Sunday, May 19, 2013

Star Trek

The mid to late 2000s were a bad time for Star Trek fans. Starting in 1987 there was never a dearth of material out there until 2005 when Star Trek: Enterprise went off the air. A few years went by and there were no new developments or projects announced. Outside of a steady stream of pretty lackluster novels we had nothing. That is until Paramount announced that in December 2008 they would release a reboot of the film franchise that would star an all new cast taking on the iconic roles from the classic series. Fans like myself booed in unison as this seemed like a copout approach to the material. Personally I wanted to see a Deep Space Nine feature that continued the adventures of my favorite crew and put some closure on the series’ unanswered questions. Others wanted another Next Generation movie, and I heard that there were some people that actually wanted a Voyager flick (ick!). I really wasn’t all that interested in a reboot since 90% of the remakes were all crap at the time. Not even the announcement of Leonard Nimoy having a part in the film got me excited. The last minute change of the release date to early summer 2009 didn’t help matters any.

And then the trailer hit. I don’t know if it was the fantastic music, the awesome casting or the fact that it looked so freaking amazing that brought tears to my eyes, but I will fully admit that I cried a little. Trek was coming back and it was going to rock the fucking house! It did. It rocked hard.
Young, brash James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is left in charge of the Enterprise after a vengeful Romulan (Eric Bana), who has traveled back in time and altered history, kidnaps his captain (Bruce Greenwood) and destroys the planet Vulcan. In order to rescue his colleague and stop an assault on Earth, Kirk must learn to work with his by-the-book first officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the rest of the crew in order to realize his true destiny.

If you don’t already know, this film takes place in an alternate timeline in order to create its own unique continuity and not mess with all that has come before it. It was a smart move to allow the filmmakers the free reign to do whatever they wanted and tell any story they saw fit. It worked.
Let’s talk about the casting. Chris Pine, who I had only previously seen in a small part in Smokin’ Aces, is positively awesome as Kirk. He has the arrogant swagger and the correct attitude to play this character and he kicks ass. Zachary Quinto is also perfectly cast as Spock as well. After seeing him play such an awful character on Heroes I was skeptical, but he won me over completely. Karl Urban as McCoy, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, Simon Pegg as Scotty, Anton Yelchin as Chekov and John Cho as Sulu – all great. Every one of them brings something new to their role and I had no issues with their performances.

The villainous Romulan Nero is played by Eric Bana and he looks like he’s having the time of his life. He gets himself so worked up at some points during the story that I thought he would have an aneurism, but he really took his part seriously and tried to make him sympathetic as well as batshit crazy. He doesn’t eat the scenery like a Montalban or a Plummer, but he has an intensity about him that makes him one of the better villains in the series.
It’s Leonard Nimoy as Spock Prime, the older character from the original timeline, who is the secret weapon in the casting department. His involvement was based on the strength of the script he read and only signed on when it met with his approval. He is fantastic as old Spock and gives the film a link to the others as it blazes its own path. He also gives the film a classy feel. He may be ancient, but he’s still a great actor.

Director J.J. Abrams, who at that time had made quite a name for himself creating such popular television shows like Felicity, Alias and Lost, and a few years before directed his first feature, Mission: Impossible III, was the target of a little bit of fan controversy upon announcing his involvement since he claimed he “never liked Star Trek” and “was always more of a Star Wars fan”. That turned out to be a good thing because he needed to be able to alter things in this franchise without any of the baggage fandom would have brought with it, and in the end he made a movie that has the action adventure feel of a (good) Star Wars film but retains everything that make it Trek as well. He gets great performances out of his cast, instills a sense of fun that has been missing from these films for a decade or so, gives the film a breakneck pacing structure and makes sure that everything looks awesome and cool. He definitely was the right man for this job because he makes the entire universe seem fresh and new, and spiced it up for modern audiences that weren’t fans of the source material to begin with. It’s the most accessible out of all the films and after Star Trek’s release the property was red hot as never before.
The script by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Transformers, Fringe, Mission: Impossible III) is reverential to the original series, but goes off on its own tangent in creative and intelligent ways. The problem with it is, like with The Voyage Home and Insurrection before it, the dumb sense of humor. I should have known it would be there since these guys wrote all the goofy stuff in the first Transformers movie (they blame Michael Bay for all the crap in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen which is why they didn’t return for the third film), but I wasn’t prepared by how stupid it would be. Scotty being beamed into a water tank and being sucked through a system of pipes? Kirk’s hands swelling up to the size of cantaloupes? Sulu leaving the Enterprise’s parking brakes on? Some of this stuff is ridiculously insulting and doesn’t belong in the film at all.

Another issue with the script are all the plot holes and nonsensical rules established. Example - Spock creates a black hole in the future to swallow up the energy of a sun that has gone supernova and threatens to destroy the galaxy. This black hole also serves as a portal back in time. So Spock was going to send all this destructive energy back into the past? Wouldn’t that destroy the galaxy in the past? Do all the black holes created in the past go back to the future or further into the past? Does that mean Vulcan was sucked into the more distant past? Nero’s big plan is to destroy the Vulcan home world and Earth because they couldn’t stop Romulus from being destroyed by the shockwave in the future, and he thinks it will allow Romulus to become the major superpower in the galaxy. Destroying Earth and Vulcan isn’t going to stop that sun from going supernova. In fact his plan should have been to tell both worlds that it will happen and to start working on a solution. But he’s mad with grief so I let that go. Nero, who was a miner and not a scientist, knows the exact time and place that Spock will emerge from the future into the past? And why did Kirk get promoted to First Officer after he snuck aboard against orders? Bullshit. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. Bullshit!
They did come up with some interesting variations on the established canon, such as Spock and Uhura being romantically involved, Kirk’s father being killed by Nero in the opening scene, Captain Pike becoming a father figure to Kirk and the destruction of Vulcan. It kept me on my toes and I was constantly looking forward to what detail they would alter next. But even though all these changes in the timeline had altered events, the same crew managed to come together on the Enterprise in spite of this. The idea that these characters were destined to work together was fascinating (sorry about the pun) to me. I also liked seeing how the seeds of friendship between Kirk and Spock began to grow. I had always wondered about that since they always seemed like complete opposites.

Regardless, the movie is fun and entertaining despite its major flaws. Michael Giacchino composed a wonderfully catchy score, the special effects are phenomenal and the action scenes are sweet as hell (love the orbital skydiving and the warping into a debris field stuff). The set design, while looking a little too “Made by Apple, Inc.” for the Enterprise bridge, is all cool and sleek. I do have a little problem with the engine room looking like a brewery and less like what we associate with that location, but it’s negligible.
Abrams knocked it out of the park. Star Trek was a huge hit and made more money than any other film in the series. Fans and non-fans alike were singing its praises, and Star Wars fans that were dismayed with their franchise after the craptastic prequels suddenly started to drop their unreasonable dislike for ours. Trek was back in a big way. The future looked bright for my favorite science fiction series.

3.5 out of 5

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