Monday, June 22, 2009
Star Trek is a great movie! It is visually brilliant. The special effects are excellent. The action is non-stop, yet the dramatic interplay is convincing and interesting, with superb casting and pitch perfect acting. Best of all, the story is clear, something that rarely happens in action movies (recall, for example, the last half hour of the last Batman, which was total confusion).
It's not quite a perfect movie. Mumbo-jumbo about moving back and forth in time is a bit, well... mumbo-jumbo. And the music, except for the famous Star Trek theme, is too schmaltzy, too much like an incessant fanfare, "heightening" excessively the already dynamic visual action.
There are a few, but only a few, moments which transcend the plot and provide a moment of (let's call it) wisdom, notably the brief but powerful times when the real Spock (an aging Leonard Nimoy, of course) appears.
What it does very well is express a spirit of adventure, courage, and creative solutions to life threatening problems using expert knowledge; but -- since it deals almost exclusively with military threats, revenge and warfare -- it lacks the sense of scientific curiosity and joyful exploration of the wonders of space that is also at the heart of Star Trek.
The concept was perfectly executed. The film captures much of the spirit of the Star Trek myth and the stories yet to come (this is a movie whose sequels have already been made**), enriched by the tradition of the myth, and also enhancing the myth by describing how it all starts. The young characters (and actors) in this film capture the essense of the characters (and actors) which inhabit this story in the future with such fidelity it is almost spooky.
Chris Pine as Captain James T. Kirk
Zachary Quinto as Spock
Karl Urban as Bones
Simon Pegg as Scotty
John Cho as Sulu
Anton Yelchin as Chekov
Zoe Saldana as Uhuru
The script (by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman -- based of course on the concept originated by Gene Roddenberry) deserves great credit also for making this possible.
J J Abrams has created great television (Lost, Alias, ...), with complex and fascinating characters and stories that were always interesting and compelling to watch from moment to moment, though on a larger scale became almost impenetrably complex, with characters sometimes, for example, double crossing, triple crossing and quadruple crossing each other, changing sides from one moment to the next, and sometimes dying and coming back to life.
His first feature, a Mission Impossible, was not terribly successful.
Star Trek has none of the problems of Abram's other work, and many of its best qualities. He has arrived as a major feature film director. We can look forward with great hope and anticipation to his next Mission Impossible feature. That's a great franchise, and it will be fun to see it re-invigorated!
(**Note: Of course there are more Star Trek sequels yet to come!)