Monday, May 11, 2009

These Are The Voyages (warning: contains spoilers)

Don’t wanna sing now or play guitar
I wanna get drunk in a seedy bar
Get in a fight and kill a red shirt
And bring this f***er to red alert
--Warp 11, "Red Alert"

On Saturday, my lady and I went with two of our friends to the California Theater to see Star Trek. It surprises nobody to learn that we are all Trekkies, and we all had high expectations going into the movie. To me, this movie was do-or-die for the Trek franchise. Gene Roddenberry is gone, rest his soul, and the shows have steadily declined in quality since DS9. Enterprise was a sad, divisive last gasp of a beloved franchise that alienated its longtime fans while failing to attract new ones. Now studios seemed to be giving Trek one last opportunity to prove itself. No excuses: it would have a huge budget, J J Abrams, a large cast of good-looking, at least moderately famous people, and enough marketing to make a Ferengi blush. I felt that the franchise had woken up to find the head of its favorite targ next to it in bed. If this movie didn't work, that would be it.

Fortunately, Star Trek is making money hand over fist, and I don't think we need to worry about that dropping off any time soon. I know that my lady and I are already planning our second viewing (something we were actually doing before even seeing it the first time!), and I am sure that many of our fellow geeks will be boldly going where they have gone once before to see it again.

I could go on and on about the way this movie brought the fun and the "wow" factor back to Star Trek. There were several moments where I realized that I had been smiling without knowing it. Rather than boring you to death with endless babbling, I will share a few of the things that really made this movie, and some of the things that were not so good.

First, the good:

  • Karl Urban nailed the character of Bones McCoy, from the first moment we hear him declare off-screen that, damn it, he's a doctor. I would have a very hard time picking a favorite TOS character, but if someone held a disruptor to my head, I would probably pick McCoy, so I was glad to see him done so well. Urban nailed McCoy's quirky charm and comfortable drawl, and yes, my dear, the eyebrow!!

  • Along those lines, the parts where Spock sits down at the controls to the future spaceship and says "Fascinating" and where Scotty says "I'm giving her all she's got!" were absolutely perfect.

  • Simon Pegg played Scotty. Anyone who has ever seen an episode of "Spaced" knows why this was an absolutely inspired choice of casting. He seemed to be having a blast every single second he was on the screen, which is perfect, because one of the best things about Montgomery Scott was his joy.

  • Scotty's little sidekick alien was absolutely hilarious. If, before I saw the film, you would have told me that the movie would give Scotty a little sidekick alien, I would have told you that it's a horrible idea and I would have listed ten reasons why Scotty should never, ever have a little sidekick alien. But the second I saw that little critter's lip wobble when he thought Scotty had deserted him, I knew that these two deserved each other.

  • Leonard Nimoy was absolutely perfect. It's a testament to Zachary Quinto's acting that his portrayal of Spock wasn't completely overshadowed by Nimoy's. It was as it Nimoy was saying, "You can be Spock now, but don't forget that you have some serious shoes to fill." Nimoy's Spock was wise, kind, and full of a startling reservoir of emotion. In a word, he was legendary, which is exactly what this movie needed him to be.

  • A lot of the comedy in the film worked very well, which is good, because the amount of humor is one thing that separates the original series from the later shows. The "Weektor Weektor" scene was my favorite.

And now, the bad:

  • The villain. Nemo was utterly bland, and what's worse, I think it was intentional. I'm almost tempted to believe that the producers were afraid their villain would out-shine their heroes and thus defeat the purpose of a reboot, but if that could ever be the case, they really should have had more faith in their cast. Facial tattoos do not make you interesting or scary. You need a two-bladed lightsaber if you want to pull that off.

  • The Kobayashi Maru scene was, in retrospect, something of a let-down. As this blog points out, the Kobayashi Maru test is supposed to be about Kirk's inability to accept a no-win scenario and his willingness to do whatever it takes to overcome his obstacles. Instead, it comes across as Kirk being somewhat insufferable. That said, the movie does tell us that this is his third time taking the test. If it would have shown more of Kirk failing, fighting off frustration and defeatism and finally triumphing, the scene would have given us a lot more than Kirk sitting in a chair, eating an apple, and preening.

  • A lot of the stuff with Sulu fell flat for me. First, he forgets the external inertial dampeners when he is about to go to warp. When I was restoring my iPod just now, it warned me that I was currently syncing my iPod, and made sure I still wanted to restore. So a spaceship in the future doesn't automatically warn you that the 'parking brake' is on? Then we get the fight scene on the drill. I thought it looked really cool when he pulled out his sword (fanboy moment), then was immediately let down by the fight that followed. It was some of the worse fight choreography I had ever seen. Almost Blade-esque. (If you ever want to see how not to film a sword fight, watch the original "Blade.")

That's about all that I want to complain about. As a nerd, it is my duty to nit-pick (and there are probably more nits I could pick), but it's Star Trek, and I loved the movie, so why focus on the negative?

So here's hoping that this new cast and crew boldly go many, many more times.

As a final note, how come Star Trek gets to rock its 21st century incarnation so hard, when my most beloved franchise, Star Wars, gets Little Annie and Jar-Jar? Well, despite my love for Star Wars, I am a Trekkie as well, and it is a good week to be a Trekkie. Now, if they would only make a movie featuring Klingons and filmed entirely in Klingon....


bluefish said...

I also have been promoting the idea of an all-Klingon movie. I think they should do it in the way they were going to (rumored) do the Klingon series: include a human character from whose perspective we see everything, and also to give an excuse for why they're all speaking English (because we hear it all through his universal translator).

A while back, a group of fans were going to make a Klingon fan movie, but I don't think anything ever came of it.

Kawaika said...

I heard Mel Gibson is working on a Klingon movie. It'll be total brutal.

When I saw the trailer for the new Star Trek movie I couldn't bring myself to watch the movie. For some reason the trailer made the movie seem really boring and cliche. Last weekend I saw Slumdog Millionaire instead. The thing is, I used to be a Trekkie; I used to watch Star Trek episodes all the time and I must have at least one hundred books. I don't know if/when I'll see this movie.

Elizabeth E. Grey said...

LOVED the movie. there were a few little things i would quibble with, but nothing big enough to detract from my total love for the new edition!