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Posted on 12/17/09 02:27 AM
J.J. Abrams has successfully acheived a balance that appeals to old fans and new audiences alike. 'Star Trek' has not only reinvigorated a franchise on the brink of extinction, it has presented itself as a film that will stand the test of time in its own right as a pure representation of the spirit, comradery and fun that Gene Roddenberry had always intended.
I can recall a landmark decision in my life back in 2002 just after the release of Star Trek: Nemesis - and that decision was not to see the film in cinema. After reading a series of reviews that confirmed my suspicions of the movie, I decided to hold off until DVD release. The reason that this was a landmark decision for me was because it would be the first time that I did not make the pilgrimage to my local movie theatre to see the new Star Trek film. Apart from the first film which I was too young to see (thank god) - I have attended the franchise openings with unwavering devotion. Some have been better than others - notably - Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was most certainly the most striking and memorable. Nemesis was a different story; after an apalling experience with 'Insurrection,' I had lost confidence in the cast and production staff altogether...and so it was with great skepticism (but hope as well) that I stepped through the doors of the cinema once again to view J.J's 'reboot' of Star Trek.
As an old fan of the original series as well as the films, I was immediately struck by how Abrams had captured a look and feel that was distinctly 'trek' but had somehow upped the scale and drama to a level never before seen. In a way, the film is very formulaic in comparison to the old films (first 6) in the way it starts with a bang and builds the plot towards a finally/eplilogue/etc - but I feel that this was an intentional move by Abrams to draw fans in. If it works, right?
The visuals of this film are intense - possibly too much at times as I did feel that the lens flare was a bit overzealous - but not to the point where I felt it took away from the film. The effects are the best I've ever seen to date. The space scenes certainly beat any of the Star Wars prequels and even top some of the best visuals from recent reboot of 'Battlestar Galactica.' Anyone seeking a good, 'ole fashioned sci-fi space film will be satisfied without a doubt.
The characters are also good overall with the best accolades awarded to Simon Pegg (Scott), Anton Yelchin (Chekov) and Karl Urban (McCoy). While I did feel that Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto were a good fit and performed well - the spotlight is stolen on a number of occassions by perfectly executed dialogue from Pegg, Yelchin and Urban; DeForest himself would have been proud, I think. Unfortunately, while we may see better development in subsequent films, I did not feel the same about John Cho (Sulu) or Zoe Saldana (Uhura) who seemed somewhat flat in their characters (although this could be attributed to writing) and need to stretch themselves a bit more. Above all, Nimoy was also a welcome addition and plays his role with humility and respect. He adds to the film but does nothing to detract from the story or the new cast by nature of his legacy.
The story itself felt very introductory in nature in that not very much really happens unlike the epic struggles of Wrath of Khan or The Undiscovered Country. This is easily forgiven however as the film DOES serve well to introduce the characters as well as the actors who play them. Some REALLY big plot twists are also thrown in to turn the whole Star Trek canon on its ear thus opening the door to new development while preserving any previous 'history.' Some fans may object to the direction 'Star Trek' takes in this sense; Personally, I thought it was honest, clever (ingenious even) and exciting in terms of what it could potentially do for the franchise. While I wasn't overly impressed with the character 'Nero' played by Eric Bana - Bana's performance was impecabble and the character serves well as an essential component of the story - my only fear is that J.J. could use a similar formula for the next Star Trek 'bad guy' - and I feel that would be a gross mistake as we should now see a sequel that dives head-first into canon and creates a new story out of familiar foes.
Sound-wise, Star Trek is great. The soundtrack is distinct yet seems to fit well with Trek, particularly if you compare it to some of the older scores by James Horner. Despite that - the music in the film certainly feels very 'First-Contact' in its delivery (and that's not a bad thing) with the use of deep brass and strong, resonating melodies. The noises and whistles of the ship are reproduced well including an almost fanboy-like hommage paid to the old sensor sweep of the original series. Explosions are big and nuances are atmospheric. All-in-all, it's a pleasure to listen to whether its a musical swell, a blast from a photon torpedo or just the background noise eminating from the Bridge over dialogue.
Overall, there's not much I can fault with 'Star Trek.' Sure, there are always a couple things that bug you - for instance, I felt that the use of Budweiser's brewery as the Enterprise's lower decks was little unconvincing and could have used a bit of 'trekking up' to make it more futuristic. I also yawned a bit when Nero's Planet-destroying mega-ship first appears into the fray and it continues a nasty trend from the last two films demanding that every Star Trek story must contain some sort of unrecognizable behemoth that must be destroyed before the end-credits roll. (can we please go back to classic ship designs??? Please???)
Not to digress - while these minor 'flaws' bothered me, I still thoroughly enjoyed the film from start to finish and have no recent to doubt J.J. Abrams in his ability to duplicate success on the next outing. 'Star Trek' was a monumental undertaking that could have failed for so many reasons; yet didn't. It delivers a solid experience that can be held in a place of honour along with 'The Wrath of Khan', 'The Undiscovered Country' and 'First Contact.' This film is fantastic and in some ways, remarkable. Well worth the ticket and an awesome BluRay experience to boot.
Almost perfect, J.J. - almost ;)