Sunday, May 10, 2009

STAR TREK: The Film Babble Blog Review

STAR TREK (Dir. J.J. Abrams, 2009)

Sporting the most positive pre-release buzz since THE DARK KNIGHT, Gene Roddenberry's vigorous vision proves itself yet again in a dazzling spectacle of a sure to be Summer blockbuster.

This is extremely impressive after the diminishing returns of the last few films of the franchise featuring Patrick Stewart leading The Next Generation crew. It's boldly back to basics here with a prequel/reboot that re-introduces the original characters from the classic '60s TV series, now played by hot young actors and actresses just out of Starfleet Academy and entangled in an action packed series of (as Spock says) "universe ending paradoxes."

A friend joked a few weeks back that the trailer made it look like: "a Mountain Dew commercial...thought it may be Star Trek X: Treme." And yeah, that's a reasonable fear - that it would be a new fangled streamlined brainless affair - but somehow Abrams has presented intact an engaging re-imagining of the best elements of Star Trek with the immediately recognizable quirks of the protagonists, the strong chemistry of the relationships, and the overall humanity that was the core of the long loved series.

No dark dystopian future here, as we see young fit cadets of all races and alien species at Starfleet Academy in unusually sunny San Francisco after an opening that establishes the opposition in upbringing that defines the brash arrogant James T. Kirk, Chris Pine who doesn't ape William Shatner but still captures his ego, and the cold logical half human/half Vulcan Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto).

Singled out for his impulsive potential by Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood), Kirk quickly gets in trouble by cheating on the Kobayashi Maru training exercise (something Trekkies or Trekkers or whatever will appreciate) which gets under the skin of the test's designer: Spock, see what they did there? Kirk's hearing is rudely interrupted by a patented Trekkian threat, a gigantic evil electrical space cloud which, of course, may destroy the Earth, the Universe, and everything. 

Helming the Romulan ship at the heart of this insidious cloud is Captain Nero (Eric Bana) who is harboring a revenge vendetta because of the actions of future Spock. That's right, Spock as portrayed by as an elderly Leonard Nimoy, appears in a glorified cameo to mentor and advise Kirk and, most enjoyably, to inspire him to provoke young Spock's conflicted emotions at a crucial moment.

The original cast is wonderfully replicated with a nice mix of familiar affectations and fresh interpretation. Karl Urban and Simon Pegg lapse almost completely into impressions of DeForrest Kelly and James Doohan (if you live under a rock that's Dr. McCoy and Scotty the engineer, respectively) but they keep the characters amusingly in check even if they don't quite make them their own.

As Lieutenant Uhuru, Zoƫ Saldana brings a strong headed take on the iconic part even if most of it entails swooning over Spock - yep, one of the many details that makes this "not your Father's Star Trek". John Cho (Harold from HAROLD AND KUMAR) as the wet behind the ears Lieutenant Sulu and Anton Yelchin as earnest 17 year old Ensign Chekov convincingly take their posts on the Enterprise bridge.

Fittingly the movie in the franchise that this most resembles thematically and spiritually is STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN. The revenge scenario of the obsessed villain, Kirk's rejecting of the no-win situation in the before mentioned Kobayashi Maru, the mind controlling slugs (in a sequence that may be a timely statement on torture techniques), and Spock's immortal "I have been and always shall be your friend" line, all recall that fan favorite film which many consider the best of the series.

This new entry won't change that consensus but Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman's sharp screenplay still succeeds as it re-writes a lot of Star Trek history while at the same time upholding and paying glorious homage to it.

STAR TREK is fast flashy fun - it's colorfully gorgeous (see at an IMAX theater if you can - although none of it is filmed in IMAX), powerful, and as good as the ginormous, yet well earned, hype suggests.

More later...


Rani said...

Is that movie already been released?

Dan said...

Yes, it has Rani. Yes it has.

Randy said...

I love you Dan!! But I hated this movie. Here is another absolutely 'razor thin' time travel plot device, that has been a crutch for this franchise already one too many times. I really felt like I was watching an excuse to roll these characters out to younger generation.... storyline be damned. Don't get me wrong some of these young hotties nailed their characters and nuance(excluding Kirk), but jesus!!! if only there could have been actual movie here!!!

Randy said...

Oh.... I forgot to mention the most redeeming quality of this movie.....Winona Ryder is a MILF!!!!!!!!!

chetan said...

i have to admit that they just nailed the good name of this super hit tv show. i will prefer to watch star trek online{the original series} to this crap