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« Dylan, Poe, and Me | Main | Looking forward, looking back »
Monday
May112009

Star Trek

I actually went to see this on the first day, but just haven’t had time to post my review until now.

 

“Star Trek”
Directed by:  J.J. Abrams
Written by:  Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman
Based on:  Star Trek original series by Gene Roddenberry
Bad Robot, Paramount Pictures, Spyglass Entertainment

 

Stardate: 5.07.09

I am receiving a distress signal. It is originating from the vicinity of my heart.

This is not my mother’s Star Trek. It’s not even *my* Star Trek. But somehow, I think that might be okay.

J.J. Abrams, creator of Lost and Alias has taken the characters from the original Star Trek series and pulled them into a rebooted universe that has the flavor of the original and the flair of some of Abrams’ showier work. Through clever use the usual suspects of sci-fi, time travel and alternate universes, Abrams gives himself the freedom to work within the framework of the classic television and film franchise without being too constricted. And the result is a film that is finely crafted, honest to the original work from which it is drawn, and fun.

The details are impeccable, from the hideous pea-green uniforms to the 1960’s retro future ship’s bridge. If we were living in the future 40 years ago, this is definitely what it looked like. Most importantly, the film stays on track by keeping the characterization of our beloved sci-fi heroes intact and human. There are no caricatures here, only carefully crafted impressions of the originals.

The relatively unknown Chris Pine (Just My Luck, Smokin’ Aces) is a superb James T. Kirk. Pine’s young Captain is a boyish, brash, charming, and irascible brat with a chip on his shoulder and fire in his belly. He also manages to pull off Kirk’s fabled womanizing without looking like a fickle jerk—no small feat.

Zachary Quinto (Heroes) is so astounding as the half-human, half-vulcan Spock that it’s hard to believe this is his first feature film. His characterization is so spot-on that even in a scene the young actor shares with the venerable Leonard Nimoy, where the young and elderly Spocks come face-to-face, the audience is left breathless and impressed.

All the actors manage to embed their characters with subtle traits created by the original actors, but still make the performances enough their own that we don’t feel we are watching someone imitating another actor. An excellent supporting cast including Bruce Greenwood as Captain Christopher Pike, John Cho as Sulu, and Simon Pegg as Scotty rounds out the set of heroes.

Still, for all its red shirts, dilithium crystals, and warp drives, Abrams’ Trek bears the same resemblance to Roddenberry’s original series that “Eleanor Rigby” bears to “I Want To Hold Your Hand”—it’s the same band, but a non-fan might not know it if you didn’t tell them. Abrams has pulled off the remarkable feat of staying true to the original work but making an entirely new, unknown story.

The film’s one truly weak link is Eric Bana as the tepid villain Nero. Bana is no Khan. Hell, he’s not even *Shaka* Khan. Thankfully, Bana’s scenes are few and short, so audiences are mercifully spared the long-winded statements of terrible purpose usually imposed by such tyrants. And because of this, the film is spared from what is usually Bana’s crowning achievement—single-handed destruction of every film he’s ever made.

And that distress signal? It stems from a sense of loyalty that seems to be wavering. The original Star Trek series is, and always has been, my favorite. But I feel myself being pulled towards Abrams’ rebooted universe like a spaceship drawn into a black hole. For now, I’ll say I’m keeping my options open. But let’s hope that the newest “old generation” of Star Trek lives long, and prospers.

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