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Friday, May 22, 2009

Star Trek

****½ Star Trek. Science fiction, action/adventure.

Directed by: J. J. Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Leonard Nimoy, Eric Bana, Bruce Greenwood, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin

We saw this last night at the theater on post. AAFES gets movies a LOT faster than they used to. The theater was, predictably, packed, with lots of small children. And the projectionist screwed up the focus and sound for part of one reel--par for going to the theater on post. But it's better than paying three times the price to watch it dubbed in German while eating sugared popcorn in a tiny theater. (Heh. My mother-in-law's been asking why we don't watch more movies at the German theaters. That's why.)

I was initially disappointed--the movie starts out with a mostly inexplicable fight scene, and combines that with something that's supposed to be all sad and touching, except we haven't spent enough time with the characters to really care. My overwhelming impression of the first 10 minutes or so of the film was: "we've spent a crapload of money on these special effects. Aren't they cool?" Thankfully, it could only improve from there--and as you can tell from the 4.5 stars, it did.

The overwhelming strength of Star Trek is its faithfulness to the original series. Even that initial scene made sense in retrospect, showing, as it did, the birth of James T. Kirk (and explaining the "Tiberius") and the heroic death of his father (watch the movie--it makes sense). Pike (Bruce Greenwood) was the captain from the original pilot, and all the characters are there in their younger days, before the time of the original series. It shows how they all met and became the crew of the Enterprise.

There was even some expansion of the original characterization, particularly for Spock (Zachary Quinto)--showing how as a child and young adult he struggled with being half-human and occasionally let his emotions get the better of him. And the original animosity between him and Kirk was a perfectly logical (heh) precursor to the later sometimes exasperated friendship we're all familiar with. I particularly loved that Spock originally outranked Kirk.

The casting was spot on. Even in appearance, most of the actors resembled their counterparts from--good grief!--43 years ago. Most importantly, though, was that they resembled them in their behavior. Well, except that Chris Pine didn't use Shatner's speech mannerisms as Kirk. I don't think anyone's going to complain about that.

I was also very happy that it didn't turn into a star vehicle. We saw the trailer for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen before the movie, which made me think of Transformers, which, while fun, was basically special effects, plus ooh, isn't Shia LaBeouf awesome? Heh. This was definitely an ensemble cast. Even though there was more focus on Kirk and Spock, it was about the characters, not about the actors playing them. If that makes sense. I think it was a result of not using big name Movie Stars.

Now that we've established that I loved the movie, here are my quibbles. First, the Romulan ship. Okay, all 3 of my men thought it looked cool. But honestly, there's no point at all for it to look like that. And all those spiky projections on the Romulan's drill cable and inside their ship? Likewise pointless. And dangerous--at least the inside the ship bits. Come on--why make the railings and cables inside your spaceship look like thorny vines?

And then there was the little alien friend of Scotty's. Also pointless. His only purpose in the movie, as far as I could tell, was to sell toys later on. He had no place at all in the plot.

I already complained about the beginning of the movie. I know conventional wisdom says to start with something exciting to grab the audience, but.... Okay, in a movie theater, people are going to give a movie more than a 10-minute chance, ticket prices being what they are, but I still don't think it's a good idea to lose your audience. Of course, a good portion of the audience was probably like Carl, who becomes riveted to action scenes--any action scenes. He can be flipping channels on TV and come across a random action scene from a movie he's never seen before, and he'll be captivated. Must have something to do with a Y chromosome. Anyway, I need to care about the characters before I care about whether or not they win a fight.

Speaking of fights--the fight scenes in Star Trek were curiously bland. I found myself wondering if that was an intentional reflection of the original series. Even when Kirk and Spock were fighting Romulans on a hovering drill, there was very little tension.

But my biggest complaint was the music. I remember when Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out--30 years ago (this is getting seriously painful--though it shouldn't be such a surprise, as today is Carl's 50th birthday)--the music wasn't the music from the original series, but it blew me away. Here. Listen: . I even went out and bought the record (yes, vinyl), and had visions of playing the theme at my wedding (give me a break--I was 18). Versions of this music have been on all the subsequent movies, until this one.

I wouldn't have minded if they'd replaced it with something equally awe-inspiring, but instead, the music in the movie was just generic. How horribly disappointing. I do give them props, though, for playing the theme of the original series over the credits.

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Wow, I'm glad you know that you liked it! :)
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