Wednesday, May 6, 2009
I feel so dirty saying I enjoyed the new Star Trek. This coming from someone who's played Dungeons and Dragons for years, should tell you all you need to know. For years, Trek (like D&D, really) has been associated with the lowest of the low. A fanbase so rabid many, if not all nerd stereotypes derive almost directly from it.
There's an episode of The Simpsons where Comic Book Guy interrogates Lucy Lawless on the switching of horse breeds between shots that her mount undergoes in an episode of Xena. She is bombarded with trivial "criticisms" such as these until she exasperatedly replies "wizards did it". Knowing a few Trekkies personally, I can attest this behavior is not too exaggerated.
I never got into Trek as a child. Whereas Star Wars drew me in with its space monkeys and laser knights and gay robots, Trek never put in much of an effort. Whenever the channel would get switched onto an episode (although I must concede I am talking about The Next Generation here), people would be standing in a computer room talking with very big words. To a child, it was like watching the news, only they never went on location.
Well, J.J. Abrams' film certainly would have entertained my young self. This time there's space monsters, aliens consisting of more than just a few prostethics (though they are there), fistfights, gunfights, swordfights, time travel, planets imploding and by gum, it's funny. A lot of it is pretty damned funny. Intentionally so, even!
Chris Pine as Kirk deserves a lot of credit, but honestly, there's no one in the cast who does a bad job. Even Zachary Quinto as Spock, an actor known mostly from televised abortion Heroes, did an excellent job. His Spock is rigid, by the book and sometimes just a jerk but still strangely likeable.
It ain't all green babes and fisticuffs, though. If I may point out a pretty big weakness, it's that the film is a bit flighty. It's not really about anything. It does its job of getting that crew in their places for further adventures, but I'll be damned if I could tell you what the movie's main theme was.
**MINOR SPOILERS FOLLOW**
A planet called Romulus is destroyed when a star goes supernova. Old man Spock is too late to help, although he promised he would. The crew of a mining ship led by Nero, portrayed in growls and grunts by Eric Bana, is pissed at him for being late so they chase him into the black hole he created to absorb the Romulus-destroying supernova. The Romulans and Spock so travel back in time. The Romulans immediately attack a ship going RARGH WHERE'S SPOCK (who wouldn't pop out until a good 28 years later). Among the casualties of that ship are Kirk's father, the death of whom normally occurred a lot later in time. The Romulans have thusly altered the space-time continuum and voila: audiences have a new Star Trek continuity without any baggage.
So Nero and his butt-fucking crew wait almost thirty years for Spock to pop out (hence the butt-fucking) once they realize they've traveled through time, giving our main characters the chance to grow up and become the HEROES THEY WERE DESTINED TO BE.
The villains have beef with Spock, but it's not this reality's Spock. The villains killed Kirk's father, but it was only in a fit of rage and nothing personal at all. I guess you might say that the Nero-posse is just a very transparent excuse to reboot the universe and get THOSE people in THOSE positions at THAT time -- and maybe start a lucrative franchise.
**MINOR SPOILERS END**
It deserves it, I'd say. I was reminded of the first X-Men film, in fact. Fun characters portrayed by good actors, plot kind of flimsy, mostly all set-up for ideas to be fleshed out later. Trek even has some good action scenes (devoid of shaky-cam, even! Strangely enough, a quiet conversation between Kirk and captain Pike shakes like Marty McFly) and there's really no one there as awful as Halle Berry in the mutant movie. Special props to composer Michael Giacchino for writing a score whose main theme I was actually humming on the way to the car.
And how can you not love a movie that introduces its protagonist to the dulcet tones of: