07 May 2009

REVIEW: "Star Trek"

The wait is over…

Star Trek roared onto movie and IMAX screens tonight as the film received it’s general release. While I am preparing an article for my column over at TrekMovie.com on the film’s adaptation by Alan Dean Foster, I wanted to present my review of the film here in greater detail. The following review is broken down on several levels, and will be spoiler-laden. Reader beware. All assessments are on a five point scale.

MAIN STORY – 1

If you’ve seen Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, you’ve seen a lot of this movie. Nero (Eric Bana) is a Romulan miner whose wife (among billions of others) is killed when a supernova wipes out Romulus. This sets in motion a desire for pure revenge that will only be quenched when Spock is made to equally suffer for his perceived sins. Just bare Bana’s chest and you have a near clone of Khan. Such a pity to rely on the ‘horrible baddy with personal vendetta’ line to bring about a new era in Trek.

ACTING – 3

Most of the acting in Star Trek is very good, though a few folks stand out. Karl Urban (McCoy) easily walks away with the best performance of the film, with Zoe Saldana (Uhura) coming in a close second. Both Chris Pine (Kirk) and Zachary Quinto (Spock) deliver good performances that bode well for the inevitable sequel. Chris Hemsworth (Kirk, Sr.) delivers an outstanding –if all too brief – performance as Kirk’s father, with Jennifer Morrison (Kirk’s mother) doing an equally amazing job. Their work together in the first major pivotal scene in the film is some of the best acting in the entire flick, and will almost certainly make any fan get misty-eyed. Ben Cross (Sarek) would be a very welcome retention in any future film. His work was very much his own, but also very much what one would expect from the father of Mr. Spock. Winona Ryder’s take on Spock’s mother was fair enough, though given the amount of her screen time that was cut out of the film, it’s hard to make a good judgment on her work in the role from what we see.

Bruce Greenwood’s portrayal of Captain Christopher Pike is something of a 50/50 proposition. While I accept that the movie’s function was to get people to accept a new cast and crew for a new series of Star Trek adventures, Pike really winds up with the short end of the stick. Greenwood plays well a role that comes across feeling very compromised due to the story’s service of Kirk and Spock. As a major fan of Christopher Pike, I was terribly disappointed with how he was used, but find myself immediately and instantly placing Greenwood’s Pike in place of Hunter’s (no disrespect intended to Jeffrey Hunter, as his Pike was excellent, but there was something a little extra about how Greenwood played the part.)

Simon Pegg's (Scotty) performance was acceptable, if not a bit over the top; and John Cho (Sulu) was also acceptable. While Sulu was given more to do this time out, I still feel more could be done with his part in the future. Turning Pegg and Cho into deeper characters will only help their roles in future films.

Leonard Nimoy’s (Spock ‘Prime’) was touching to see on screen, even if it suffers from the direction of the film. He still has the acting chops to pull off the most endearing role in Star Trek history, even after forty-five years (the first pilot, “The Cage” was shot in 1964).

Bana (Nero) and Ayel (Collins, Jr.) are simply cardboard cutout villain and henchman, who could easily have been played by anyone else. The fact that they won’t be in a sequel is no great loss. And, since continuity is now totally open to reformulation, I look forward to finding a way to jettison Anton Yelchin’s Chekov, mainly because he was basically a 1st season TNG Wesley Crusher with a wery, wery bad Wussian accent. I like Yelchin. I hate his take on Chekov.

SCIENCE – 1

Besides getting some technical advice on Saturn’s moon, Titan, and reminding the special effects artists that space is a three-dimensional environment, what the heck did the filmmakers bother to hire a science advisor for? The science is awful. There are so many inconsistencies in the ‘science’ of this new Star Trek that it would make your heads spin to just think about it. How did Nero and Spock get thrown back in time? A black hole you say? Really? And what about this red matter business – one little syringe full and ‘poof’, you get a black hole? Warping from Earth to Vulcan in, what, an hour or two? Seeing Vulcan destroyed from light years away while standing on Delta Vega? Delta Vega (regardless of its location) back to earth in under ten minutes? ‘Transwarp Beaming”? Come on! This Star Trek outing isn’t Science Fiction, it’s just fiction.

