Star Trek

I’m not a Star Trek aficionado.  I enjoy some of the movies but I’ve never really gotten into any of the series.  That said, I had a lot of thoughts about the new movie.

First of all, I would argue that it’s not really “Star Trek” in the traditional sense of the series.  The original Star Trek movies (and I’m guessing the TV show though I don’t know) were not really action movies, but morality plays set in the science-fiction future of humanity.  Later series’ became more action oriented, probably partially because technology allowed for more acceptable looking action sequences and partially because the series’ creator, Gene Roddenbury, lost creative control of the show (read: he died).

You might guess from reading this that the newest Star Trek movie is, in fact, an action movie, and you would be right.  I enjoyed it and thought that it was, dare I say, a good movie, but while the story carried an adequate amount of “Star Trek” ambiance, the amount of action didn’t really connect with what I know of the movies starring the original cast.  Whatever.  Some people could be upset about this and I would understand, but I would think they were being dumb.

Then there’s J.J. Abrams.  A lot of people like J.J. and generally speaking I am not one of those people.  His television shows seem juvenile to me (and that’s not a word I invoke without understanding how condescending it seems) and his Superman movie was very faithful to the source material.  And by “faithful to the source material” I mean boring and stupid.  (Edit: John pointed out to me that Bryan Singer directed Superman Returns.  I’m not entirely sure why I thought differently.  J.J. Abrams directed Mission Impossible III, which was not boring or stupid).

J.J. hired some reasonable writers and some true Trek fans to work on this movie, and that helped him create an engaging story with enough references to Star Trek history to keep fanboys (like the one sitting next to me in the theater) giggling.  But even without that, the choice to cast Zachary Quinto as Spock while simultaneously including Leonard Nimoy might have been enough to tie everything together.  Nimoy and Quinto playing the same character showcases how excellent Quinto is at mimicking an iconic character, and he even brings something new to the role.  He’s an even better Spock than Spock himself, in a way.

Which leads me to a point that I make often with movies where this dynamic appears.  An actor imitating an already established other actor or character isn’t as impressive as an actor creating his own character, but Spock might be a situation where the character transcends the actor and even the role, because he is a symbol for logic and for the human struggle between logic and emotion.

Put it this way:  You’re an actor.  You are playing a role that depends on you being able to show emotion, but you aren’t able to use any of the subtle physical cues that people typically rely on to demonstrate feeling.  That seems like a difficult task.  I don’t know why I approve of Quinto playing a pretty spot-on Nimoy, but not of Brandon Routh playing a spot-on Christopher Reeves.  Maybe it’s because Christopher Reeves wasn’t that good to being with.  Needless to say, Spock impressed me.

The ways most of the other actors attacked their roles were interesting as well.  Trying to give new life to an already established character is tough, and some of them come of as kind of charicatures of the original.  Others, specifically Simon Pegg (Scotty) and  John Cho (Hellllllllooooooo) , bring their own ideas to the table with positive results.  Kirk? Well, heck, there’s only one Shatner.  Chris Pine delivers his lines with way less intensity than Kirk 1.0 which is probably for the better most of the time.  But I don’t think Pine could ever deliver my favorite Star Trek line with as much passion (from Wrath of Khan):

“Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most…human.”

The most surprising thing was how good the movie looked.  I mean, we all knew the CGI was going to be impressive as it always is with blockbuster action movies, but the photography was very impressive as well.  With less heavy-handed imagery than in Superman Returns, Abrams favored a more subtle approach in this effort with a lot of nice lighting effects and a few powerful outdoor shots. If he had directed Superman Returns, Abrams would be commended for a much better effort here.

All in all, it was pretty good, and you know how it kills me to say about a movie that critics almost universally adore.

Speaking of movies that are incredibly contrived in theory but somehow sell themselves, I saw previews for the new Terminator and Transformers movies beforehand.

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