A blog about movies and filmmaking.

A start to the summer movie season…

In Actors, cult film, Directors, sci-fi on May 8, 2009 at 12:17 am

I was really going to try and not comment on the big movies that will be flooding theaters for the next few months. Mostly, because everyone is going to be talking about them – and being that this blog is basically me talking to myself about the movies I liked and am mostly enjoying on my own. I wanted to kind of stick with more second run movies – like movies available on Netflix (mostly via, Instant View) or on DVD, mostly via Redbox – and an unsaid interest in movies that seem to carry on similar themes.

That said, though, I just watched STAR TREK, the new movie from Hollywood uber-god J.J. Abrams and I feel obligated to blurt out what I thought before the flurry of other media overtakes me and I forget my initial reactions. First thing of note, is that despite what the calendar might say, this is the first Summer movie of the season! Forget whatever might have come out the week before. Abrams and co. have kicked this summer off the way that I had kind of hoped that X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE would have – but really kind of failed to (see other site’s reviews for more details). The movie was loud, it was epic, it was funny and most of all – and almost as always when Abrams has his name signed on, it left me in wonder! 

STAR TREK is an origin story of the original crew members of the USS ENTERPRISE, a Starfleet space vessel in the 24th century (I think, my Trek-fu isn’t as strong as others). Only in this movie’s universe things go a little differently than how we know it to have happened. The opening of the movie opens with a disaster, that just in it’s short span of time forever changes what the future has in store for these characters. It leads to some new dynamics, and altered relationships; before kind of settling back in to a little more recognizable presentation. 

Since this is a new release – and there is the small chance that someone might come upon this – I’m going to stay far away from spoilers. But, we’re introduced to young, rebellious James Tiberius Kirk as he’s stealing an uncle(?)’s classic – even by our standards – Ford Mustang. After the young actor gives us the closest impersonation and glimpse at William Shatner we get in this movie, we then get to see a young Spock, also getting into trouble as the (full blooded) Vulcan children mock and bully him for being half-human. The introduction is pretty fun, with their logical ways of insulting each other. 

Cut to 20 years later and both kids find their way the Starfleet Academy and they meet up with a number of the other main characters, including Sulu (John Cho, from HAROLD AND KUMAR movies), Uhura (Zoe Saldana, looking beautiful in her retro-chic apparel), Dr. “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban, known from THE BOURNE SUPREMACY, THE LORD OF THE RINGS) and finally Chekov (Anton Yelchin, who we’ll also be seeing in a couple of weeks in TERMINATOR: SALVATION). After everyone is deployed on a rescue mission to the planet Vulcan, there’s a bit of a disagreement that leads to Kirk coming into contact with Scotty (as played by Simon Pegg) and of course, the not so-secret guest appearance of the original Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy. They all must work together and find a way of stopping renegade Romulan, Nero, as played by Eric Bana. 

All of these supporting characters do a fantastic job, with a special shout-out going to the one person that I was kind of the most skeptical of going in. Karl Urban. I just didn’t see him pulling off the character that I’ve seen numerous times in movies, as played then by DeForrest Kelley. But, he really surprised me and became my favorite character in the supporting cast. (Followed closely by Pegg and Nimoy) They all pretty much get a moment to shine, to give their “known character statement”, whether it’s Bone’s “Dammit Jim” or Chekov’s incomprehensible V’s. The weakest link, mostly because he was just a one-dimensional villain was Bana’s Nero. There was no major payoff, there was no empathy for him – and really, he had a pretty legitimate issue with a couple of our characters if slightly mal-adjusted – and most of his scenes were played on fish-eyed, vaseline smeared monitors. 

Of course the stars of the movie are Spock and Kirk. Spock, as played by Zachary Quinto – everyone knows him as Sylar on HEROES – goes through the movie fighting with himself and others, over the struggle of being half-Vulcan, and therefore needing to be calm and logical; and half-human, and dealing with his emotions. Quinto does a great job in the role and really seems like a perfect stand-in for Nimoy’s original Spock (well, until you see them side-by-side). Chris Pine as James Kirk, also does a great job, and is really probably the farthest departure from the actor who originally played the character (except for Sulu, like the fact that Cho is South Korean and George Takei – whose voice was also much deeper – is Japanese). But, Pine – whose only notable, if unrecognizable, role was as one of the Tremor brothers in SMOKIN’ ACES – makes Kirk his own and does a pretty great job at it. And there’s still that ‘devil may care’, balls to the wall attitude, but no one can really be expected to do what Shatner did. (and that’s neither meant as criticism nor compliment)

Abrams and his repertoire of regular collaborators – in this case, the writing team of Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (who we’ll be seeing again with the new Transformer’s movie, and with a second season of FRINGE); Michael Giacchino on music; Daniel Mindel, the cinematographer that Abrams used on his previous directorial outing, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 3. Everyone does a top notch job here. Giacchino’s score gets a little heavy-handed at times, I thought. That sort of melodrama works on LOST to help drive home some of the events going on; here it just seemed a little cheesy sometimes. (Of course, in other moments it really put a cap on the awe-inspiring moments we were shown.)

And then there are the lens flares. It seems very deliberate, and for the most part it helps to make the movie seem more epic and grandiose with all this light blinding us on the screen and with the camera swooping around people and ships and planets and everything. But, there’s also kind of a wish of knowing when less is more. It’s not really anything I can fault them for doing, but it’s definitely something that would make for a horrible (awfully fun) drinking game!

Overall, STAR TREK is a lot of fun. The story seems complicated but is really just a coming of age tale, and it’s done to reintroduce us to characters who have seemed tired and worn down – and grown old – in a series that has done the same. It succeeds, astonishingly, where the movie that was supposed to lead us into this summer season failed. Go see STAR TREK, see it with friends who will geek out at the right things; who will laugh at the cheesy things and mostly who just want to have a fun, thrilling experience in the movie theater!

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