Standing In The Shadow of Shatner – Andy B on the Star Trek trailer


Speaking as a part of geek culture, which I am a card carrying member of, I think one of our biggest problems is the old “I could do it better” or “if I was running the show” mentality so many of us run with. I’m as guilty of it as much as the next geek. It comes with the territory when you feel passionately about anything. On that note, I’m wondering how many geeks watched the new trailer for J.J. Abrams forthcoming Star Trek reboot, rolled their eyes, and then proceeded to talk about how they would have done it better.

Screw the haters, I say.

Lasting a scant two minutes, the new Star Trek trailer (find it here) is a potent hint of the potential the new film clearly has to reestablish one of science fiction’s preeminent franchises. For the first time, the 23rd century looks as grandiose as we’ve been led to believe it should. Our two main characters are introduced (more on that in a bit), some cool space battles are glimpsed; familiar sound effects are used to tantalize the devoted. We get hints of humour, sex, conflict. It all comes and goes so quickly, but still it left me feeling hugely optimistic for the film that hits theaters May 9th. How about you?

Of course, I’m a geek so I’ve got to find something wrong with it, right? I’ve got to taper my enthusiasm with a bit of concern and that comes with one of our lead characters. Not Zachary Quinto, who looks to perfectly embody the young Spock, the character the film reportedly focuses on more than any other. No, it’s Chris Pine’s James Tiberius Kirk that is the big question mark in my mind. And it’s no fault of Pine, who is just fine in the brief moments he has in the new trailer. It’s my own personal memories. My own bias.

Really, it’s the shadow of Shatner that gives me any pause I may have about the film.

Not enough people in the world acknowledge that William Shatner is an icon. Because really, he is. He is as recognizable a celebrity as Tom Cruise, Will Smith, or whoever else is bringing in the bucks these days. Now, he may not be bankable (the guy is nearly 80), but I’m simply talking recognition factor. I guarantee you William Shatner doesn’t walk down the street without people coming out of the woodwork to snap a picture or shake a hand. I guaran-damn-tee it. Now, add to the fact that he’s created some of the most memorable characters in Hollywood, and I’m not just talking about Capt. Kirk. Laugh at me if you will, but there’s also T.J. Hooker. Or the frightened passenger on the airplane in the classic Twillight Zone episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”. Or Denny Crane on Boston Legal, a character for which he’s won Emmy’s for. Shatner is an actor’s actor, who’s smart enough to be in on the joke when he does his Priceline commercials or belts out his amazing rendition of Pulp’s “Common People” alongside Joe Jackson on his better than anyone would believe 2004 album Has Been.

Believe me, the shadow of Shatner will loom large over the new Star Trek film for so many of us, no matter how good it is (and I believe it could be very very good). Chris Pine’s take on James T. Kirk will benefit from the fact that Shatner was nearly 40 when he took on the role; it’s a younger man playing a younger character. But for those that have only known one Kirk, we’ll be left imagining how our icon would have handled the role.

But that’s our baggage, 40 years worth of it, which luckily doesn’t belong to the next generation of filmgoers. Not the kids who will be lining up this weekend to see Twillight, who will likely watch the trailer for Star Trek and think “wow, that looks cool” or “that guy is hot”. They won’t be sitting in the theaters talking about what they would have done, or how they would have done it. They’ll be sitting there, popcorn and pop in hand, watching and liking or hating because of their own biases. In the meantime, those of us that know will undoubtedly be unable to stop ourselves from asking ourselves one question:

How…would…Shatner…have…played…it?

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