Thursday, May 14, 2009

Star Trek (2009)

I had no intention of writing up this picture called Star Trek that came out last week. I mean, this write up is obsolete before I've even finished it. Almost as obsolete as the original series (or TOS as I guess most Trekkers or Trekkies or whatever they go by these days refer to it). I'm a fan of the original movies (TOM) and actually don't buy into the whole "the even movies are good and the odd ones are bad" philosophy. Well, to be honest, I remember almost nothing from Star Trek the motion picture (STMP). Most consider it pretty boring. I'll revisit it one of these days. I think Star Trek Wrath of Kahn (STWOK) is damned fine, likely the best of TOM. Star Trek The Search for Spock (STSFS) is underrated and includes a heart breaking scene where the crew stands on a precipice on a dying planet and watches the Enterprise disintegrate in the atmosphere. I may be in the minority here, but Star Trek the Voyage Home....(STVH) is not a great movie, in my opinion. The majority of that picture takes place in 1980s San Francisco. There are characters with mohawks and piercings. Spock learns some slang. Chekov gets subjected to primitive medicine. There are lots of jokes in that one. It felt like a rehash of Nicholas Meyer's Time after Time where H.G. Wells follows Jack the ripper into late 70s San Francisco to me, which is funny because Nicholas Meyer helped write the script for STVH but was overruled when he tried to change the location. Oh well, could have been good I guess. Then there's the fifth Star Trek called Star Trek and The Search for God which adheres to the even/odd rule for the most part by actually stinking. Except for the part where Bones/Spock/Kirk sing "row row row your boat", that part was good. Almost finally, is Star Trek and the Undiscovered Country which was pretty Hitchcockian with it's wrongfully accused scenario...and also like The Fugitive. Finally, there was Generations where Kirk gets sucked into an alternate universe via some sort of nebula thingamajig and then fights Malcolm McDowell with that bald captain guy and dies under a collapsed bridge. Anyway, as you can see I'm a fan of the Trek. Haven't seen the original series since I was a kid though. Used to watch the cartoon on Nickelodean, does that count? I guess not. Thanks anyway Trekkers, but I guess I will have to find another club.

The point I'm trying to make I guess is that this new picture is probably tailor made for me. I enjoyed the movies but don't look at the original series in biblical terms. Well, you know what? I think this movie is for Trekkers too, they just might not realize it yet. The story in this new Trek may not be as crisp as the story in Search for God, but it's pretty good. The screenplay has some rotten moments, but let's chalk that one up to the writer's strike. Also, chalk it up to the guys that wrote this also having wrote Transformers.

The gist of this picture is as follows. The U.S.S. Kelvin is somewhere in deep space when they encounter one of those strange type of electric anomaly type things, and also a cloud of sorts. Out of that anomaly comes a lovecraftian type ship, revealed a little later to be a Romulan mining ship from the future. The Kelvin is no match, the captain shuttles over and is killed by the Romulan commander Nero after making his first officer Captain. That first officer is none other than Kirk! Kirk issues the abandon ship order to the crew (and his in labor wife) while he mans the bridge solo. As soon as his wife is safely away, and gives birth to their son, he kamikazes into the Romulan ship. Wait, Kirk is dead? Nah, just kidding...that was Kirk's father, George or Joe or something. Kirk is the guy born on the fleeing shuttle. That would have been a ballsy opening to kill James Kirk in the opening scene. Anway, Kirk grows up in Iowa, is a rebellious kid, a rebellious teen, and then, a rebellious starfleet academian (where he is played by Chris Pine)...banging green chicks, cheating on tests, etc. At the academy, he meets best buddy Bones (Karl Urban) and, the beautitfully seductive Uhura (Zoe Saldana). Also, supreme goody-goody douchebag Spock (Zachary Quinto).

Here's the brilliant thing about this film. It's not a prequel despite what several reviews are implying. Prequels are the worst. I mean, they're a lose-lose proposition and this Kirk fellow doesn't believe in a no-win scenario so why the hell should we? With a prequel, you force yourself into a corner. Things can only end one way. That is fucking bullshit and cuts down on the suspense. In this film, things are set on a different course. This is an alternate history, like if the Germans had won WWII or if Joanie didn't marry Chachie or whatever. Time travel will do that I suppose. In the future (Old Star Trek timeline), the Romulan homeworld is threatened by a supernova. So, future Spock (Leonard Nimoy) brings along some good ol' Vulcan Red Matter to the rescue (like dark matter only red and less dark). His plan, to create a black hole which will eat the supernova and save the planet. Unfortunately, he made a wrong turn at the regis Nebula and Romulus was destroyed. A Romulan mining ship, watched helplessly as Spock unleashed the matter, too late...the black hole opened, Spock went in, the Romulans followed....and entered the past. Coincidentally (and there are a lot of these I guess) the Romulans arrive first just as the Kelvin is entering the vicinity. Spock comes 25 years later (good for him or else he'd be really really old, possibly senile during the events of this film) holes are weird like that. So, yeah, in this history, James Kirk never knows his father, his training is hastened due to the Romulan threat, and...oh...Spock (spoiler that might upset you) is banging Uhura (which according to one of my Trekker friends, doesn't really jive with Vulcan mating practices, so there you go).

