Saturday, May 09, 2009

Star Trek 2009

I went to the first showing of the new Star Trek film yesterday. It's been a long time, maybe over a decade, since I went to see a movie on opening day. But see, me and Star Trek, we go way back. I was a little young to remember much about the first run of the series. I was four when Star Trek premiered. But the show went quickly into syndication after it's three year run and it seems as if it was always part of the background of my life. I don't think I'd qualify as a Trekkie, having never attended a Trek Convention, but I do love Star Trek. I can pretty much recite the titles and plots of all 79 original episodes. I watched the animated series and the theatrical films and all the spin off series and I count both Jim Kirk and Mr. Spock as role models of my youth. I am, without a doubt, a fan.
So what did I think of the new Star Trek movie?
I loved it. Absolutely loved it.
I went in prepared not to like it. I expected them to have thrown out most of the old continuity and to pretty much skew the film toward the MTV generation.
Nope. The movie is very respectful of the original series, and yet not afraid to go in its own directions too. There are tons of references to the original show and films for long time fans to catch, some fairly obscure. There are laugh out loud moments of dialog aimed at Trek fans. The ships look like Federation ships. All the techno babble we love is there. Warp drive, phasers, photon torpedoes, the whole nine yards. It FEELS like Star Trek.
The cast is well chosen and for the most part no one is trying to do an imitation of the original actors. Karl Urban's McCoy is an exception. The Kiwi actor does an almost scary job of echoing Deforest Kelly, not just in the way he delivers lines, but in his mannerisms as well.
Zackary Quinto's delivery as Spock is much like Leonard Nimoy's, but then Spock's emotionless way of talking doesn't allow a lot of room for interpretation. Of course in this movie we do get to see quite a bit of the more human side of Spock because much like in the original Trek pilot, The Cage, and in some of the early episodes of the original series, Spock hasn't quite gotten his emotions under control. And Quinto's voice is rather soft when compared to Nimoy's deep, almost growling tones. Still he does a terrific job.
Chris Pine as Kirk wisely stays clear of a William Shatner impersonation. But he does manage to invoke the swaggering, self assured cockiness of Jim Kirk.
Now there are a few changes, one fairly major, to the Star Trek universe we know, but I didn't have any real problems, especially since those changes are explained in relation to the original continuity. This both is and isn't your father's Star Trek. Some fans will doubtless be unhappy, but some always are.
Leonard Nimoy has a larger role in the film than I expected and not surprisingly he's looking old and frail but he's still Spock. His role in the film is very clearly to pass the torch to the (ahem) next generation. And he does.
I understand that a sequel to Star Trek has already been green lighted. I'm there. If they can hold the series to this level, I'll gladly show up for all the new films. As young as the cast is, we've got potential for a lot of new entries into the franchise.
Looking back over this review I notice I haven't said much about the plot or production values. Special effects are great. Costumes and sets, great. As for the plot, very interesting and with a couple of cool surprises. Yes there's the occasional gap in internal logic, but that was true in the original Trek as well. But enough of that. Go see it yourself. Go now in fact. It's worth the effort.


Michael Boatner said...

I, too, am a long time fan. My son was first in line at the 7:50 IMAX showing in Kennesaw Friday night. We both LOVED the movie. He stated that forget that it was a Star Trek movie; it was was just a good movie. I had no issues with the "changes". It'll be very interesting to see where they take the Trek universe. I'll go see it again....

Nomad said...

The new Star Trek keeps the audience's attention so much better than the other Star Treks... there is something fundamentally wrong with a movie that feels like a chore to watch (as are so many of the original Star Treks)

Brett Brooks said...

I, too, was quite taken with the new film. Far from perfect, but it was so overwhelming slanted to the good side that I left the theater ready to go back and see it again. Can't wait for the next one.


Lanny said...

I think this movie actually elevated Trek to the arena of true cinema and above the adored yet limited world of fanboy mania. In other words, ANYONE could enjoy this movie. In that way, the franchise has moved closer to the mass appeal of Star Wars and other pop culture gang busters. Star Trek, as much as I love it, has always seemed to segregate itself from the mainstream despite all it's efforts to assimilate.
I think Trek has always seemed too "psuedo-intellectual" to function as pure entertainment. This outing was a welcome relief from the social commentary and the pre-formatted alien angst of the more recent TV takes.
The film makers did much to infuse the film with the type of visual poetry seen so often in the Star Wars films that offer cultural signposts for the viewer. The original Trek TV series also did a good job of this by offering the viewer anchor points which connected the familiar with the fantastic. This element was often missing from Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise which sometimes tried too hard to be science fiction rather than the space-western that Roddenberry had envisioned.
Kudos to script writers Orci and Kurtzman for a daring tale that put the characters in the foreground where they belong and left everything else on the surrounding canvas to give the main subject matter context.
Smart movie making - very smart.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

A well thought out review, Lanny. You make many excellent points. Several folks have pointed out to me that Star Trek is simply a good movie, regardless of its being a Star Trek movie. I think that's definitely true.

Michael Boatner said...

Lanny, you've always had a way with words. I couldn't have said it better. Corey and I were talking about the same things on the way home from the movie. It was just a fun movie to watch and much more accessible.