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Star Trek (2009)

24 February 2010 by Baldy No Comment
STAR TREK

2009, dir. J.J. Abrams
127 min., Rated PG-13.
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoë Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Eric Bana, Winona Ryder, Tyler Perry, Deep Roy, and Leonard fucking Nimoy.

Review by Baldy

People like to talk about “the most anticipated film” in however long a time. I’ve endured Scotty’s “There be whales here!” I’ve endured Data’s “Lock and load!” To tell you the truth, I’ve had enough of Jean-Luc Picard and Babylon Five and all the rest. In our wussified world of today, I found myself missing Kirk’s “diplomacy didn’t work so I’m gonna punch him” way of negotiation. I can still remember the feeling in my gut when I first saw the preview. The camera is panning across huge sheets of steel while men in goggles weld. We see the klieg lights while a voice tells us about the peak of human endeavor and the nobility of striving to constantly learn more. The camera pulls back and we begin to see a familiar shape as a well-known voice says the magic words. Space: the final frontier. . .

Forget the re-vamping of Spider Man. Forget the upcoming Magneto movie. Forget the last three Star Wars films. Forget Harry Potter. When it comes to taking a fresh look at something we have all enjoyed, this ain’t the Oakland As. This is the YANKEES.

My review, short version. HO. LEE. SHIT. If you need more, read on.

I can only give a vague notion of the plot, since to do more really gives away too much to those who haven’t seen it. We see how the officers we know come into Starfleet. A massive threat from Romulus shows up and our crew is launched into action to prevent genocide. It’s far more intricate and interesting than that sounds, but that’s mostly what I can say without giving anything away.

The directing is phenomenal. J.J. Abrams was “in the chair” on this one and it shows. The man who brought us Alias and Lost showed us in this film exactly WHY he’s considered to be such a talent. The story was great, from the unexpected beginning through all of the plot turns within. Visually, it was astonishing. More important than anything for me in a movie, though, is the storytelling. Abrams again shows himself to be a master storyteller who has one hell of a story to tell. He made a movie that is gripping, insightful, imaginative, and compelling. He makes us form opinions about the characters and to WANT things to go one way or the other. Watching this film is not a passive experience. Abrams made this into something that sucks viewers in and makes them want to KNOW what happens next.

THE CASTING WAS ALMOST ENTIRELY SUPERLATIVE.

  • Kirk: Chris Pine as Kirk was an excellent choice. He acted as Kirk, instead of taking the easy road of acting like he’s Shatner acting as Kirk. There’s a real difference, and it shows. He shows us the graduation from brash Iowa farm boy to brash cadet to young man who has a great deal of responsibility put upon his shoulders.
  • Spock: I used to think that Zachary Quinto would never be thought of as anything but Sylar. I was wrong. He not only nailed the mannerisms, but does a good job showing the emotional conflict of a half-human who is trying to come to grips with his unwelcome emotions.
  • Bones: This was easily the greatest casting job that I never saw coming. Karl Urban was channeling Deforest Kelly as Bones McCoy. While it was refreshing to see Chris Pine NOT being Shatner, having Urban do McCoy so perfectly from the beginning was a great call. We see the “making of” for Spock and Kirk, but Urban IS the older McCoy from the moment you first hear him (well before you see him). Hats off to Karl Urban on this one.
  • Uhura: Zoe Saldana managed to turn in a good performance without managing to be particularly Uhura-esque. My memories from the show don’t go much into Uhura’s personality, though the later movies did. She did a good job, and it was also nice to see her strip down to underwear. I’m a guy. Sue me.
  • Scotty: If you could imagine a younger and more playful Scotty, Simon Pegg is it. He wouldn’t have been my first choice, but he did a great job of making the normally playful yet competent character slightly younger. I made it through the movie without thinking of Shaun of the Dead once.
  • Chekhov: Anton Yeltsin was great. From portraying the ship’s only 17 year old officer to trying to pronounce the letter “V” into the ship’s computer, he was great. End of story.
  • Nero, the Bad Guy: Eric Bana did just fine. He wasn’t born for the part and I don’t think he did anything that a lot of other actors couldn’t have done, but he did exactly what he needed to. He was a Star Trek Bad Guy, brought to you by the same people who cast Doc Brown as a Klingon. He conveyed menace and personal pain just fine.

MY PROBLEMS WITH THE CASTING?

  • Winona Ryder: Why would you cast her as Spock’s mom? Seriously. Perhaps they should have cast someone who isn’t in her thirties. Really? Ya think? Once I got past the fact that it was Winona Ryder, though, I have to say that she did well.
  • Tyler Perry: When you’re casting for someone to be the head of Starfleet Academy, DON’T pick someone whom everyone thinks of as an older woman named Madea. I know that people love the cameos, that they’re neat, that it’s a cool way to help people you know get to say “I was in the Star Trek movie,” but if it’s not appropriate DON’T DO IT. Cast a nobody or an established character actor.
  • Sulu: I like John Cho, but he was not the guy for this part. Well, he may have been but it just didn’t come out. He did a fine job as a green pilot. He just didn’t have anything remotely Sulu about him, other than that his ancestors are from vaguely the same part of the world. He had none of the fire and intensity that Sulu had. He didn’t have the charm. He didn’t have the voice. Sadly, there was nothing Sulu about this guy.

ADDRESSING THE ISSUE OF PAYING HOMAGE:
I admit that I was worried when the movie was first advertised. Was it going to attempt to be the original? The answer, thankfully, is NO. As I mentioned above, Chris Pine plays Kirk without playing Shatner as Kirk. It’s not until the last scene of the movie that you see Pine channeling Shatner. It somehow made the movie even better, knowing that he COULD do it but didn’t. We see what happened with the Kobayashi Maru scenario. Geeks like me have been wondering. Spock is very Spock, with the requisite “logical” thrown here and there but the “fascinating” is only used sparingly. Not overkill. Scotty is very much Scotty, even endearingly so, but they only pull out the tagline once: “I’m givin’ her all she’s got, Captain!” Bones had a few, most notably being the almost requisite, “Dammit, man! I’m a doctor not a. . . “

It’s just over two hours long, and the time is well spent.

And they killed the RedShirt. I can’t think of a better way for the filmmakers to say to us “This one’s for you.”

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