All I'm saying is you Trekkers need to try watching this thing with a different pair of nerd glasses and you might actually enjoy it. Here's why. The characters. They're all spot on. Pine, Urban, Saldana, Quinto all inhabit the characters without actually mimic-ing the actors who originally played them. Urban as Bones, in particular, is great. I mean, he's the same Bones...only much younger. A hypochondriac who happens to be a brilliant doctor. Naturally funny. I've liked Urban for a long time but never imagined he could pull this off. Pine is great as Kirk. I stopped thinking of Shatner immediately, except for a little bit during his last scene on the bridge. He's cocky, brash, at times a drunken baffoon, charismatic, funny. It's pretty much a star making performance is what I'm saying...of course, he'll probably be stuck playing this role for the next 10-15 years which I'm fine with. Why branch out? Other characters show up, some more than others; Sulu, Chekov, Scotty, Captain Pike, and I guess lots of people were complaining about Tyler Perry but I wasn't even sure who the fuck he was, so no big deal I think. The least successful characters were Chekov and Scotty in my opinion. Not real characters, just comic relief. I love Simon Pegg but give him more to do than be flushed through the ship's sewage system is my beef with his character. I'm cool with the side kick though, can always use more loveable star wars-type aliens in our Star Trek pictures.

So, I'm hoping you can tell I enjoyed the hell out of this thing, but I had a couple issues I have to deal with. Bruce Greenwood was terrific as Captain Pike (the guy is always terrific) but what the hell happened to him after he was captured by Nero and force fed that brain slug? Did he give up the planet defense codes? What about an interrogation scene, I mean really. He's force fed the slug and then is forgot about for an hour until Kirk (spoiler) rescues him. Apparently, the brain slug ate the part of his brain that controls his walking? Also, an interrogation scene would have been a great opportunity to beef up the parts of Pike and Nero. Nero is a pretty mis guided villain. He's not entirely evil. Just stupid and blinded by vengeance. Clearly Spock didn't destroy his what's with the revenge, guy? I like Eric Bana a ton (still think he made a great character out of a nothing part in Black Hawk Down and I will go to the grave as an Ang Lee Hulk fan) but this was a sorely underwritten role. His motivation is weak. All he does is sit on his ship and look angry and sometimes yell stuff or stab starfleet captains and other shit. He's not interesting like the villain in Kahn or even Spock's brother in Search for God.

Also, I was a little annoyed by the whole marooning Kirk (by Spock for insubordination) on that ice world where he meets up with future Spock (also marooned on ice planet, by Romulans, who stole his red matter and plan to use it as a WMD on federation planets). Spock exposits a bunch of bullshit to fill in the gaps left by the, let's face it...bare bones, script. I think it would have been an interesting decision to leave Kirk on that world for years, plotting revenge against that bastard Spock, maybe team up with Future Spock or something. Bring him back in the next picture as a villain. That would have been interesting. Interesting, but maybe too weird. Anyway, They meet up with Scotty on Hoth at an isolated outpost after fleeing from a ridiculous creature that gets eaten by an even more ridiculous creature (nod to Jurassic Park?). So, a couple of coincidences on this planet. One or two in a picture is doable, but this thing has a few more...and the magic of the filmmaking is I could care less. Later, Spock decides to take things into his own hands and gives Scotty the calculations for beaming oneself (or three selfs) onto a starship traveling at warp speed, probably light years away. Calculations, that Scotty, himself, would come up with years later. I think another way that history maybe changed is that Scotty becomes lazy and just waits for Spock to do everything for him.

Fuck man, a few minor quibbles does not make a bad picture. We're seeing the birth of a, potentially great, new series. They don't have to boldly go where the old crew has already gone before. No need to encounter tribbles in this universe, or Kahn, or that conscious energy cloud, etc. They can do what they want, when they long as they follow federation protocol of course. J.J. Abrams is the guy that directed this and he did a pretty good job. Lot of internet bloggers complaining about camera flares (don't care), continuity (what continuity??), shaky cam fights, E.T. like creatures, and so on. None of that shit bothered me. The space battles were pretty good. The music was great (and new until the end), but what makes this a Star Trek movie, for me anyway, is the dynamic between the characters, especially Spock, Kirk, and Bones. Here's where it all begins. Again. Only different. Who cares if Spock spends 90% of the movie as a complete douchebag. Eventually, he comes around. The stage is set Abrams. Don't fuck it up. Also, tighten up that script a little next time. Thanks for reading.

Here's a brief followup: Just re-read my write up and realized I barely talked about the Enterprise, you know, the ship they fly around in. this a criticism of me or the movie? The Enterprise was there alright and it looked pretty good. I mean, they flew it around space at all sorts of warp speeds and shit, but I guess it wasn't as prominent as it was in TOM or TOS. I mean, Kirk isn't even (spoiler) made captain until near the end. Hell, Spock gets to play captain before he does. Hopefully, next time around it will be more in the forefront, more of a character. If they self destructed this one with a few Klingons onboard I'm not sure I'd feel as sad as I did in STSFS. Maybe next time. Thanks again for reading.


elmo said...

I just got back from seeing it a second time. I LOVE the camera flares. I can't wait to see Spock and Kirk fight over Uhura, and hopefully Klingons/Cardassians, in the next film.

Best Performance: Jennifer Morrison reacting to George Kirk's death via radio. A-freakin-mazing.

Anonymous said...

I'll be seeing this again on Monday. I liked it but I agree that the script is really bad in places. Most of the space battles are amazing and I love the free fall onto the laser drill scene. It's too bad that old Spock (or Spoke Prime as a few internet nerds have called him)is only around to give background information.


F-Stop said...

"All I'm saying is you Trekkers need to try watching this thing with a different pair of nerd glasses and you might actually enjoy it."


I loved the casting. I agree with you completely. These actors really got the essence of the characters down without mimicking the originals.

I disagree with Elmo though. I didn't like seeing Spock and Uhura as lovers and don't want to see a conflict with Kirk over her. For once can we have a beautiful woman in a movie without having her be involved in a romance with one of the other main characters? Like that's all women can do? Besides the fact that Spock would be the world's worst lover (except when he's in that once every 7 year frenzy.)

Cardassians though... they're hot.

brian said...

What the hell is a cardassian?