THE LOOK – 3

I love the more formal (gray and red) academy uniforms, and even the Kelvin era uniforms look pretty good. I don’t care for the new take on the TOS uniforms, the Apple Store bridge, the Titanic-esque engine room, the fan blades everywhere, and the hideous outfits that the Admirals at the Academy were wearing (as well as that horrible TMP-esque business that Pike wore at the end of the film). Admittedly, however, the new uniforms tend to blend out in wide shots, only becoming truly annoying in close-ups. Oh, and the moon boots, they have to go. The Vulcans are well designed, and their planet is amazing. San Francisco appears to be a bit busy, but otherwise OK. Nero’s ship, the Narada, is just plain crazy looking, and the crew is all decked out in typical baddie attire.

PRODUCT PLACEMENT – 0

A Nokia car phone… A Budweiser at the bar… I don’t want product placement in my Star Trek. Epic Fail.

SPECIAL EFFECTS – 4

This is a summer action flick, it has to have great SFX. While I still hate the use of CGI, it is pretty good in this film (though, ironically, I prefer the CGI in “Nemesis” better). Some scenes are very obvious (long shots of the fighting on the drilling rig in painful particular), but for the most part, the CG is pretty seamless with the live action. The Narada was an overkill, future Spock’s ‘jellyfish’ was about the most annoying ship I have ever seen in a Star Trek film or episode, and the transporter effect was abysmal. My opinion of the new Enterprise softened a bit, though I still think improvements could have been made to the ship…

DIRECTION, EDITING, and PACING – 2.5

For the most part, director J.J. Abrams did a very good job, as long as you don’t mind lens flares. My main objection to his directing style centers around his use of Nimoy’s Spock, who seems constantly rushed in every scene. Is this a direction or editing issue? I can’t tell, but it limit’s Nimoy’s effectiveness in the role. A particularly bad decision is the mind-meld sequence between Nimoy and Pine that simply fell flat with me. The misuse of Nimoy's time on screen is a absolute disappointment.

OVERALL – 2.5

The movie is a fun action flick, and I’ll definitely go and see it again; but I, both as a fan and as a person who wanted to see a complete reboot, find the film to be a disappointment. That being said, the ending of the film aboard the Enterprise sets us up for an adventure that can be worthy of the Star Trek name in the future. I think that Orci, Kurtzman, and company can deliver such a film now that the business of re-establishing the Star Trek universe has been completed.

MY NEW RANKING OF TREK FILMS:

As it stands this morning, after seeing Trek XI once...

  • 11. Nemesis (F)
  • 10. Generations (D-)
  • 09. Insurrection (D)
  • 08. The Voyage Home (C)
  • 07. First Contact (C)
  • 06. "Star Trek" (The new film) (C+)
  • 05. The Final Frontier (B)
  • 04. The Search for Spock (B)
  • 03. The Wrath of Khan (A)
  • 02. The Motion Picture (A)
  • 01. The Undiscovered Country (A+)

I am sure this will change in the future.

3 comments:

Len_ May 9, 2009 at 8:10 AM  

Sorry, the "inconsistencies" of the new film are so minor, that they didn't bother me at all. They were outweighed by the faster past and more up-to-date
everything on the new film. I give it an A+, and think this is going to successfully reboot the franchise.

Nomad May 10, 2009 at 9:48 PM  

it would seem that Chris Pine's Capt. Kirk encapsulates all that Capt. Kirk was meant to be more than William Shatner's version

Murasaki August 4, 2009 at 1:01 AM  

Old guy here, but I really wanted to like it. Heck, the BSG reimagined series is so much better than the original I figured why not. This one, though, fun as it is, is just not Trek. Can you really see this crew acting out a scene like "As a teacher, on a training mission..." or "Yes, doctor, I do. And what is it that makes a man an exceptional leader?..." The good thing about the old Trek was when they could mix action and intellectual content, eg Wrath of Kahn. It was fun. I will buy the DVD, and see the sequel. It was well acted. But it was Star Trek in name only

All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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