Sunday, May 10, 2009

Star Trek

Star Trek:
My Anti-Wolverine

Its not often in the film industry when a remake, or "reboot" as the buzz term these days calls it, really works. And though I do enjoy long running movie series, that stick to an expand on the traditions and stories told as the series goes on, and though I am half and half on "reboot" as a way to make people come to see a movie series, I have to say, in the cast of Star Trek, which seemed like a completely uphill battle of a man with a dart gun verse a (J.J) Abrams Tank. Its a daunting task, trying to recreate something with 43 years of iconic fandom, where you have to always show respect to what came before you even if it seemed silly by modern standards, one that I wasn't exactly sure if director/visionary J.J Abrams could pull off, but I've known Abrams to pull off the impossible before, well, except getting me interested in watching Lost, but that aside, I must say, J.J pulled off the impossible again. Giving a new start to something as iconic and deep as Star Trek is the kind of task that no one really wanted, it was one of those things tht people always talked about, but never thought of doing, and though some scoff at the J.J Abrams for having to use the idea of time travel to pull it off, personally, I cheer and applaud him for it.

Abrams was able to show heavy influence of the original concept and feel, how the shuttles look, the phaser look, all of those classic things, even working in remixed versions of the classic trek music at times, while mixing in modern and ultra modern styling ideas and changes, like the new look of the enterprise itself, and the general feel of the film, you actually believed you were in the future, not the 1960s or early 1990s cosplaying the future, which, as any movie goer will tell you these days, is a very important thing when it comes to modern film making.

The film is brilliantly cast, which is another important key when rebooting something as iconic as Star Trek, you have to make sure that your casting is completely flawless, and Abrams once again, nailed it perfectly, there is just the right mix of unknown, recognizable faces, and big name talent, all of which show no fear or nervousness on camera knowing the shadows they're stepping into. Relatively unknown Chris Pine steps into the role of James T. Kirk perfectly, he fits the character's feel and persona perfectly well, and even shares his, fetish, for green skinned women, you get the feel by the end that you want to see more of his Kirk, he's done his research and amazingly pulled off the role, I would really love to see more of him in the inevitable movie series that follows, the biggest shock of all for me, was to see Zachary Quinto, better known as Gabriel Grey/Sylar, on the television series Heroes, as Spock. Now, of the three big roles in the film, Spock, as iconic as he is, is the hardest of them to play, you either do him justice or spit in the face of Leonard Nimoy with it, but, Zachary, i have to say, out did Nimoy, yes, I know this is insane to say, but he did, the look, the feel, the mannerisms, even tossing Sylar's evil eyebrow into the mix, he completely out spock'd the original Spock, or as the film credits call him, "Spock Prime" do to the time travel aspect of the film itself. Moderately unknown Karl Urban plays the great Dr. Leonard 'Bones' McCoy, who he plays to the point I almost forgot anyone else played the role, no disrepect ment to the late great Deforest Kelly, who was one of my favorites, but for some reason, Karl gets the character alot better, he gets every bit of Bones perfectly, right down to his banter with Spock and even spouts out his "Damnit Jim I'm a Doctor not a (place thing here)" line that seemed to be his catchphrase in the original series, he even explains where he got the nickname of Bones from, which is a nice touch. John Cho, of Harold and Kumar "fame" (I use that word loosely), plays Hikaru Sulu, playing the role with more depth and a nice mix of serious and funny that has never really been seen in the role before, the same with Anton Yelchin as Pavel Chekov, who I found the reinvigoration of him as a 17 year old whizkid with speech issues amazingly good, though admittedly, with both roles, the characters before them weren't really all the in depth, so they were kind of clean slates, rounding out core cast is the brilliant Simon Pegg as Montgomery Scott, who is shown as more of the joker in this, and a sort of mad warp engine scientist of sorts, I just wish he was in more of the film, and finally, Zoe Saldana fills out the core cast as Nyota Uhura, who is a master of subspace channels and the best language translator there is, she is also there to wear knee boots and apparently be in love with Spock, instead of Kirk as she was first time around.

With out giving away to much of the story, it starts out with the death of Kirk's father, giving his life to save his pregnant wife who is in labor with James and 798 other people onboard a star ship, thats fallen pray to a ship that appears out of nowhere and uses its apparently super futuristic tech and weapons to decimate the ship, Kirk's father gets everyone off and when he notices the auto pilot is not fuctioning, realizes the only way to save all of those loves, including his wife and born on an escape shuttle son, is to use himself and the ship as a ram, in his last few minutes he names his newborn son James, after his wife's father, joking that his father's name, Tiberius, is a name he wouldn't wish on anyone, not long before the impact.

From here you split between seeing the life of James T. Kirk as he grows up on earth rebellious and wild, and the story of Spock growing up on Vulcan, where they look down on him for being half human. For less confusion's sake I'll break this part down per character to make it easy to follow in text, though in film form it jumps between the two..

You follow Kirk's life for the next two segments of the film, first you see him at age 10 as he leads a cop on a high speed chase that ends with the wreaking of his step father's late 1960s Stingray body style Corvette that plummets over a cliff, and then next you find him 15 years after that, when he's a cocky small town bad boy who is smooth with the ladies and big on the trash talking, he picks a fight with some Starfleet cadets who don't much like the idea of him talking to a young cadet named Uhura, who happens to catch his eye. The ensuing brawl is broken up by one the cadets' superior officer, one Christopher Pike, who after explaining that James' father was sort of a hero to him, tries to enlist James in Starfleet, which James declines, until Pike says with his pedigree, and if he's half the man his father was, he could be an officer in four years and have his own ship in eight years, James sleeps on the idea, shows up the next morning and tells Pike he can make officer in three years and gets in the ship thats going to take the new recruits to the academy. From here the film shows how Kirk encounters every other member of the main cast.

You follow Spock on Vulcan growing up a misfit, there is a hilarious scene at the start that shows just how lame bullies are on Vulcan, young spock is shown standing by himself, then up walk three taller, probably older vulcan boys, Spock says to them "have you thought up new insults and wish to use them on me to attempt and gain an emotional response?" the leader of the three says "Yes, that is correct", young Spock just looks at him says they're attempted to get an emotional response out of him over 130 (I think) times and failed, and suggests they stop. The lead bully then calls Spock's mother a "human whore" and pushes him, Spock has had enough and the lil'vulcan knocks the biggest bully down and starts to beat him senseless. I'm puzzled that a culture that claims to be about logic and prides itself on being devoid of all emotion, has bullies, a social archetype that requires emotions in both the bully and in the one they decide to pray upon, this by all accounts shouldn't be, but I don't mind it, given the hilarious nature of most of the scene. You next see Spock talking to his mother, played surprisingly by Winona Ryder, who does a great job. The two talk about destiny and that Spock should do what he feels is right, not what is logical all the time, and that he can choose his own path, not logic. You then see Spock as he stands before the vulcan high council, which his father Sarek, played perfectly by Ben Cross, a cult actor of sorts who I get a kick out of everytime I see him, the head of the council asks Spock why he's applied to enroll in both the Vulcan Science Institute and Starfleet, Spock says "it only seems logical to apply for both..", the head of the council says he's been excepted to the Institute, and that they were amazed by his test scores given his "disability", when Spock asks what this means, they say "You being half human ofcourse.." this angers makes Spock decide instead to go to Starfleet, the head of the council yells and says no vulcan has ever turned down a placement in the Institute, Spock says "But, I am half human, there for your record of no vulcan turning down placement remains intact.." he then coldly looks at them and says "Live long and prosper..." using it as an insult. You next see him near the end of the first act of the film where you see that he's become an instructor at the Starfleet institute, he meets James Kirk when Kirk finds a way to beat his impassable simulation test, The Kobe AshiMaru, a test designed to test mental faculties in a very high stress battle scenario.

With out going into what happens after the first act, which is all set up and fanwank for act two, where the story really starts, I will say this, the film is brilliantly shot and designed, there is so much care taken into how the film was made, all the scenery, all the clothing, all the props, all of it, it really looks like you are on either future earth or on the original enterprise, right down to the hallways and chair set up, its just mindblowingly well done, Abrams set up to make a star trek made by a star trek fan, that was faithful to the original, yet allowing room for it to breath and become its own identity entirely separate, which I really think was a great move personally, a new reality allows for new things to come, or re-envisioning of classic stories. I had so very little really wrong with this film that its almost had to even think of anything of any real note to actually mention about the film itself, though i do wonder how Winona Ryder become a non-billed in the promo material secondary character, my only real comment would be I guess her star is burning out, but thats not really about the film, so it doesn't really count s a negative. I hear the next movie will be about Klingons, or maybe they'll go for the gusto and do a new Khan. Who knows? But I know this, either way, I'll definitely be in the theaters to see it. And so should all of you,. Just if you do go to see the film, don't go to the Hookset New Hampshire IMAX to see it, the guy that takes your ticket makes really lame jokes about Star Trek related things the whole time you're waiting for them to clean the theater so you can go get in and sit down. But if you aren't going there, totally get yourself to see it.



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