Lessons I Learned From Star Trek

Ok, this isn’t going to be one of those “Star Trek taught me to be a better person by believing in the principles of the Federation” type of posts.

Your Monkey does not know enough about Star Trek the series or the original movies to say whether or not he agrees with any Trekkie philosophy.

This post is about what your Monkey learned from watching “Star Trek” the movie, the 2009 summer blockbuster directed by JJ Abrams (of Lost and Felicity fame).

Being a non-Trek fan who knows nothing of the Trek canon, Your Monkey may be in a better position to judge the film as a pure story, rather than worrying about how it reimagines Star Trek as a series.

OK, enough jibber jabber. On to the lessons.

1. Don’t be afraid to kill someone off: Without revealing anything, there is an important and dramatically surprising death in this movie that sets an emotional tone for the film and raises the dramatic stakes. Because of this death, it becomes more important for us as a viewer that the crew of the Enterprise succeed in their mission. We have set the bar high for noble and heroic sacrifice.

2. Small stakes can equal high drama: Perhaps the most thrilling and adrenaline-charged sequence in the film involves an attempt by Enterprise crew members to sabotage a drill that is boring deep into the core of a planet. This scene only involves six actors, relies primarily on hand to hand combat, and yet is as thrilling as any large scene involving spaceships and photons and phasers and the like. You don’t have to go big to get big results.

3. Respect your characters: Introducing and establishing the personalities of all the Star Trek crew members is no easy task in a movie that runs only about two hours. It is difficult to make each character stand out given that we have to move the plot forward at a pretty rapid clip.

The characters that the film does take time to give a back story to (Spock and Lt. Uhura, for example) to become much more interesting and engaging than those who seem to just get tossed into the mix with only a few throwaway lines (Bones and Sulu). Even the character of  seems to get a short shrift in the back story department.

4. Don’t feel the need to over-explain. After listening to a podcast interview with the screenwriters of the new Star Trek, it became clear to this Monkey that there was a lot going on in the plot of the film that escaped his notice because he was unfamiliar with the long history of Star Trek. But the fact that the film didn’t slow down at every moment to explain how this tied into 40 years of storytelling was a big plus. Those who knew the back story likely enjoyed the film on a different level than the casual fan. But that’ s OK.

5. There is no expiration (star)date for product placement.

Permission to insert jarring product placements into your futuristic sci fi movie Captain?

Permisson granted.

OK Budweiser, OK Nokia. We get it. There is room in the future for the popular cell phone networks and Amercian beer companies of today. We watch the film and we see the oh-so-subtle way that your products are incorporated into the movie. Like sheep, we immediately associate Nokia and Budweiser with the movie that we liked, and immediately start to buy more Bud and Nokia products.

Mission accomplished.

Here is the trailer for the film.

Despite your Monkey’s objections to commercialization, Star Trek is a good, fun movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should.


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