27 February 2010
It's interesting to note that Nicholas Meyer was completely unfamiliar with the series when he wrote and directed this game-changer, just like Abrams with the new Star Trek. And on an even geekier note, it's impossible for me to watch this without seeing how influential it was on the world of Star Trek, in building a franchise out of a series (as I argued previously). All from a guy who hadn't even seen the show. This is the first part in a trilogy about the death and rebirth of Spock (and Kirk, and inversely the Enterprise), and when the closing chapter of the trilogy came out, so too did The Next Generation, and Star Trek was officially a franchise nerds would forever consider in direct competition with Star Wars. (It's a good paradigm: Wars represents space-opera or fantasy; Trek represents a somewhat harder, concept-driven science fiction.)
The movie is about age, aging, dying, and feeling useful. Nicholas Meyer is obsessed with Sherlock Holmes and compared Kirk to Holmes: Holmes without his cases becomes half a man; Kirk without his starship likewise. Anyway, it's a brave and good choice for Shatner, famously vain, to portray a man fearing his own age. Even so, I have to point out: William Shatner was 51 when this was made, and he looks amazing. I honestly would have believed you if you told me he was 40, perhaps even late thirties.
Two quick final thoughts: One, I recently saw Krull again, where James Horner recycles his gorgeous score pretty much piecemeal, and it's tainted the soundtrack for me with images of flying horses, solemn cyclops, and really bad acting. And two, Spock's death and Kirk's eulogy both still kind of get to me. They're great scenes. Easily one of the best screen deaths I can think of.