|Genre:||Science Fiction & Fantasy|
However, I wasn't introduced to the original cast of characters until my family got a VHS player and we started renting all these great movies to watch at home (yes, enough with the "did they have electricity back then, granpa?" jokes). It was during this time that I first saw "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" and finally, finally got the idea that all the TOS fans had all along. Where Star Trek TNG focused on fun (for a geek anyway) psuedo-science and singular character arcs, Star Trek TOS was all about the holy trinity; Kirk, Spock, and Bones. Their interactions with each other and their reactions to the amazing stimuli around them.
The scene between Kirk and Nimoy when they're asked if they like Italian... classic. Later, I was able to watch the other Star Trek movies, including "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan", where McCoy and Spock get into a heated argument about the ethical dilemma posed by a weapon that can potentially overwrite all life on a world with all new lifeforms. None of these actors have had any real success by themselves (I just saw Sulu as sensei to 3 ninja cheerleaders), but TOGETHER, they work.
So how does the new movie stack up to the old one?
Surprisingly, it's stacks up very well. Great in fact. I mean really, really entertaining. It has all the hallmarks of a great blockbuster action movie (big budget, big explosions, big green breasts, big ships, big name director) so the action junkies are covered. It's a "re-imagining" so you don't need to know 40 years of continuity to understand it, so you youngsters are covered. And us old farts will still enjoy it because it gives long-time fans the nods to characters they know and love as well as a few in-jokes that only we can understand. They give us an excuse to scoff at new fans, don't-you-know?
I don't hide the fact that I detested Michael Bay's Transformers, but I was able to put my distaste for his adaptation into words after seeing J.J. Abrams vision of Star Trek. While both are "re-imaginings", Bay took "Transformers" and did more than modernize it. He emptied out everything fans loved about the characters and caricatured them for his movie. What can you tell me about any of the Autobots other than they turn into cool cars? Did any of you feel devastated when you saw Jazz ripped in half? No. You didn't. Because he was nothing more than a token transforming robot, a big excuse to get you to "ooo" and "ahh". As if Megan Fox wasn't enough to make us do that. Pft.
J.J. Abrahms didn't make the same mistake here. The characters are all there and intact in his adaptation of Star Trek. Bones is still the Grumpy Gus with the atrocious bedside manner (Urban's impression is scary, by the way), Spock is still the emotionless powder keg ready to blow, and Kirk is still the confident, rebellious upstart who belongs in the Captain's chair no matter what he thinks. The others are all there too. Overachieving but sexy-as-hell Uhura, bumbling but eager Checkov, kinda dorky but smooth Sulu (now with kung-fu action!), and the funny Scotsman, Simon Pegg as the ever-loving Scotty. Granted they don't get as much screen time as the other three, but their little bits are just icing on the cake that is this film.
Casting is spot on, as is the acting effort by the cast. Like Lord of the Rings, you can really believe that these fantastic events are part of a real universe. Not only do they convey the iconic personalities of their respective characters, they still manage to make it fresh. I really can't say enough about Karl Urban's portrayal of the abrasive cynic McCoy. Watching him inject things into people with abandon is hilarious. Pine is a gem whose arrogant composure during the Kobayashi Maru excercise (yes, Trek fans, the historic taking of the test!) is just absolute fun to watch. Thankfully, I stopped watching Heroes before this Sylar guy showed up so I don't have to suffer through the associations others go through when they see Quinto's Spock. I just get to enjoy seeing him wail on Kirk. What a hoot.
Storywise, I don't think fans will be dissapointed. I'd say it's part "Star Trek: Generations" (but without Shatner cheesing things up), and part "Star Trek: Nemesis" with a pinch of string theory and alot of summer spectaculariffic scenes. Yes, I had to make up a word for how good they are.
The writers took a few liberties with the main Star Trek continuity (Star Trek's Earth 616, if you will) so that they could write about another one where the Star Fleet Academy is populated by hot Orion Slave Girls in lingerie. A little time-hopping and a token vengeful villian and BOOM! new Star Trek universe. Retcon means never having to say you fucked up, but in this case I think it works, especially since this franchise badly needed the re-launch. The re-worked reality means that Abrams is free to do just about anything he wants for the sequel and not get flamed by the fan boy collective.
Effects... what can I say? Abrams knows his shit. Things look sleek and futuristic (they did away with alot of the retro dials and crap you found on the old set), but sufficiently low tech to diffrentiate it from the TNG timeline. The ships are something. The Romulan mining ship looks like a behemoth porcupine (but a really cool one), while the new Enterprise looks like a souped up roadster (I can imagine Kirk alone on the bridge, after serriptiously looking to see if any people are there, quietly going "vroom, vroom, vroooooom!"). They've gone for the if-the-camera-is-shaking-then-its-gots-to-be-real! look that Battlestar Galactica beat into the ground, but honestly, it doesn't detract from your enjoyment. I would not recommend watching it in an IMAX theatre, though. There's a ridiculous amount of stuff on screen at any given time and trying to keep track of it all on a screen 6 stories high is a real pain.
Aside from the visual effects, there's also a ton of practical stuff, from set design to fight choreography that'll stun you. My jaw dropped at the first look at the bridge. Watching Sulu kick ass 22,500 miles above the surface of Vulcan is awsome. The shipyards, academy, Vulcan, the Ice planet, all of them are great environments. Digital matte paintings or not, they really went all out. The whole thing is pure eye candy for scifi nuts, action junkies, and film geeks alike.
The only real drawback in this whole thing was Eric Bana. It was surprising, since I've got a lot of man love for this guy and have enjoyed every one of his movies to this point (well, I enjoyed this one too actually, but I'm sure you get my drift). The thing is, he doesn't make a very convincing villian. Nero seems kind of like me-has-big-ship-badguy-will-smash! So very boring compared to Khan or Shinzon. Now those bastards were scary! These gangsta Romulans are kind of like an after thought of the movie and don't inspire any real dread in the audience. Sure you're agog at their actions, but the aliens themselves could have been the dude you met yesterday. While that's scary in real life, it doesn't fly in a sci-fi thrill ride.
My opinion, though, is that this is the movie to watch this year. Forget Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, or X-men Origns: Wolverine or G.I. Joe or Watchmen. This is the one to beat in '09 and the studios are gonna be hard pressed to do it. So far, I don't see a contender among any of the movies set for release this year.
Live Long and Prosper, dudes.