Thursday, May 7, 2009

Movie Review: Star Trek

My first comment after Star Trek concluded was, "That was much better than the other Star Wars prequels!" While this assessment is far from a complete appraisal, it gets to the heart of why the vast majority of its audience will love it, and why a small number of die-hard Trekkies may not.

This isn't to say all Trekkies won't enjoy Star Trek: I expect the vast majority will celebrate its accomplishments. It isn't a matter of the depth of one's devotion that's significant, either: it comes down to what you loved about the original series and what you can do without.

Consider Ebert's review, representative of the six-percent minority of critics on Rotten Tomatoes who didn't like the film. His complaint, in essence, is this: the original Star Trek was thoughtful science fiction, while this is an action movie.

His critique, in some ways, is not unfair. The new film is more adventure than philosophy. While the original was slow and thought-provoking, the pacing here is almost reminiscent of last year's Speed Racer.

And I, for one, enjoyed the hell out of it.

Last week I began rewatching the original Star Trek series on You Tube, and I've been reminded why I love it. While not every episode is perfect, there are moments of brilliance here. And these moments will exist forever - a point not lost on the makers of this picture, by the way, who incorporated the idea into the movie.

These moments would not be improved by bringing them to the big screen. They've been done, and there is no reason to retread this ground. Thought provoking science fiction is not improved by upping the budget and condensing the story into a few hours.

Is this a big-budget action movie with more spectacle than substance? Perhaps, but it is unabashedly so. This is pulp SF at it's best.

And the characters are still here. They've been recast, streamlined, and altered, but always in a manner that honors the originals. The effect is similar to what's been done on the best comic book adaptations. The character on film cannot encapsulate the entirety of the source material, so rather than try, the filmmakers have chosen elements to focus on. The casting is absolutely perfect: I can't think of a single actor who didn't work for me.

A litmus test for this movie is simple: if you enjoyed any aspect of First Contact, you'll love what Abrams has created. Both movies "reduced" Star Trek to an action movie, and both were wondrously entertaining. If you prefer a more recent analogy, it also reminds me of Iron Man, which, through careful streamlining and brilliant casting, impressed all of us last year.

But this is superior to both First Contact and Iron Man. As I said at the start, there is a great deal of Star Wars here: from the string of cliffhangers to the iconic characters and beautiful - and I mean beautiful - sequences. This is an amazing relaunch to a franchise that needed and deserved salvation. On a five Star Wars scale, this movie is deserving of four and a half.

This version of Star Trek may not be deep, but it is absolutely brilliant.

1 comment:

Alexander said...

There were many scenes which had a magnificent attention to detail. Little touches that made them memorable.

My impression was of a ToS episode with a vast budget. I came away with a particular appreciation for two things. First, they executed a cool, functional look to the technology. Second, I found one depiction of alien life absolutely terrifying - something that had been attempted before with Star Trek, through the use of men in rubber suits, to laughable results.