in carbonite in The Empire Strikes Back. As his tearful wife cradles Jim, the little “wagon train” of shuttles escapes the wreckage. The fluting score builds to the triumphal “Enterprising Young Men”, and the bold main title majestic reveal.

star trek jennifer morrison winona kirk

Michael Giacchino said at the time “Of course we were manipulating you, that’s why you go to movies – to be manipulated!”


Originally posted 2013-05-09 21:15:15. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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