Star Trek (2009)

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Star Trek (2009)

Post  BoG on Wed Apr 21, 2010 2:12 pm

So.. we see the Enterprise once more gliding through space... a new Enterprise yet again and a new crew - yet also an old crew, old characters. It's a confusing time for Trekkies & Trekkers of the old stripe. The ones who really benefit, when you think about it, are the new fans.  These new fans are unfamiliar with the old show and can simply embrace the mostly playful, usually exciting new storyline presented here. And... some of them chose/will choose the enviable task of getting acquainted with the old TOS episodes and old films out of curiosity. For the rest of us - some of us - there are conflicting issues.
Take a look at the Enterprise pictured above; looks sleek and even beautiful in that shot, doesn't it? Yes.. and it is.  But, that's a surface representation. If we look a little deeper, perhaps gaze at a kind of underside and maybe even into a grimy interior, things may not be so brightly lit.
I've gotta admit - I am a little impressed with the casting. Pine, an unknown (some even call him a nobody), emerges as a charismatic young Kirk; he could have been simply an annoying smart-ass but, for at least most of his scenes, Pine brings an undertone of suppressed rage and force of will to the role - it's a fine combination for a required heroic model.


Quinto - same thing; when we mention suppressed emotions, of course - suppressed passions - the Spock character is probably the most famous for this sort of thing. In a way, we should be a bit tired with all that Vulcan mystique after over 40 years so it's amazing that this new Spock commands our interest yet again. Kirk & Spock - their brief scuffle on the bridge worked, a release for both involved and a more intense version of their fight in the old episode
"This Side of Paradise."

Urban - yes, some of his dialog scenes are strictly 'imitation- De Kelley' but in others he just nails it. Some of his scenes with Pine are a little eerie - I would picture a very young Shatner & Kelley in my head, if just for a few seconds.
The rest: Saldana was a completely new Uhura - nothing recognizable there - and still easy on the eye. Cho had some surprising action scenes. Yelchin pulled off the weird Russian accent - it wasn't just a gag. Pegg's role was a gag, quite one-note - kind of amusing - and the one miscasting; they should have went with an unknown, like the others.


Greenwood was very good as the older captain. Bana didn't really have any opportunity to develop an interesting villain; mostly he sat this one out in sinister mode or briefly jumped into bad-ass mode - a very standard 'dark' villain. And Nimoy? His wasn't just a cameo. But, his heart didn't seem to be in it - gone were the subtle intonations of a pensive, reflective Spock; Nimoy just said the lines, maybe because he had been away from the role for so long.


My problem with some of the details are those known before the film came out - the Enterprise being built on the ground, for example, so that we can see young Kirk gaze at the ship from his motorcycle. These are minor details and can't really make or break a film for me, even if these denote clumsy/lazy writing. No, not even the arbitrary changes to canon and a lack of common sense or internal logic (which we'll get to) derailed the film for me.


What really didn't work for me - and I was astonished to realize this at some point during the 2nd half - was the film's actual structure. The film had me in the first hour: the introductions, the interaction, the scope, the dynamic pacing, the almost nerve-jangling tension as the Enterprise heads out and approaches some ominous threat - by this point, I thought 'OK, I must forget my complaints, my resistance to this new alternate Trekverse; I must get used to these new heroes and embrace them & their off-kilter revised Federation, because this is good!'

But, something happened as the 2nd hour began - I think it started at the point that Pike disappeared (captured by the villain). The film just steadily deflated for me. It's as if it had been moving at 100 mph and then reduced to 75 mph. So, it didn't just simply stop - a fatal flaw of some films - but the incredible momentum built up during the first hour did not escalate and, to really work for me, it really had to.

Instead, there was an escalation of distracting camera movement & technique, very typical TV-styled action, very standard explosions -  some not so standard. Abrams and the editors chose to slow things down at critical points near the end, focusing on extended shots of, as an example, that red liquid and strange, explosive activity which was hard to make out. The 3rd act just didn't measure up to the previous two and some shots were derivative of the new "Battlestar: Galactica" series which ended recently.

There are some fairly serious flaws to the story besides. The 'revelation' of the Spock-Uhura relationship is silly, unconvincing and arbitrary, and I even read that the writers admitted to concocting this plot turn on a whim, always a poor reason for story developments. Also arbitrary seems
Spoiler:
the elimination of the planet Vulcan and its 6 billion inhabitants;
it's like they tacked this on for shock effect - I did mention above how I might be getting weary of Vulcan culture rammed our way over so many years but I didn't mean
Spoiler:
'let's just get rid of the whole race!' I guess someone(s) was more tired of Vulcans than I was, but really! And, this nearly genocidal act will probably outrage long-time Trekkers more than the characters here - old fans will now have to get used to a Federation without a planet Vulcan; the heroes seemed somewhat blase about this destruction, as if it happens once a year in the quadrant (maybe?).



Nero's motivations for almost universal Armageddon remain elusive & murky; he blames Spock & Vulcans for his loss but they tried to help him; others simply explain him away as crazy (there's a 4-issue comic book series, Countdown, which takes place in Nero's future time and sort of explains his backstory; but, it's kind of a problem for a film that it needs this comic book to flesh out a pivotal character). Spock's explanation of future events and Nero's troublesome ways was likewise vague and clumsy. Also clumsy is the script: after Nero arrives from the future during Kirk's birth he then spends the next 25 years in seclusion somewhere waiting for old Spock to arrive. So, no one in the Federation tried to track him down or find him? Did he just hibernate in some super cave somewhere?
 
Now, when we speak of interiors not matching the slick surface gloss of a starship's exterior, I must also be critical of how certain indoor locations are depicted, which falls under production design. I refer to all the piping and tubing which informs some of the sets, in sharp contrast to other places like the bridge; this was the result of filming in a beer factory, which Abrams considered himself lucky to gain access to. These were meant to be engine rooms or water-recycling rooms on the starship - any scenes in these just threw me out of the picture. Likewise, some sets on the huge ship of Nero's looked like they were patched together with leftover scrap from an old battleship or something - and this ship was from a far future? OK, it was 'just' a mining ship - and they never explained how even a future mining ship could be so powerful; oh, yeah - see the comic book.

Lastly, Kirk's career progress from cadet to captain in the span of basically a day reverts this to some juvenile space opera that Heinlein might have rushed out from his typewriter while tipsy on Klingon blood wine. I mean, Kirk wasn't even an ensign as the mission began! Yes, there was a field promotion to first officer (sudden senility from Pike?), Kirk's then successful actions and a recent depletion of captains in the ranks of Starfleet. Right. Right, sir! The new franchise would have still been better off setting up the next film as Kirk's ascension to that high rank, in a couple of years time. Even Rico in Starship Troopers, the most flagrant example of comically berserk promoting, only made it to Lieutenant.  

But, speaking of juvenile space operas, though I mentioned Battlestar: Galactica above as being copied, this new Trek film obviously takes many of its elements from the highly successful Star Wars movies. Everything from Scotty's pint-sized assistant (what WAS up with that?) to the swordfights at great heights to the giant creatures on icy planets and bars filled with aliens were 'borrowed' from those big box office films. Well, I did find out months before the film opened that Abrams was a Star Wars fan so no surprise. And, I guess it worked as planned - the box office for this film was pretty good. BoG's Score: 8 out of 10
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Trek Behind the Scenes

Post  BoG on Tue Nov 04, 2014 9:53 pm

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