Friday, May 08, 2009

To boldly go... again

I am a Star Trek Fan.

To what level? I've watched all of the original series, most of the later series (TNG, DS9, Voyager) but not much of Enterprise. There was a time when I can tell you the name of any TNG episode just by seeing the first 5 minutes. I've watched all of the movies, and for the first ten movies I can tell you I've watched them at least 10 times each to the point where I could recite the lines from memory. If I had the chance I would go to a convention, in uniform even. And although I can't carry on a decent Klingon conversation, I can still say at least one word in Klingon.

After the tenth film the franchise died down for me. It was getting old, and the creative talent that had driven the series from that time grew stale. This is why I was skeptical upon hearing that a new Trek movie was being made, with new characters and a new continuity. A reboot. An alternate take on the franchise. They had this idea way back in the early nineties when the studio producers were thinking of a Starfleet Academy type movie showing young Kirk and Spock with a new fresh cast. It didn't take off then, but now the idea was revisited.

For the movie to work for me, it had to be 1) good as a Trek movie, 2) good as a movie in itself and 3) pay homage to the franchise it is rebooting. So I watched the movie today.

Let's just say the movie blew away my expectations.

I'm sure there are a lot of reviews that talk about the plot in detail, but for this review I won't dwell much on it. Instead, I'll just give you a few thoughts on the movie.

The Kirk-Spock relationship - pretty much the core of the film. The movie explores Kirk and Spock's development's as individuals struggling to make it or fit in their respective worlds. Kirk is someone who lacks direction in life. He had no one to guide him in his life and went on his way living a life with reckless abandon, with no fear, something that shaped him as a captain. Spock on the other hand, is wrestling with his humanity (as much as we saw it in Star Trek IV) In essence the two are similar. Together they complement each other. Of course this would not effectively work without...

The New Crew - I am particularly impressed with the casting for the new crew of the Enterprise. Chris Pike shows a Kirk that is exactly what I envisioned of him from his younger years, but giving respect to the man who made the role, William Shatner. Zachary Quinto is spot on as the younger Spock, seemingly controlled yet with emotions boiled up inside. Karl Urban was perfect as Bones, bringing the much needed wit to the triumvirate that forms the center of the ensemble. Rounding up the rest of the cast - Simon Pegg had his moments as Scotty, with the perfunctory "It canna take any more!" line, John Cho who also had his moments as Sulu, Zoe Saldana as a strong willed Uhura and Anton Yelchin giving a decent performance as Chekov.

The Old Spock - Old Spock plays a large role in the film, and other than the Kirk-Spock relationship, his presence is the key to tying the old and the new continuities together. Leonard Nimoy never ceases to impress me. But after all, the man has been playing Spock for 40 years, so the role comes naturally to him. In a way this is a chance to pass the baton over to the new cast and crew. His presence improves the film tenfold for me. It's also nice to see what Spock has been up to since his last appearance in the Next Generation two parter "Unification."

The New Enterprise - kind of a mix between the original series Enterprise and the Refit Enterprise/Enterprise-A they made for the movies. The warp effects are more Star Warsy now with no flash at the end (well, the flash was originally intended to cover inconsistencies in the effects, but anyway.) The new bridge looks cool and upgraded from its 1960's look. The engineering deck has been given a total redesign, although from the original series you can tell that something like that was implied. Plus there are like 9000 new phaser arrays for the Enterprise (although there are still like 2 torpedo bays. Go figure.)

The effects - top notch. Great contrast between the Enterprise and the Narada interiors. The phaser, transporter and beam effects were also good. Interesting use of those lens flares. J.J. Abrams (or one of the other guys) was talking about how it represented the brighter more positive tomorrow Star Trek was supposed to represent.

The Homages - made me squeal in fanboy delight. The Vulcan learning thingy from Star Trek IV. Spock's lines from TOS and STVI. Scotty getting a taste of his own medicine ala STIV. The shuttlepods from ST:TMP. The cruel fact about Red Shirts from TOS. Plus that little line done in blatant reference to "The Naked Time."

The Trek-ness of the film - here is where many a Star Trek fan will cry out in Nerd Rage. "The film isn't CANON!" or "it's an action movie!" The theme of the movie may not have that sociopolitical/philosophical context that some of the TOS episodes or movies may have, but it can't be helped in a film that is basically made to establish the new continuity. It's the only gripe I have with the film but then again you can only do too much.

So in the end? Star Trek is a action packed thrill ride. Does it work as a Trek Movie? Yes, it belongs safely in my top five Trek Movies (as #4, guess what the others are.) Does it work as a movie, period? Yes, I believe it does, as I enjoyed it immensely. Does it pay respect to the series it was based upon? Yes.

So what are you waiting for? Go and watch it now!