Sunday, May 17, 2009


The new Star Trek film is being billed as the first Star Trek for everybody. Well, maybe not everybody. Let's go with "for anybody vaguely interested in sci-fi action".

Prerequisite knowledge for Star Trek:
You have to be vaguely aware of the major characters, Kirk, Spock, Bones, and Uhura, you have to know generally what a Vulcan is, what the Federation is, and that's about it.

Sure, Sulu, Chekov, Scotty, and even Captain Pike are there, but their presence isn't a central focus of the movie. Bones' presence is prominent, but he's less important than might have been said about the original television series. The Platonic triumvirate of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy does not exist here. This is the Kirk and Spock show.

The aesthetic has been changed greatly from prior Treks. The musical score (with a notable exception) does not make heavy-handed references to prior themes. The special effects, particularly warp drive and transporter, have been updated markedly. Great efforts have been taken to make sure this is not your father's Star Trek.

I'm about to engage in some major spoilage, so anything below the banner should probably be avoided by those who haven't seen the film. But before I do that, I'll just say that it's arguably the best Star Trek film made yet. That's not to say it's going to win any academy awards, but if you like this sort of thing, you'll like Star Trek.

Star Trek Banner

The opening scene is magnificently epic. The (near) silence of space was a welcome quasi-reality check and allowed for pauses in the dramatic musical score - the pause that refreshes. Everything up to the loss of the USS Kelvin is in-and-of-itself worth the entire price of admission.

That overwhelming first burst of pure awesome is then followed by a tween-age James Tiberius Kirk joyriding in his stepfather's "antique" sports car, jamming out to the Beastie Boys' Sabotage. One cannot help but love this miscreant young Kirk, who unsurprisingly grows up to be an incorrigible jackass - but you still love him.

The parallel scenes of young Spock were also well done and informative of Spock's inner struggle. A rage brews inside of Spock, and on the occasions when the pressure-cooker bursts the outcome is chaotic, animal fury.

I've seen a lot of praise of Zachary Quinto's portrayal of Spock. I have nothing bad to say about him, but I've never thought playing a Vulcan would be a particularly hard role. He certainly looks the part of Spock, so he's half-way there once he gets his ears put on in make-up.

The initial "awesome" carries most of the movie. The audience barely notices the campy bits of Trek self-reference thrown in to amuse the fan-boys.

The appearance of Spock-Prime is not nearly as dramatic as I think the writers had intended. Nimoy's age has finally caught up to him, and the frail Spock-Prime waving off the giant bug monster with a teensy torch was more unbelievable than faster-than-light travel.

The momentum is basically carried through to the end, where we get some more buzzkill in the denouement. Spock-Prime's conversation with Quinto's Spock injects an unwelcome twist of illogical motivation into Spock-Prime's earlier scene with Kirk. Spock was willing to risk the destruction of the Federation over a desire to see young Kirk and young Spock develop a friendship. Really? That's the sort of campy humanism Gene Roddenberry might have approved of, but my inner nerd felt the "Die, Wesley, Die!" impulse.

To put a final bit of lameness on the film, they pulled out the old theme music and had Nimoy do a "final frontier" voice-over. During the opening sequence and the first scene with the USS Kelvin I was really glad they hadn't used heavy-handed musical throwbacks. Rebooting the series requires a "no lameness" rule. Using the essentially unadulterated original score was jarring amidst the new aesthetic of the movie.

Still, it was a very enjoyable bit of sci-fi. If you've ever watched a Star Trek movie and thought it was the slightest bit agreeable you'll like this one for sure.

Whether Paramount will be successful in "rebooting" the Star Trek universe has yet to be seen. Supposedly work is being done on a sequel penciled in for 2011 and the actors have been signed to two more pictures. That might work. Translating this into television might be more difficult as the bar has been set fairly high for production value and overall quality.


Anonymous said...

Just watched it - some of the fan-service moments were jarring.

No need for Bones to say 'Damnit, Jim!' Felt very tacked on. Also, Karl Urban seemed to start doing a DeForest Kelley impression about halfway through the movie.

Three guys in colored jumpsuits are diving down to the drill platform. One of them is wearing red and we've never seen him before. Gee, I wonder what's about to happen to him.

"Wictor, Wictor. I mean, Wvictor, Wvictor."



JoeCollins said...

People really seemed to like Urban in that movie, but I didn't feel too strongly one way or the other. Damnit Jim didn't bother me.

The scene where Kirk is trying to explain to Uhura about what the threat is and he's experiencing these weird conditions from what Bones did to him... I know it was supposed to be comic relief (and I thought it was at least a little funny) but it was poorly timed. No comic relief while you're trying to explain why everybody is going to die.

Victor-Victor was a little forced, but I was sort of prepared for it because I knew they had Anton Yelchin using a "comical" Russian accent (even though as a native Russian he could do the real deal.)

I didn't notice that guy was a red-shirt. good catch.

Yeah, there were a couple of bad moments, but as far as Trek movies go I still thought it was hella good.

vijay said...

This star-trek movie was the best one I saw. They seem to now have a different interpretation of time travel (via parallel universes) than they did before (like in their "save the whales" movie). I must say, Uhura was freaking hot!