Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Star Trek

The New Old Enterprise

This is what GV's Blockbuster Surprise Screening turned out to be!

My adventures with the original William Shatner-led Enterprise crew had been confined to the cinematic movies of Star Trek, plus sporadic episodes from the original television series. I grew up more with Patrick Stewart's Captain Jean-Luc Picard commanding the Next Generation on board the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D in exploring strange new worlds and civilizations, as well as every movie made following that crew. It's quite unfortunate that Nemesis didn't fare too well at the box office, and hence it took this long (some 7 years!) before another Star Trek movie got made.

In between we had other spin off series like Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise, all which somehow didn't appeal to me, and their ability to cross over to the cinematic screen was, I guess, suspect. Then the question of how and where does one even begin in making another mass appeal movie, which by now has a whole wealth of content, and canonical ones at that. Imagine an established franchise with fans worldwide, some practically religious followers, and convince them that what you're making, and a reboot at that (horrors!) would be the right way forward?

But I got to take my hat off to J.J. Abrams, and especially to the scribes of Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman for really having the balls, and the smarts, to do what they did. It's a reboot all right, but a really clever way to jump-start a legacy without making a mockery of its rich history, providing an acceptable (though not never seen before) method relying on stuff that science fiction is made up of. Of course I won't tell you what it is, you'll have to find out yourself, suffice to say that it made everything fall in place, with the involvement of Leonard Nimoy, and the background of the Romulan villain played to stereotypical perfection by Eric Bana.

At its core, with this reboot, it allowed for the film to establish the paralleled and troubled background of the ship's Captain and First Officer, James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine) and Vulcan Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto), and with all solid partnerships and friendships, they too don't begin seeing eye to eye. It's a little bit curious though that this version of Star Trek has forgone its television roots for the cinematic debut first, and even though both Pine and Quinto came from TV, I don't expect to see this particular film spin off a television franchise of its own (though I'm secretly hoping so!). If anything, there should be an ongoing series (if box office receipts permit) for the cinema instead of the gogglebox.

It takes a while to showcase these individual characters at the top of the Enterprise command, before we get to see the rest of the familiar crew, now replaced with fresh faces, like John Cho as Sulu, Karl Urban as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy, Anton Yelchin as Mr Chekov, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, and Simon Pegg as Scotty, whom fans will have to wait until the mid way point to see his very limited, though memorable appearance on the deck of the ship. Since it's an "origin" film of sorts, we get more acquainted to Spock, who now demonstrates more emotions rather than cold logic from the Nimoy era, and Kirk still rolling with the punches as the action-hero man, still defiant and often unorthodox in his approach to the mission at hand. Fans itching to witness what James T. Kirk is reputedly famous for, you'll finally get to see that in his Starfleet Academy days here.

The pacing of the film was as energetic as that of its younger cast, and what is a 126 minutes movie did feel as if it's under 90 minutes, where it begins with a bang from the get go, and never decelerated from its warp speed. Abrams kept the pace very fluid, balancing emotional scenes with the more action-packed ones, though I feel there would be some passing pre-mature judgement that Star Trek is never about the action. That's true here as well (except probably when you're faced with Kirk hanging on a ledge of some sorts no less than 3 times), in case you're wondering about the trailer's bells and whistles. The sound design was excellent as well, as you really get to experience that silence of space each time the vast void comes to fill up the entire screen.

Non-fans might find some reason to scoff at Star Trek being a bit stiff, but this version makes it all sexy again. There's a wonderful story that doesn't pander to the audience nor disrespect its rich history, perfectly fused moments of humour, adequate action, and that core story of how the Enterprise crew got together for its maiden mission, and primed for more when the end credits roll. It's just nostalgic to see the good 'ol USS Enterprise NCC-1701 given a facelift by Industrial Light and Magic, and taking flight under maximum warp again!

Definitely highly recommended, for fans who will be smiling from ear to ear when spotting little gizmos and easter eggs from knowledge of hindsight, and non-fans alike, who would likely be converted and inspired to go dig through the video archives for the original missions. If I may have the audacity of saying so, Gene Roddenberry might have been mighty proud with this effort!

See You Again!

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