George Kirk in Star Trek
“Your father was captain of a starship for 12 minutes. He saved 800 lives, including your mother’s and yours. I dare you to do better.” That quote by Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) to a young James T. Kirk early in J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek reboot reveals just how crucial James Kirk’s father was to shaping the man he would become. In the original timeline, George lived long enough to be a true guidepost for his son, and to inspire James’ enrollment in Starfleet, a path that would eventually lead to his commanding the flagship Enterprise and becoming one of the greatest starship captains of all time. Except in the Abrams alternate reality, that didn’t happen, since George Kirk sacrificed his life to save the crew of the U.S.S. Kelvin from Nero and his time-displaced Romulan lackeys. Which means when Pike meets James T. Kirk, he’s not a new cadet at Starfleet Academy, but rather brawling with a bunch of them in a dive bar.
Whatever problems the Abrams Trek flicks may have, the brief opening sequence depicting George Kirk’s heroic sacrifice is one of the things that works beautifully. For one thing, we get our first glimpse of what a Star Trek movie with a $150 million budget looks like, but the real victory is in Chris Hemsworth’s brief but powerful performance, which is by turns charming, funny, and tragic, all in the span of very few minutes onscreen. George uses his final moments to comfort his wife and share in the joy of his son’s birth, all before facing the No Win Scenario with courage and resolve. Hemsworth does such a good job as the elder Kirk that I’m sure many moviegoers were left, like myself, wanting to see a full movie about that guy. His death winds up defining James Kirk’s life twice over: first, his absence is used as Jim’s excuse to avoid living up to his potential; and eventually, the legacy of his death serves as the kick-in-the-pants Jim needs to get off his ass and start living…even if it’s only to outshine his dead father.
If He Was Our Dad: We’d travel back in time just to thank him for helping us dodge the bullet on that whole “Tiberius” thing. It works so much better as a middle name.
Ideal Father’s Day Gift: A ball of Red Matter to shove right up Nero’s exhaust port.