Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Summing up the new Star Trek movie in one sentence: Lens flare, camera shake and the complete decimation of the last 43 years of Star Trek chronology in just over two hours...
A warning before we go any further... this is possibly going to be a much more spoilery review than usual. Normally I like to avoid as much spoiler action as possible in my reviews, but my whole problem with this movie is because of it's central premise, so I'm going to have to bring it up.
And I would also like to add that while I have seen every episode of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager, I don't know that I've ever seen a whole episode of the original Star Trek series, and I don't own any Vulcan ears or consider myself a hardcore Trekkie.
Just so we're clear... fan, not fanatic.
First we'll start with the things I did like... the cast was actually surprisingly good, I had no problems with that at all (and I thought I might because a number of them are people I recognise from other things and that's sometimes jarring)...
Zachary Quinto made a very good Spock. Yes, he was still somewhat Sylar around the edges, but it worked for the character. Also, Zoe Saldana made a hell of a fine Uhura (and not just because of my somewhat inexplicable love of sexy African American women)... and there's a whole relationship angle with her character that's weird, but just kinda hot. Possibly the only person who did seem a little bit of an odd fit was Karl Urban as McCoy... he wasn't bad, but maybe I've just seen him in too many other roles... and he also seemed to be very much cast against physical type.
My personal favourite though was the highly adorable Anton Yelchin as Chekov... complete with an actual Russian accent (at last!), but still with Chekov's signature mangled "V's as W's". He's got that whole perky little puppy thing going on (as evidenced by a scene of him running down the corridor to the transporter room), and it totally works for the character.
Big fat acting snaps also need to go to a totally unrecognisable Winona Ryder. I didn't even know she was IN the movie until her name popped up in the credits at the end and I just sat there making a confused face going "What the fuck?".
And I was surprised by how much I didn't hate Eric Bana as Nero. I'm not really that big of a fan of his and I thought his presence might have soured my experience a little bit. Not so, and he was actually a little bit hot in his dark contacts, tattoos and designer stubble. It was slightly disappointing though that Ben Cross didn't have even a tenth of the distinctive style, charisma and class of the late Mark Lenard. In the same vein, discovering that Captain Kirk's parents are the dude who used to be on Home and Away and the chick from House was possibly more amusing than it was supposed to be... although that kind of explains a lot.
Which kind of brings us around to Chris Pine as Kirk. He's arrogant, he's irritating, he needs a good smack in the mouth... however he does appear to fill out a pair of Starfleet boxerbriefs quite nicely, and eventually he ends up being quite likeable and charismatic. Pretty much everything you'd expect from James Tiberius Kirk. The preteen Kirk on the other hand just needs the smack (and some more character development to explain why he's such a damn brat... or alternatively just lose that entire scene).
I was also pretty impressed with the sets... mostly the Enterprise, because it's the most recognisable. The bridge was very bright and shiny and pretty, as it should be... and I think the Engineering department finally looked like it should have looked all along... like a giant industrial refinery of some kind (which is where I'm guessing they filmed it).
For the most part the effects are outstanding, as you would expect... pretty much everything that happens in space is awesome, but there are some other duds... the two alien beasts on Random Plot Device Planet (I can't be bothered looking up the name of it... it's convered with ice and just down the galactic block from Vulcan) are a bit naff (and, you know, feel a little bit tacked on at the last minute).
I'm also curious as to why, with the rich and diverse tapestry of alien life forms that exist within the Star Trek Universe they would go with only one recognisable (to me anyway) alien species (okay, two if you count Vulcans, but other than the ears they LOOK human). The others seemed to be random stuff that they threw together at 3am in the makeup trailer, and a CGI eye enhanced freak that made me a little nauseous.
And since we've now obviously moved on to the things I didn't like, lets just revisit my opening statement...
Lens flare. The question needs to be asked, why? And if the answer involves the words "style", "realism" or "artistic" then I'm going to hurt somebody.
Camera shake. Say what you like about the ten Star Trek movies that came before this one, but 99% of the time you could tell what was going on in any given scene since the camera stayed where it was supposed to and wasn't shaking all over the place for no good reason. See also the above question about why and the list of unacceptable responses. I mean, really, they invented the steadicam rig for a reason!
The complete decimation of the last 43 years of Star Trek chronology in just over two hours. See, this is where I really have a problem with this movie. And for those of you who don't like spoilers, this is where you need to stop reading.
My problem is with the entire central premise of this movie. What they've essentially done is "reboot" the entire Star Trek cannon. They've destroyed things that weren't destroyed, they've introduced a character to a time period he has no business being in, they've robbed us of the possibility of certain beloved characters from ever appearing (in theory anyway, if you think about this time travel stuff too much your brain starts to leak out of your ears). And why? Because they were lazy.
They introduced a time travel element to a story that didn't really need a time travel element. If they had wanted to give Star Trek the "Batman Begins Treatment" and start the story over again without all the baggage and necessity for anal retentive continuity, then do it... but to shoehorn in the reason it's all happening is that Character A came from Time Period 2 to Time Period 1 and changed everything is not only lazy but it smacks of a "now we can go off and make whatever new Star Trek movies we like without having to worry too much about continuity" thought process.
And as a viewer, once that particular point is made clear in the movie, I felt cheated. I then assumed that by the end the timeline was going to be reset, and everything that I'd just experienced was never going to have happened and I felt cheated. And while that's not what they did, I wasn't impressed with the whole "alternate timeline" thing.
Okay... all you spoilerphobes can start reading again now...
Having said all that, and while large chunks of it did annoy me quite a bit, it wasn't a bad movie... particularly the first third or so. As a whole though, it's flawed certainly, but reasonably entertaining.
Also just one last thing... remember that that guy still possibly has that bug thing in his head... I'm just saying, it might be important later, okay...
yani's rating: 6 "wictors" out of 10