Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Star Trek 2009 not quite a bullseye . . .

... but it's still pretty good.

I may as well jump on the Star Trek review bandwagon and post mine. I went with the fam last evening to see the new ST movie. Is it really a prequel to the other movies and the 1960s TV series? No, it's not, any more than Casino Royale, in which James Bond receives his double-oh designation, was a prequel to the other Bond flicks.

In fact, like Casino, ST 2009 hits the reset button on the franchise. Let me discuss that before I talk about the merits of the movie itself. There are some spoilers here, but get real - how can there really be spoilers when you know in advance that the movie's main intent is to show how Kirk and Co. wind up on USS Enterprise? Yes, they win (as the always do) in the fight with the bad guy and live to tell the tale. So here goes.

James T. Kirk is born in space at the beginning of the show, aboard an escape rocket fleeing the doomed USS Kelvin, captained, for 12 minutes, by Kirk's father, who sacrifices himself to save the crew. We next see Kirk at age 10, having swiped his father's antique Corvette for a joy ride while the Beastie Boy's "Sabotage" plays over all. Kirk, pursued by a cop on a flying motorcycle, drives the 'Vette off a cliff, jumping clear at the last moment.

Herein lie the first clues:
  • The Vette is a 1966 model, the same year that the ST TV series debuted. The Vette is destroyed. Does this mean that the legacy is also being thrown (mostly) off a cliff? Why, yes, yes it does.
  • The song symbolizes that director J.J. Abrams and writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman are indeed sabotaging the Star trek legacy in order to sart over.

There is other proof within the storyline of the movie, but that would be giving too much away here. Suffice to say that at movie's end it is literally impossible for this movie's story future trajectory to merge with that of the TV series or the previous ST movies. We'll see how that works out. If this film's sequel is as sorry as Quantum of Solace was to Casino Royale, then the reset won't work too well.

So I suggest enjoying the movie as escapist entertainment rather than viewing it as a true prequel or another in the ST series. There are enough trekkie things in the show to establish a good connection with the series' legacy, such as a tribble sitting on Scotty's desk when he first appears, but in the end they do not matter. The movie should have been subtitled, "Starting All Over."

Leonard Nimoy's appearance as "Spock Prime" (so credited at the end) is a nice touch, as is his uttering a few lines from the older movies. It works just right. I thought it quite satisfying when he identified himself to the young Kirk by saying, "I am Spock." After the TV series was canceled, Nimoy tried to run away from it and establish a career as a serious dramatic actor. He even published a book in the mid-1970s called, I Am Not Spock. But, in the winter years of his life he has come to admit that Star Trek has defined his career (actually, he realized this long before now - the sequel to I Am Not Spock is I Am Spock, appearing 20 years later).

The Villain: Eric Bana as the destruction-bent Romulan, Nero, is excellent. He doesn't top Ricardo Montalban in Wrath of Khan, but nonetheless Nero is a worthy nemesis. And his threat is properly galactic: he wants to destroy every planet of the Federation and thanks to Spock Prime, he can (a zipped lip on that one, too).

The Enterprise crew:

Zachary Quinto as young Spock is excellent. Karl Urban as Bones is "excellent-minus," very good, but not quite as good in his part as Quinto is in his. Uhura and Spock have a thing for each other? Who knew? In the TV series it was Nurse Chapel who was enamored with Spock, IIRC, but her role long ago got beamed away. Zoe Saldana plays Uhura very well. Chekov and Sulu are presented competently, if not exactly inspiringly. Young Scotty, we learn, was a chowhound with an overdone Scottish brogue.

Ah, but what of Chris Pine, paying the major role of James T. Kirk? Sorry, bad idea. IMO, he just doesn't cut it. It's not that he acts the part of space cadet, then Enterprise officer, badly, he just doesn't act them as Kirk. You can pretty easily imagine young Spock maturing into Nimoy's Spock, and young Uhura and McCoy and the rest becoming the personalities we already know. But Pine's Kirk in unimaginable to become Shatner's Kirk.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

But how is the movie as a movie? My wife, who is no sci-fi fan, enjoyed it. My eldest son, who is very familiar with the ST legacy, and my young daughter, who is not, also liked it a lot. As for me, I'll put it this way - I'll probably spring for the DVD when it comes out, but I won't pay hard-earned coin to see it in the theater again. There are times to movie seems too frantic and plot developments too forced. But it's enjoyable and pays enough tribute to the legacy to justify seeing it in theater once. So I recommend it. Overall, I give Star Trek 2009 seven out 10 NCC-1701s.

No comments: