Sunday, May 10, 2009

Boldly Going Where This Blog Has Never Gone Before

Like what I did with the blog title, there? I could not really resist. Granted, this is not my first movie review. I wrote one way back in 2007 for the substandard The Golden Compass. I like to review movies, though, and I have a lot to say about Star Trek.

I have never been a big Star Trek fan, though I've always had an appreciation for the show. I remember watching reruns of the original show when I came home from middle school every afternoon. I think I probably saw most episodes of the original series, and I watched plenty of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager with my brother, who was definitely one of the more hardcore fans (not hardcore enough to dress up like a Klingon and go to conventions, but hardcore enough to know much more about the story and characters than I do).

I have to say, even though I had a certain nostalgic appreciation for Star Trek as a kid, I was not too optimistic about the movie when I went on opening night with a few friends. Summer blockbusters tend to be a disappointment. X-Men Origins: Wolverine, for example, had been solid for about the first twenty minutes, and that was it (though Hugh Jackman did what he could to save it throughout). That particular movie suffered from being poorly acted (by all save Jackman), and cluttered with too many plot twists and characters. Plus, I am a big fan of the X-Men franchise and my comic book knowledge helped me understand a lot of the things that my non-fan friends didn't understand. Since I'm only a casual Star Trek fan, I was worried that the movie would make me lost.

Spoiler-free Review: But oh, it didn't. To put things simply and not give away any of the plot, I have to say that Star Trek is one of the most solid movies to come out in recent years. It takes the summer action/adventure genre, which has been getting quite overworked in recent years, and makes it work properly again. The story is simple and streamlined, yet at the same time strong and interesting. The script is fantastic, mostly in its ability to give the actors freedom to play their iconic characters with both reverence and freshness. The actors also need to be commended for inhabiting their characters beautifully. There's a lot to live up to there, and I can't think of a single actor who doesn't do justice to their source material. In essence, it's just a good movie, and I dare someone to go to it and leave without smiling. It doesn't reinvent the wheel in terms of a good science fiction film, but it drives the car masterfully (we'll see if that analogy works). Oh, and any fan of J.J. Abrams is in for a treat, because he includes just as many easter eggs and homages, which are his claim to fame in Lost.

Spoiler Review: Star Trek is a re-imagining of the original series, and it also somewhat re-boots the continuity. Some people have complained that it neglects the canon, but the way I see it, it just creates an alternate reality. The canon is mentioned and respected, and it does have a big impact on the film. Maybe some of the hardcore fans won't like what it does to the sacred timeline of the original shows, but I think the fact that it's a re-boot really helps the film appeal to a wider audience. Yes, there are multiple homages and references, and some of them I didn't get even though I watched most of the original series (but I know other members of the audience got because of their laughs or applause). Still, the references didn't get in the way of the movie. They enhanced it if you knew them, but they flowed seamlessly into the script if you didn't.

In fact, one could say that the movie itself didn't get in the way of the movie (which is one of those phrases Roger Ebert uses a lot). The storyline is rather simple compared to the overcomplicated plots of many blockbusters. Okay, there's time travel involved, and an alternate reality, and perhaps even a causality loop, now that I think of it. But that's science fiction for you. There's some technical jargon thrown around, and you either get it or you don't. Either way, you move on and enjoy the movie (although I agree with Dan Phillips that poor Roger Ebert likely has not enjoyed a science fiction movie for awhile). It's a thoroughly enjoyable movie even without the paradoxes. Simply put: there's an angry Romulan named Nero (Eric Bana) who is at war with the Federation, specifically a younger version of the Enterprise crew.

That crew, by the way, is extremely well-acted. The group of relative unknowns not only look like their 1960's counterparts, they act like them as well, simply in a more contemporary way. I'd say it's a product of great casting coupled with great acting. Simon Pegg in particular provides great comic relief with Scotty, but really, there's one actor who steals the show, and that's Zachary Quinto in his first film role as the young Spock. Quinto has amazing range as a television actor, whether it's on 24 or Heroes or that short-lived VH1 sitcom So Notorious (where he and TV veteran Loni Anderson were pretty much the only good things to see). He has striking features that only further his portrayal of Spock, but he also brings a sense of intellect, poise, and even emotional depth to the Vulcan. There is a scene later in the film where he comes face-to-face with Leonard Nimoy, playing an aged Spock, and it's 100% believable that the two men are merely younger and older versions of the same man.

So, that's my review. If you need any further proof that it's a good movie, Nimoy's involvement should be enough. He makes more than a mere cameo; he becomes a main character of the film after his introduction. He has turned down numerous opportunities to reprise the role of Spock in film and TV over the years, but said that the quality of this film's script got him to put the ears back on, so to speak. If it's good enough for him, it should be good enough for you.

Live long and prosper. :)

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