Monday, May 11, 2009
Movie Review: Star Trek
DISCLAIMER: Way back in 8th Grade, my BFF told me about this cool new series on TV that took place in space and featured a captain, a doctor, and a pointy-eared alien who was completely logical.
"I can't describe it. You have to watch it," she said.
So I did. And I was hooked. As was Sis#1 and Bro#1, since the rest of the siblings were way young at the time. Or hadn't been born. Dad must have enjoyed it as well--or there was nothing better on--because he didn't object when we turned it on. And Dad was the final authority on what we watched in those days of one b&w TV!
When NBC threatened to cancel it after the second season, I wrote a petition and collected signatures from all my fellow nerdettes in high school. This was not as brave as it seemed as it was an all-girl Catholic high school, so the social stigma of being a nerdette was minimal.
The same BFF bought tickets for me to attend one of the very first Star Trek conventions, held at the Oakland Convention Center. We were out of college by then. Hubs, who was then merely Serious BF, came with me.
But I don't consider myself a "Trekker" or a "Trekkie," although I do have a copy of the original Star Trek Concordia and blueprints for the original Enterprise somewhere in the boxes of books in the attic. And we did take DS#1 and DD#2 (who was a preschooler) to the "Science of Star Trek" exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences many years ago, where I bought a rubber stamp with the logo of Starfleet Academy. But I don't own a costume or pointed ears or a tribble. And I can't repeat the dialogue from past episodes word-for-word.
I'm just letting you know, up front, that I was well-disposed to like this new re-imagining of Star Trek from the get-go.
REVIEW: The movie starts with a bang--literally. The U.S.S. Kelvin is transmitting information about an anomaly they discovered back to Starfleet (and are being told that their readings "don't make sense"), when there is a flash and what looks like black icicles emerges from the center of the "storm." After firing at the Kelvin and nearly destroying her, she is hailed by the captain, Nero (Eric Bana) of this strange-looking vessel, who tells them he wants to know where Ambassador Spock is. The captain of the Kelvin protests he doesn't know anything about an "Ambassador Spock." Nero then demands the Kelvin's captain shuttle over for a "discussion." The captain agrees--he has no choice, really--but not before leaving the con in the hands of his XO, Lt. Kirk, along with instructions to abandon ship if things go wrong.
And go wrong they do. The captain is killed shortly after boarding the black ship.
Kirk issues the order to abandon ship and everyone races to the pods, including his wife, who is in labor with their first child. He reassures her that he will join her. But, of course, Things Go Horribly Wrong, and Lt. Kirk ends up piloting the Kelvin into the black ship in an attempt to blow it up. But not before he hears the cry of his newborn son and tells his wife to name the baby "Jim."
Next scene is Iowa where a very young Jim Kirk has taken an antique muscle car for a joyride that doesn't end well. Jim is established as a wild child.
Contrast that with young Spock, taunted at school for being half-human. He calmly handles the taunts and jeers until his mother is insulted. He completely loses his cool, going after the three bullies who are older and bigger. Later, Sarek tries to explain to his son that it's not that Vulcans don't have emotions; in fact, their emotions are too strong, so they have had to learn self-control for the sake of survival.
Back to Iowa. It's several years later and the young-adult Jim (Chris Pine) is at a bar frequented by Starfleet types. He tries to pick up a hot young Starfleet cadet who is not buying any of his lines, and gets into a fight with a male cadet who is trying to stop Jim from harassing his fellow cadet. A bar fight ensues. Jim fights gamely, but is overwhelmed. The fight is finally broken up by Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood).
Capt. Pike sits down with young Jim and challenges him to make something of himself by joining Starfleet. Jim accepts the challenge and off we go.
The new actors channel their predecessors quite well, in particular Leonard McCoy (Karl Urban) and Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg). The dialogue includes some favorites from The Original Series (TOS), which caused laughter in the theater among those of us in the know. And there are sly references to characters from Enterprise and First Contact. However, this is NOT Your Parents' Star Trek. As Spock Prime (Leonard Nimoy) tells the young Jim Kirk, this is an alternate reality. And because it is, the writers will have the freedom to move away from the Original Canon. With that freedom, however, comes an awesome responsibility to write well and to keep the stories consistent with this new canon.
DD#2 came with us. She claims she has never seen TOS, although I don't see how she missed the re-runs. She enjoyed this movie and is urging all her friends to see it. She was able to follow who the characters were and their relationships. Her questions afterwards were kind of interesting, for example, why is Star Fleet Academy headquartered in San Francisco? (When I told her that I thought it was because San Francisco was where the U.N. was founded, which was Gene Roddenberry's model for the United Federation of Planets, she was amazed. She didn't know that. Somehow that fact was glossed over in U.S. History in 7th Grade. I was more interested in whether the Golden Gate Bridge would end up destroyed yet again.)
The movie is fast-paced, which helped me ignore the plot holes. Yes, I want to see this again. In fact, I want to see it in IMAX so I can really appreciate the special effects. And, no, this movie doesn't depend solely on the special effects. The relationship of the characters is given equal weight. The story isn't as clever as the best, but it's acceptable.
The fights are physical and the combatants don't magically lose their bruises and cuts the next day. There is one seduction scene that implies Jim and his green-skinned female companion are going to have sex, but they are interrupted. That same scene features young females in bra and panties. There is some heavy kissing. I think it deserves its PG-13 rating.
On the March Hare scale: 5 out of 5 Golden Tickets
(crossposted at The Mad Tea Party)