J.J. Abrams’s slick interpretation of the Star Trek franchise is this summer’s first mega-hyped popcorn movie. You can tell because Burger King is selling their “collectible glasses” (which I have to admit I kind of want) and the trailer makes appearances multiple times during your average commercial break.
I have to give the marketers at Paramount their due. The trailer that started popping up around late January / early February created major buzz unseen in a series that has been perma-dismissed as the originator of the worst kind of geek fandom: Trekdom. Nothing about “Trekkies” is sexy and everything about them conjures up images of the kind of dateless virgin wonders you’d see at a Comic Con. Yet this movie is not necessarily for Trekkies, moderate fans, or any subset…Abrams has cleverly made a summer blockbuster that hasn’t pissed off / alienated its dweeby core following.
How did he do this?
First of all, this isn’t your Dad’s Star Trek. Look at the casting choices. Pretty boy Chris Pine (young James T. Kirk) looks more at home on the set of One Tree Hill than he does in a Federation Uniform. His pillowy lips, intense eyes, and Aryan good looks had Trekkies so ill-at-ease they were boycotting this casting choice long before they even saw the film. To them I blow a giant raspberry…PBBBBBBBBBBPPPPPPPHHHHHHHTTTTTTTTT! Not only does Pine nail a fresh take on Kirk, he does so while looking DAMNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN fine. Again, this isn’t Shatner’s Kirk, but why should it be? Star Trek has been sexified for non-fans. The movie is meant to have mass appeal. People like good-looking men. FACT!
Let’s move onto Zachary Quinto, the young Mr. Spock, apparently well known as the villain-guy on Heroes everyone wants killed off. Having never seen Heroes in my life I was taken aback by his brooding good looks, and even with Vulcan ears and eyebrows he managed to smoulder a bit on the screen. Quinto has the good fortune of being the focus of this first installment, presumedly because Leonard Nimoy was the only original cast member cool enough to agree to do the movie. 2009’s Star Trek is really Mr. Spock’s story. Without giving anything away there are events that force him to come to grips with his mixed heritage and parental emotional issues, and Quinto turns in a great stony-faced performance.
As for the rest of the cast, you should recognize most of Abrams’s regulars. Eric Bana is Nero, the sufficiently super-evil Romulan. Zoe Saldana (who I thought was Thandie Newton the entire time) is the young Uhura and the only babe on deck in this sausage-fest, given little to do other than the femme Trek thing (standing around looking sultry and unattainable). Then there are the two oddest casting choices…Winona Ryder(????) as Mr. Spock’s human mother and that guy from the Harold and Kumar movies as young Sulu. While everyone was more than decent, the only real standout in the supporting cast is Glaswegian Simon Pegg who steals every scene as Young Scotty.
My feelings about this have stirred up a bit of controversy, at least within my inner circle. I’m a bit torn as to how I feel about it now. Again, without giving anything away, the occurences affecting Vulcan, Romulus, Spock and Nero are at borderline risk of cheating to the point of cheapening to wipe the slate clean for future pre-quel releases, although I have been informed by a megafan that the backdrop of this story was perfectly acceptable because it was laid out in the Star Trek comic series and not pulled out of some studio executive’s ass.
Anyway, up until that point I was surprised by how much I liked it…The set-up was fantastic. The characters were all likeable. The fight scenes (particularly the one where Sulu, Kirk and another guy do the parachute thing in space) satisfied our need for bloodlust without seeming tacked on for action’s sake. Generally the plot advancement and pacing were what impressed me the most once I got over the rationale explaining Leonard Nimoy’s presence there (people actually APPLAUDED his first onscreen appearance in our theatre). So maybe I’ve got it backwards…hardcore fans will accept the plot based on the comic book series and pedestrian fans such as myself will have trouble with it. I suspect non-fans won’t care either way.
This is a good looking movie. I might even pay again to see it in IMAX.
MINUTAE I FEEL I MUST COMPLAIN ABOUT:
Appearance of Romulans: This bothered me quite a lot because I had grown so accustomed to how Romulans looked like a far meaner version of Vulcans. In the film they look like skinheads with face tattooes. WTF! Maybe this is another comic series adaptation thing I am missing.
What Romulans are supposed to look like!
Wheelchairs: Didn’t it bother anyone else that with all the technological advancements, wheelchairs seemed to make no progress whatsoever?! I hope Stephen Hawking is writing a complaint letter this instant.
Bluetooth Ear Pieces: I would hope that over 330 years from now we won’t have to deal with Bluetooth ear pieces for communication because they look so FREAKIN’ STUPID. COME ON. Those things have no place on the U.S.S. Enterprise.