Wednesday, June 3, 2009

One More Bit About Star Trek

This'll be a long one. I wanna talk about the movie, because this is a geek blog, and I am a geek. One of my geeky interests is Star Trek, and has been for a very long time.First, though, a few words about my love for ST: I don't remember what grade I was in when I discovered the re-runs of Next Generation playing in the afternoons, but I was fairly young. Fourth grade? Fifth? Old enough to know I was a huge geek, but entranced enough not to care. I even remember the very first episode I caught - it was the one where Data gets into a relationship with that woman who was not Tasha Yar, and he goes around to all the other officers asking their advice about relationships while they smile smugly at his innocence. It wasn't the relationship bit that drew me in, though, or the brilliantly writing (that episode was hardly a gem, if I remember correctly from the last time I saw it). It was space. It was aliens. It was the idea of this fascinating future where regular people flew around exploring space from the comfort of this awesome ship and with interesting companions in complex relationships (okay, I guess the relationship bit was important).

I was hooked. I would watch ST:TNG every day at four 0'clock, and sometimes the Original Series when it took TNG's place during the summer. I got my dad to rent some of the OS on video from 16,000 Movies down the street. I watched the movies - Star Trek IV, the one with the whales, was always my favorite because it was hilarious, but when I watched the Motion Picture on tv one time I was bored to tears. TNG is still the only television series I have ever watched to its conclusion, the only one I have ever committed to while it was still on the air (I know - if I can't commit to a weekly tv series, imagine how I am about everything else). I even read the books - because nothing says nerd like fan-fiction: official or not. And of course, I once went to a convention. I'd like to do that again.

I credit Star Trek with my interest in make-up, which has had mixed results but was still an important part of my life, and with my whole-hearted embracing of my geekdom. Well, Star Wars had a hand in that, too, but I think we all know which group has traditionally received more derision, and which therefore requires a more fearless embracing.

So. To put it mildly, I was excited about the new movie. It wasn't going to matter whether the movie was horrible or not. I would love it for what it was. But then the most amazing thing happened - people said GOOD things about it! All kinds of people! Even people like my friend Stacey, who thinks most sci-fi is crap and was dragged to see the new one by her fiance, reported that they liked it! Amazing!

Finally, last Friday I was able to see Star Trek: The Movie. Although I try my best to go into new movies, particularly ones I'm very excited about, with a blank, open mind and no expectations, it was impossible to shut out everything for this one.

But I was not disappointed.

It was good. It was genuinely good. At the same time, it was wildly different. It was new, exciting, not at all what I was expecting, extremely modern - and very good.

Not flawless. But very good.

Here come the spoilers!
Things I Loved:

1) Karl Urban. Note-perfect. Hilarious. Hotter than Dr. McCoy could ever reasonably hope to be. Proved that an actor I've drooled over for ages is also a talented actor. Mmmm, Kiwis...

2) The casting in general, with two notable exceptions (see Things I Did Not Love, below). Zoe Saldana as Uhura was fantastic, sexy, gutsy, and a great update to the role. Eric Bana as Nero was awesome and very, very sexy (then again, I like dudes with tats). Simon Pegg was as charming and wonderful as ever, and when he shouted Scotty's regular line towards the end I actually squealed. Anton Yelchin as Chekov was adorable - I wanted to wrap him up and take him home with me. Zachary Quinto was good - no Leonard Nimoy, but then, this was not your father's Star Trek. Chris Pine was excellent - at first I was disappointed to not see more Shatner in him, but then, it's hard to channel Shatner without looking like a jackass. There was one great moment right towards the end, though, where he walked on to the bridge, looked around and said "Bones!" with that little smile, so perfectly that all was forgiven.

3) The look. Again, at first my nit-picky brain was going, "No, no, no! That isn't what it looked like!" but I got over it. I do think it could have been modernized while still keeping it looking more like the OS ship, but everything was so pretty I just can't stay mad at them.

4) The dialogue, mostly. Snappy. Clever. Cute. Chekov's difficulty with the letter v was especially funny to those of us living in Japan - alas, the Japanese people in the audience did not see the humor. Kirk to those cadet thugs in the bar? Brilliant. Everything out of Karl Urban's and Simon Pegg's mouths? Completely brilliant.

5) The re-boot in general. I walked out of the theater asking, "Did they just re-boot the franchise? For real? Are we starting over, a la Batman?" Except none of the people I went with were nerdy enough to have realized how wrong the details were from the history, so I was talking to myself. As soon as Kirk's dad died, I started thinking, "Um, this isn't right." and by the time Vulcan blew up I was practically chewing the seat in front of me. By the end of the movie, I was already imagining a whole new series. Go for it. I can still love the originals.

Things I Did Not Love:

1) Two Terrible Casting Choices. Winona Rider and John Cho. I have nothing against either of those actors but Winona Rider was a bizarre choice (she is not that old, dudes, and I have issues with exceptionally recognizable actors in bit roles that aren't cameos), and John Cho, while cool, is not Japanese. In a cast of mostly unknowns, they did not need Harold for credibility.

2) James Kirk becomes captain for no discernible reason other than that his father was a hero. That is not how Starfleet should work. Cadets do not show up on ships, especially the flagship, and randomly take over the whole crew. Kirk would be a terrible captain, having never served as a junior officer and having no experience whatsoever. Then again, most of what he did on the OS was bang alien chicks and beat the snot out of people/creatures/alien chicks, so the movie certainly set up his experience in those areas.

3) We are left with Future Spock and Past Spock in the same time period. They talk to each other. WTF??

4) The Uhura-Spock romance. Where the hell did that come from? Everything else that was different from the OS characters and situations could be explained by the changes that occurred as a result of the Romulans' time travel. I was cool with that. Alternative reality, right on. That could not be thus explained. Yes, it was cool, and interesting, but unnecessary and odd.

In any case, the Loves outweighed the Did Not Loves. It was good. I want to see it again, especially because I was extremely stressed out the night I saw it for reasons that had nothing to do with the movie, and now I want to see it when I'm more relaxed. Also, because it was awesome.

Thanks for reading my novella. Live Long and Prosper.


Lamedh said...

I think I mostly agree with your review of the new Star Trek, though not having much grounding in the mythos (a rare movie where I'm just a noob and not a geek in the audience), I basically found no fault.

To touch on one of your earlier comments in your blog though, I just watched the original Star Trek, and I can see how it was insanely boring as a kid, but I really liked the twist ending as an adult newly immersing himself in all things Star Trek.

MLE said...

I agree with your review for the most part, although I actually liked Spock/Uhura. I completely agree with your commentary on how Kirk became captain (in fact, that's pretty much the only thing I didn't like about the movie) but ultimately I had to just let it go. It's a reboot of the series and I hope the movies that follow are just as good. (I assume you've read my husband's review of the movie from a few weeks back?)

tmjackson said...

@Lamedh - Thanks! It's so nice to hear that even people who've never been in to Trek that much liked the movie. I'm glad you did. And actually, I watched the original movie again recently and found it much more interesting, but then my issue with it became that I didn't think it was very Star Trek. It was a 70's space movie that happened to feature Kirk and Spock. But that's me.

Anyway, thanks for commenting and I'll be sure to check out your blog from now on, as well - I liked your review.

@MLE - I liked it, too, I just couldn't quite wrap my head around it. Yeah, I read your husband's review once I'd seen the movie, and it was spot-on. I agreed completely with what he said and was in fact afraid that I was ripping him off in my review, though I had said all of it aloud before I read his.

I hope the next ones are good, too! Fingers are crossed.