May 8, 2009

That Was A Close One!

Whew! I was getting worried there for a second. I mean, after Wolverine kicked off summer, I couldn't help but be a little apprehensive. But, I'm not going to rant about that festival of mediocrity again. No, I am relieved; relieved that summer is once again looking to be the most exciting movie season of the year. All that is thanks to Star Trek. Thanks to some snazzy direction, pitch perfect acting, mind blowing special effects and a plot that offers enough for both die hard fans and new comers alike, Star Trek is the real beginning to the summer season and the best movie I have seen so far this year. Now, sing it with. Bum bu-bummmm. Bum bum bu-bum bummmmmm. Bu-BUMMMMMM!!
Trek grabs your attention right away with one of the best opening sequences I have ever seen. Not only is it a feast for the eyes, but it actually made me choke up. I swear, I thought I shed a tear. That's a good sign. It concerns the Federation Starship U.S.S. Kelvin as it engages a massive Romulan ship, the Narada. It ultimately meets its demise, but not before the acting captain of the Kelvin, George Kirk, can get most of the crew, including his, in-the-middle-of-giving-birth, wife, to safety. The baby that is born grows up to be James Tiberius Kirk, a hot headed and cynical man. He enlists in Starfleet, and the rest is history. He meets and befriends Leonard "Bones" McCoy and Montgomery Scott, hits on Nyota Uhura, and immediately conjures up contempt for the half human, half vulcan, Spock. And that's only the first 30 minutes. Soon, all these characters and more are whisked away on the U.S.S. Enterprise in order to combat the man responsible for the death of Kirk's father. That man is Nero, a vengeful Romulan from the future with a plan that will cause untold destruction around the galaxy. As an origin story, Star Trek serves nicely. It sets up the characters that we all know, but leaves enough ambiguity so that we will continue to see them grow in the next installment of the series. 
A cast of, largely, unknowns comprises the cast of Star Trek. Chris Pine plays Kirk. I though Pine was most memorable as one of the Neo-Nazi Tremor Brothers in Joe Carnahan's Smokin' Aces a few years back. Since then, he kinda disappeared. Now, he is in the limelight, and thank God, because he's brilliant. It was the easiest trap a man could fall into. Take a role so revered by the masses, and mimic it. But Pine does not fall into that trap. Instead he adds a much needed charisma and charm to a character that, I'll be honest, annoyed the hell out of me in the old movies. Take that, Shatner! He is confident in the role, and it shows. Zachary Quinto, of Heroes fame, plays Spock. I am so glad that the studio did not go with Adrian Brody or someone more famous to play the role, because Quinto is the only one who could have done it. Not only does he look like Leonard Nimoy, but he has nailed the nonchalant, quiet, level headed personality of the character, as well as counter acting it with fiery undertones. That's what made the character of Spock so interesting. He's a cross breed, half emotional human, half unfeeling vulcan, and his coming to terms with that fact was one of the best aspects of the original series. Quinto masterfully stays true to that idea. He's the best thing about the movie, to be honest. Karl Urban plays McCoy. It's great to see Urban in a legitimate, event film again. After his awesome performance in The Lord of the Rings, he seemed to decide that B-grade action movies like Doom and Pathfinder were the way to go. It's a pleasure to have him remind us, that yes, he can act. Zoe Saldana plays Uhura. I always thought Uhura on the original series was a walking boredom dispenser. I hated her. Saldana on the other hand, brings a sexiness and ferocity to the character that Nichelle Nichols seriously lacked. Simon Pegg plays Scott. He's hysterical. He comes in with about 45 minutes left to go in the film, and makes the most of every second. A bit of scene stealer, to be sure. John Cho (there are a lot of cast members worth talking about here) plays helmsman Hikaru Sulu. He doesn't have much to do, but, like Pegg, he makes the most of it. Plus, he gets to engage in an awesome sword fight on top of massive drill (more on that later). An unrecognizable Eric Bana plays the villainous Nero.  His more of a brooding, sinister villain then a flashy, talkative one. Be that as it may, he is spectacular. I almost found myself on his side as the movie reached it's climax. That takes skill. Universally, all the performances are great. If there is one that is inferior to the others, it's Anton Yelchin's Pavel Chekov. It's not his performance, so much his incredibly forced Russian accent that made this one stick out as annoying and a bit unnecessary. Supporting performances include Bruce Greenwood as soon to be Admiral Christopher Pike, Jennifer Morrison as Kirk's mother, and Ben Cross as Spock's father Sarek. Blink, and you'll miss Winona Ryder as Spock's human mother. There is also a, more-then-cameo, appearance by the original Spock, Leonard Nimoy, who plays... well, Spock, but from the future. You'll see. 
Thanks to some incredibly sophisticated direction from J.J. Abrams, Star Trek is finally accessible to the general public. Instead of the usual ham handed messages and preachy space politico jabber, we get a fun, well acted, well thought out, summer blockbuster. But, unlike most summer blockbusters, 'cough' Wolverine 'cough', Abrams does not sacrifice character for action. In fact, it's the other way around. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of action to be had. But this is a character driven movie at heart, which is a relief. I'm not a "Trekkie", as the group is referred to as, but I appreciate the original series for it's emphasis on character development over action, and I commend Abrams for staying true to that. At the heart of it all, is the budding relationship between Kirk and Spock. Their friendship was the center piece of the original series, and their rivalry is the center piece here. I'm getting goose bumps just talking about it. 
Now, I've been raving about characters and acting and story for the past three paragraphs, something most summer movie going peoples tend to despise. So, on to the action, and it is spectacular. Put it to you this way. If 2001 had explosions and phaser fire lighting up the screen, it would have looked exactly like Star Trek. The subtlety of the effects is amazing, and a rarity in movies of this nature. The visuals are haunting and beautiful. The beauty of the effects carries over to the interior shots of the ship as well. In a world dominated by sleekness and Apple products, it would seem not even the U.S.S. Enterprise is above cashing in on the look. Everything is so shiny and clean looking, you would think Spock is some sort of OCD freak. Thanks to shininess of everything, this movie has lens flares up the ass. But, again, it's a nice touch that adds a sort of documentary feel to the film, along with extended use of handheld cameras. It also doesn't hurt that the explosions and pyrotechnics are awesome. And good luck not feeling a burst of excitement during the sensational space jump sequence that leads into the aforementioned sword fight. 
I'm forgetting that Wolverine even exists. Yeah, screw you, Jackman! Star Trek is the real beginning to summer. And what a beginning it is. I foresee incredible profit that will be made on behalf of this movie, and wonderful potential for the practically guaranteed sequel to come. So, if you're looking for something fun to do in the coming weeks, buy a ticket, and boldly go where no Star Trek movie has gone before!!
I'm not a "Trekkie"; I swear! 

1 comment:

  1. Question is, if they keep on making the movies, how do they avoid jumping the shark?