Star Trekkin' Across The Universe

Posted Thursday, May 14, 2009, 9:21 PM


I am not a Trekker. Or a Trekkie. Or a particular fan of Star Trek. I don't really like the original TV series from the 60s because the dated production values just bother me too much. I'm a bit of a snob about that kind of thing, to my detriment, cf. Doctor Who.

I enjoyed a few of the movies. And Star Trek: The Next Generation was really quite fun, now that the production values and effects technology had caught up with the stories. Deep Space Nine was great, but I thought Voyager was awful. Enterprise completely missed the boat and failed to live up to its considerable potential.

However, the trailers for the new movie, simply called Star Trek, a reboot by TV show creator JJ Abrams, excited me. It managed to take the familiar elements and reinvent them without losing their essence, and it was obvious he'd found the perfect middle ground. The fans just hoped that the movie would follow through with the promise.

I saw the movie on cheapo Tuesday. And it was outstanding fun!

The plot is a time travel romp, which explains the change in actors, and sets up a whole new potential future to develop new stories that can ride rampant over the established canon, effectively allowing it to invent new canon of its own. And more than that, it has the single most epic and dramatic disaster in Trek's televised history.

The key was to accept the new actors playing familiar roles. For the most part their skills outweighed any need for doing an impression of the original actors. Karl Urban's is the closest attempt at copying DeForest Kelly's intonations, but even then he didn't do a complete copy. And Zachary Quinto had a tough job when he was playing against Leonard Nimoy directly, and yet didn't do a Nimoy impression in any way. However, I did think that Chris Pine slipped into a Shatner-esque pattern of speech when he was being casually dismissive with his apple during the Kobayashi Maru test.

The main problem with the original movies and TV series is they wanted to be hugely epic and impressive, but had a budget of $2.50, and cardboard and string technology. The budget for this new film was a somewhat excessive $150,000,000, and every dollar of it is on the screen.

As an effects aficionado, sometimes I'll wince at an otherwise wonderful movie when a poorly completed effects shot comes on screen. This still happens, even on the biggest budget films. I could rant about those instances for days, it's so disappointing. But there wasn't a single instance of that in this film. I didn't notice a poorly executed effect once, they were all perfect, seamless, and spectacular.

I can't say I was enamoured by the shaky camera and the constant lens flares as a stylistic choice, though. They were distracting and brought me out of the movie on occasion. And some of the plot and set pieces strained credulity, and wouldn't have taken much work to pull into a more believable shape, but that's just action movie shorthand, I guess.

A great movie. A lot of fun, a lot of clever in-jokes and references back to familiar canon, and a lot of spectacle and adventure. If this is the future of Star Trek, indeed the future of movies, then it's going to be a wild ride.

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