Ok, let’s get two things out of the way:
1. I have never seen any of the original Star Trek episodes, any of the spinoff shows, nor read any of the novelizations.
2. I enjoyed myself immensely and had a great time watching the movie.
I thought that I should mention my lack of Star Trek knowledge both to reassure people that are not fans that it is still accessible even though you are the only person not laughing in the theater when iconic catchphrases are repeated, and to let die hard fans… well, I don’t really know that I have anything for fans except to say that I went to the movie with a couple of them and they had a lot of fun.
This reboot(ish) movie follows James Tiberius Kirk through the process of gaining his command of the USS Enterprise. It’s actually surprising, considering its origin story ambitions, how little time it goes through chronologically. There are scenes that occour before and during his Starfleet Academy years, but the bulk of the movie follows one (admittedly very long) day (or as much of a day as you get in deep space on a starship). On this day we meet the cast of characters that become the crew of the Enterprise (all of them out of their red shirts by the conclusion), we are introduced to and see the genesis of Kirk’s friendship with Spock, and Spock and Kirk get revenge on the person/ship that destroys their home planet and kills their father (respectively). Not bad for a day at the office.
As someone new to the canon, I thought they did a great job of establishing the many supporting characters without devolving into in-jokes for onanistic fanboys. Before I saw the movie, I thought that the casting was bizarre, but I was surprised. The fact that I could see Harold from & Kumar Go To White Castle as an action star by the end of the movie means that it did its job well. Nods have to go to Simon Pegg, an impressively funny Karl Urban, and the absolutely adorable Anton Yelchin. I missed both Alpha Dog and Charlie Bartlett (honestly, doesn’t feel like a big loss) but that boy is cute. The constraints of the role mean that Chris Pine (as Kirk) doesn’t really have much to do here except be noble and Flawed (in that way where everybody is supposed to acknowledge his character flaws but they aren’t really). Likewise with Eric Bana. His purpose in the film is to be the villain; there is some pretense at motivation but really, the more one-dimensional he is, the faster we can get back to the action and drama of Kirk and Spock. Even so, he does a good job, plays it straight, and earns his paycheck.
The breakout performance, however, is by Zachary Quinto. I guess it might not be so much of a stretch in range from the diabolically calculating Sylar to the coldly logical Spock but he did a great job. This is actually a point where I wish I knew a little bit more of the show, because I have a feeling that some of his emotional outbursts and drama might be counter-canon. At any rate, I thought his struggle to find his own path between his Vulcan and human origins was really powerful. I don’t want to overstate things, nor be too adolescent boyish, but I spend a lot of time thinking about the state of being between two worlds and the eternal pressure to find a place in one or both of them. His line, “I am half human. I guess that makes Earth the only home I have left” just killed me.
Like last year’s Iron Man, this is a summer blockbuster that sidesteps the pathos and melodrama that has become de rigueur in action franchises of late. Most criticisms of physics, plausability and characterizations bounce off of it because it only takes itself seriously enought and is having a great time doing it.
*Wonky music note:
At one time, I counted Michael Giacchino as one of my favorite film composers because of his excellent work on the Incredibles soundtrack (which is still one of my favorites, he nailed the ’60’s jazz orchestra/Engelbert Humperdink sound so well). But after five seasons of hearing his clunky music cues on LOST (which have absolutely nothing interesting in them, have stupid harmonic mistakes that a retarded 5-year old choirboy would wince at, and sound like they were made using cheap orchestral samples left over from the late ’90’s) I have completely lost patience with him and Star Trek‘s soundtrack does nothing to change my mind. Like James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer’s Batman Begins score, there is nothing obviously wrong with the Star Trek soundtrack. It is just opressively and inescapably dull.
To boldly blog where some fans have gone before.
Ok, let’s get two things out of the way: