Movies/Entertainment,  Off the Shelf

Off the Shelf…’Star Trek’

I can proudly say that after years of being a “born and raised” Star Wars fan, I am now starting to lean the other way…no, not the Dark Side, but I believe I am becoming a “neo-Trekker”. Weird, but this is the best ‘sci-fi’ film I’ve seen in a while and it really got me considering the other Space Opera property that I had overlooked for so long. Also Star Wars has just become continually disappointing since Episode I, so for me this is a welcomed change of pace. So here we are with J.J. Abrams‘ masterful direction of a Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman screenplay (we’ll forgive them for their Revenge of the Fallen script) which was just awesome. He breathed new life in to the franchise and brought hoards of new fans, like myself, on board the Enterprise for a kick-ass space adventure!!

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Now this is how you reinvigorate something. Boy was I (rather unexpectedly) a big fan of Star Trek in the theaters, but even more so after seeing this on Blu Ray. J.J. Abrams knocked this out of the park, and I can honestly say that I am now on-board with anything that has his name attached (hell, I even like Fringe). While not a fan of the original show (in light of my upbringing), I think Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto were cast to perfection in their iconic roles. I don’t have to be a Trekkie to understand just how big a pair of shoes they had to fill. With the same success that Brandon Routh had in capturing Christopher Reeve’s essence, much the same can be said for their work in this “Kirk and Spock” origin story. I believe I have the liberty of knowing only the basics of the Star Trek universe which made this feature film a bit of an unbiased step into unfamiliar water. That way, all the little (fan-oriented) details that may have eluded me actually made the movie, as a whole, entirely enjoyable as I was able to see this story unfold with fresh eyes and ears. Boy, I never thought I’d say that I “liked” a Star Trek movie, but I didn’t…truth is I “loved” it.

Above all the elements that worked and really stood out, the lasting bond of friendship that Spock and Kirk begin to develop in this film really hit me. The only other reference to this deep-seeded fraternal storyline was in an episode of Futurama. So while I haven’t been following these two characters over the last the 40+ years, I still felt what this movie was trying to accomplish which was to identify and establish that friendship.

OK, now that I got the mushy stuff out of the way, I’ll get on to the action…which was so intense that I can forgive all the “lens flares” that ran ad-nauseum. CGI has come a long way and worked absolute wonders on the old NCC-1701 as this rendition of the Enterprise was both believable and awe inspiring…even with just the glimpses we got to see of the shipyards in the teaser trailers. The plot was entertaining, engaging, definitely not condescending (to all us non-fans) and if you’ll excuse the pun, went at “warp speed. This is what they mean when people say a film was a “roller-coaster ride“. Star Trek was paced perfect, and while I found some (what I thought were) gaps/inconsistencies with the plot, the screenplay worked and the crew of the Enterprise (nearly achieving “ensemble cast” status) embarked on their first mission with the kind of hiccups you’d expect with rookies…and it was so much damn fun!!

Now, the perfect complement to the visuals and the ‘jaw-dropping’ sets and locales was Michael Giaccino’s score. It was incredible and really gave it the emotional impact as well as a reverent weight that just worked. It even made me feel like I had been a fan my whole life if that makes sense to anyone. However, one draw back to having Giaccino score a film is that I find his themes (while impacting and continually some of the best movie music I’ve heard in recent years) do get a bit repetitious. Much like James Horner, Giaccino creates great and very catchy themes but they do get stretched out too long without much more than just variations on the main theme. Still he’s one of the best around and with his beautiful work on Pixar films I’m eager to hear much more from him.

Some obscure bits I still am note sold on were with the casting of minor roles. In the case of Eric Bana and Clifton Collins Jr., I can’t really tell if having them in the role, or just using some unknown actors instead, would have proved to work better in telling this story. As villains, I found they were neither threatening or charismatic. Sometimes you want to either “cringe at”, or “root for” the bad guy and with the entire Romulon race, I found neither emotion. Was it necessary to get any named talent at all playing the Romulons? My guess would be no, as you couldn’t really tell who they were in the first place, and even when you found out, it didn’t get that big of a reaction, like “oh, look, Eric Bana is the bad guy“. But maybe that was just me.

Also who in the hell though putting Winona Ryder and Tyler Perry in this movie was a good idea?? Perry, I guess, I could tolerate as his part was very minimal, but Ryder (who I’ve never really cared for) was, to me, a mis-cast as her wooden acting and similarly limited screen presence failed to elicit an emotional response (little Vulcan humor for you fans). Also, she had too little interaction with Quinto to see and empathize for the bond which he felt for her. I felt more for Thomas Wayne in Batman Begin than I did for Amanda Grayson and they had about the same amount of screen time. Oh well, the rest of the movie more than made up for my small little knit picking issues. I guess if that’s the case I’d have to point out the oddities surrounding my favorite casting decisions where Simon Pegg (British) played Montgomery ‘Scotty’ Scott and John Cho (Korean) played Hikaru Sulu. Oh well, it all worked in the end didn’t it?

G-S-T RULING:

While being another home-run script from Kurtzman and Orci (proving to me at least that they made up for Revenge of the Fallen), I still think, viewing it for a 3rd time, that the story’s weak plot points and not entirely threatening heavies were also forgivable because of the nature of this origin story. You can’t really have the rookie crew of the universe’s most famous ship saving the whole universe (although just the one Romulon ship proved very daunting and intimidating) on their first go-round. Re-introducing the beloved characters for both a fresh take and a way to introduce them to new generation was genius. Especially for me because it sort of let me in on the ground floor to learn what made this series so popular in the first place.

So following the success of Batman Begins and Casino Royale (and similar approach) with an “origin story”, the winning choice for this movie was going  back to the beginning. While reboots and remakes abound in Hollywood circles, this one was an acceptable (and necessary) effort and one I plan to enjoy again and again.