May 9, 2009

STAR TREK: Franchise Re-Launcher


WARNING: SPOILERS ABOUND!!!

I went in to the theater fully expecting to enjoy this film and would have been crushed if I had not. I am not a Star Trek purist, nor am I a J.J. Abrams apologist (just a fan). Is it perfect? No. Are there plot holes? Some. There were moments while watching that I was jarred out of the story by set pieces (hey, I know what that is!) and head scratching (why is that there?). But with the film moving at light speed the entire time you aren’t given a lot of time to dwell on the sticking points. And there are a couple of gags that run just a tad long hence my overall rating below.

Everything is bright, shiny and new but at the same time familiar and comfortable. We get Star Fleet, Vulcans, Romulans, Kirk and of course the USS Enterprise. There’s a new paint job on the old girl, Kirk is younger, as is everyone for that matter, younger and hotter. With the opening tease (‘Birth of a Starship Captain’) Abrams and the talented crew of Industrial Light and Magic take this franchise re-launch (reboot, re-imagining) right to warp factor 5.

But even in this ret-conned, alternate Trek universe, it’s the main characters and their relationships that are the center of the story. We finally get to see the legendary crew of the Enterprise meeting for the first time. And while there are plenty of writer ex machina plot conveniences to get them all in the same place at the same time, it’s ok because they’re in the same place, again, finally!

The writers enlist a long-used Trek plot device - time travel - to tell their origin story, wiping Gene Roddenberry’s original series slate clean. Spinning off of a ST:TNG story and bringing back Ambassador Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy (the only original cast member to return) and introducing a new villain, Eric Bana’s rogue Romulan Nero.
Nero is hell bent on avenging the deaths of his family and home world. When he breaks through the time-space continuum his butterfly effect sets in motion a series of events that reshape the Trekiverse as we know it.
Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is no longer the brash, confident Star Fleet Cadet we expect, instead he’s a self-destructive, anti-authority, bar-brawling civilian. When Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) intervenes we are off to the academy where Kirk quickly butts head’s with the by-the-book Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto). Along the way we are re-introduced to central characters sexy and self assured Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and the bristly Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban). Once aboard the Enterprise we pick up Sulu (John Cho) and Chekhov (Anton Yelchin), the gang’s almost all here.

SIDEBAR 1: Zachary Quinto as Spock is the casting coup of the 23rd century. Combine good prosthetics (and waxing) with a close physical resemblance to Nimoy and you GET Mr. Spock. He is the only logical choice for this role.

SIDEBAR 2: Karl Urban channels DeForest Kelley in what is the best interpretation of any of these characters. His performance balances perfectly between imitation, homage and just plain good acting. Urban owns every scene he’s in, I can’t wait to see the trinity (Kirk, Spock, McCoy) exchange barbs and snide remarks in the next movie. He’s gonna wipe the floor with Spock & Kirk!

When the Vulcan home world is attacked by Nero, the Federation sends the fleet racing to their rescue. But they all fly right into the well-baited trap and carnage ensues. Long story short – Spock becomes captain, Kirk is marooned, Ambassador Spock is discovered and Scotty (Simon Pegg) finally joins the crew. Fists fly, phasers stun, heroes triumph and the legend of James T. Kirk is restored to the Trekiverse timeline.

SIDEBAR 3: Simon Pegg’s Scotty is another great performance whose comic quirkiness puts some well-timed zing in the final act. Pegg does not play Scotty as a clown but rather a mad genius of sorts whose brilliant engineer (in Kirk-like fashion) doesn’t quite fit the mold of Star Fleet officer.

Okay let me try and wrap this up before I go on any longer: The movie is fast paced, sexy, and funny. There are plenty of winks and nods to the fanboy audience but it won’t alienate the un-initiated. Tack on a top notch score by Michael Giacchino and you get a rousing space-opera that no doubt has Paramount plotting the newest generation of Trek spin offs and sequels. Not to mention, toys, books, attractions…

Using the alphabet scale I give it an A-

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