Movie Review - Star Trek

--Written before I saw it.
I am, generally speaking, not a huge fan of reboots, remakes, recycles or rehashes. I mean, how many versions of "Freaky Friday" do we really need? As a writer, I understand writer's block - sitting and staring at the blinking cursor and all. But do we really need to dust off the old "Witch Mountain" scripts?

I am, however, a huge fan of Star Trek. Always have been. My earliest television memories are not of Bugs Bunny, but of James Kirk. (Actually, I was always more of a Scotty man, myself.) I was born during Star Trek's original run, so there's that connection, you see. I've read literally hundreds of Star Trek novels. Can quote every film, even the bad ones. I can tell you the title of a Next Generation episode by watching thirty seconds of the teaser. I even know most episodes of Star Trek: Sellout, I mean, Star Trek: Voyager.

And I am not universally opposed to reboots. The just-ended iteration of Battlestar Galactica is perhaps the best television that has ever graced the small screen, ever. So say we all. But this is Star Trek. This is part of our cultural fabric, the tapestry of who we are. The Great Bird of the Galaxy's visionary, sometimes campy, always provocative sci-fi series has sewn itself deeply into the core of modern society. Your cell phone is proof.

And so it is with as much trepidation as anticipation that I went to see J.J. Abram's reboot of the movie. Granted, Paramount has pretty much trashed the entire franchise ever since Deep Space Nine went off the air. Voyager was pathetic. (BSG was the show Voyager should have been, could have been, but wasn't.) Enterprise showed flashes of the old brilliance in the fourth season, alas, too late. The "novels" are mainly pulp-fiction trash these days. Nemesis was quite possible worse than Star Trek V. (OK, maybe not.) The old girl needs some new life, but is Cloverfield and Lost mastermind Abrams the guy to do it? Can he pull it off?
--Written after I saw it.

Yes, he can.

It's not perfect. But man, is it good. I suspect that the hard-core Trekker might have some issues with it. The overall story arc is a bit... over the top. But its strengths outweigh all that.

Characters: Pretty much a hit. Chris Pine was outstanding as Kirk. He was the perfect hero - receiving more beatings than giving, but giving the big one. Pine's intensity was tempered with just enough swagger for a young James Kirk. Quinto was equally excellent as young Spock, matching a younger Leonard Nimoy's deep, thoughtful gazes. But I really thought Karl Urban owned McCoy. Smack on perfect without being a charactature. I wanted to like John Cho as Sulu, but couldn't. I didn't want to like Tyler Perry as the Academy commandant, but did.

I found both the Uhura and Chekov characters distracting, but loved Simon Pegg as Scotty. And Bruce Greenwood was absolutely perfect casting as Chris Pike. Eric Bana's Nero was compelling, but one-dimensional.

Effects: Ooofa. Wow. I remember being 13 and going to see Star Trek: The Motion Picture on opening day in '79. I remember clearly sitting in the theater, watching that amazing reveal of the new Enterprise. There was no internet then, so it was my first look at it. I found myself wishing I had avoided all looks at the 2009 Enterprise, because the reveal was that good. The effects are frenetic without being chaotic, and Nero's ship remains mysterious enough to be compelling. The high-altitude visuals are stunning, and the space battles tremendous.

Family Friendly: Eh. There is a (to me gratuitous) scene involving Kirk and an Orion cadet. Not only is it misplaced in the canon, but it does not serve to move the story along, except to deliver one small plot point. A couple of minor swears and a lot of smacking around might make you want to keep the littlest ones out of the theater, but that's about it. Spiritual content: zilch.

Accents: I've seen some complaints about the score, but I liked it. Michael Giaccino realized that music was part of the dramatic fabric of the original, and like the original, his score is a little over the top. Likewise, the script contained the right amount of humor; the original was at times ironic, and at times flat-out campy. There are some campy moments here, but they work.

Sets: I'm torn here. I'm not sold on the Apple Store bridge. The corridor sets were cool, but I really disliked the "engineering" decks. J.J., please. Steel I-beams? Light bulbs? And the ship seems way bigger on the inside than the outside. What's up with that? And the turbine room? Turbine room? Those are for speed, right? The atomic batteries are for power? Or is that another rebooted franchise?

Nimoy: Ahh, Nimoy. Brilliant. His best Spock since The Wrath of Khan. Not overdone, not fanboy. Just right.

All in all, it was an excellent film. I'm not keen on some of the liberties J.J. and the boys took with the canon, and some of the casting could have been better. But I liked it more than I thought, and I am more accepting of the "reboot" than expected. And, I'm looking forward to where the franchise goes from here.


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