Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Star Trek will live longer, prosper further, with this reinvention

I had a chance to see the new Star Trek movie at a preview event this weekend. It is unbelievably good. Speaking as a die-hard Trekker, who went into the screening expecting to be disappointed and angry when I left the theater, I was not. I was completely impressed with almost every aspect of the movie. Only two things happen in this film that are so far removed from Trek universe canon I had a difficult time accepting them, but even then, they still fit. I won't spoil them for you, but I will post a thread about them once the movie has been out about a week or two to get feedback on them.

The weakest part of the film is, as usual, the villain. Nothing can compare to Khan. Chris Pine does a great job as a new, young Kirk, and he doesn't in any way make it a parody of Shatner. Zachary Quinto is a fantastic Spock. Eric Bana did what he could, I think, with the Nero character. However, the development of that character was incredibly weak, which I blame in part on the intent of the script, which was more to reintroduce the seven primary Star Trek characters and not Nero. The movie far exceeds my expectations in its handling of the Star Trek original seven. I was disappointed not to see a nurse Christine Chapel in the film; however, we got to be blessed one last time with Majel Barrett Roddenberry's voice as the ship's computer.

Leonard Nimoy's Spock, is, as usual, what you would expect. He plays a more mature, more comfortable-as-who-he-is Spock. My biggest gripe is the absolutely illogical way in which he first appears in the film. I have a better chance of winning back-to-back Powerballs without even buying a ticket than the chance encounter filmgoers will witness that brings him into the movie.

Karl Urban's McCoy is probably the closest we see of all the original seven to being extremely true to the original actor's portrayal, but I don't consider it a parody. It's a true interpretation of McCoy. His introduction is hilarious. I just loved how he summarized every single personal detail we learned about his life in the series in one sentence.

Zoe Saldana gives us an Uhura we've never seen before, but one that has always been hinted at beneath the surface. And, she's a sexy Uhura, and looks so much better half-naked than an old Nichelle Nichols did in Star Trek V.

Jon Cho does a great job with Sulu. He has a lot more screen time than Sulu has had outside of Star Trek VI, and he runs with it. Cho has a lot of action scenes, and some good dialogue.

Anton Yelchin steals a few scenes as Chekov, but mostly he's no more than a glorified extra in the film. I wish he had more to do, but like in the original series and throughout the movies, he's more comic relief than anything else.

Which brings me to Scotty. Of all the original series characters, I think he's my most beloved just for what James Doohan did with the role. He clearly had fun with it, and he always had at least one scene that made me laugh. Yet, at the same time, you could tell just how serious he was about the role as well. Simon Pegg, I thought, was a huge gamble to be cast in the role. All I think of when I hear his name is Shawn of the Dead, and let's face it, that movie nor his role in it lead one to believe he would make a good Scotty. When we were already more than halfway through the movie with still no Scotty sightings, I was thinking that maybe he was so bad in the movie the producers had cut all of his scenes. Then, he shows up. Pegg NAILS Scotty. He was dynamic, funny and intelligent. When the movie ended, my biggest regret was Scotty was introduced so late in the film!

A lot of other characters familiar to the Trek universe are introduced throughout the film, and most are fleeting introductions with no new information. With one exception. Bruce Greenwood is a good Capt. Christopher Pike, and die-hard Trekkers will notice the nod to the original Capt. Pike at the end of the movie. In fact, die-hard Trekkers will enjoy this movie on a completely different level than those who are just casual fans or completely new to the Star Trek universe. Tons of Easter Eggs are hidden throughout the movie for die-hard fans, and I'm not going to spoil any of them because that would ruin the fun of spotting them. However, I will say you need to stay and read the credits, because a few are hidden in there as well. For example, Cyrano Jones is credited as the singer of some songs in the movie. If you are a Trekker, you know what that means, if not, you miss the joke, but you aren't cheated of anything, either.

For the first time ever, we see Kirk's mother, but only as she's giving birth. We meet his father as well. Sarek and Amanda appear, and I have to say neither lives up to my expectations of those characters as they were developed by Mark Lenard and Jane Wyatt. Then again, neither has very much screen time, either, so I can live with it.

A number of people make cameo appearances in the film, the most notable of which is the actor who plays the head of Star Fleet Academy. Many people already know who it is, but again, if you don't know, the surprise is fun, so I won't say. Most of the cameos are uncredited, nonspeaking roles, so you have to keep your eye open for them.

Some scenes that haven't already been spoiled by the plethora of trailers on the Web and TV do surprise or enthrall as well or better than those teased. I have to say one of my favorites was the look inside a Vulcan educational institution. The classrooms are the coolest thing they've developed for such a minor scene in a movie. Another good scene is the often-mentioned but never-seen Kobayashi Maru test, which you finally get to see unfold.

And, a couple of the teasers are misleading. You will genuinely be surprised when the entire scene unfolds on the big screen versus what you are led to believe will happen in the trailer.

Whether you are a Star Trek fan or just a fan of good action movies, you'll be delighted when you see this movie. I'm going to watch it again this weekend, only this time, in IMax.

And, I still can't wait.

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