It's been a while since I've posted a non-"24" review, but I'm riding pretty high from the new "Star Trek" movie and wanted to post my thoughts.
I hate movie reviews where the reviewer gives a preamble about his or her emotional attachment to a particular property (e.g. "I wore Spider-Man pajamas when I was 4"). But to do my review justice, I'll give the following disclosure about my emotions towards the material: I spent way too much time indoors as a kid thinking about and watching this stuff. Now, the last "Star Trek" movie I truly cared about came out in 1991- "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country." It's been 18 years since I've seen a "Trek" that has excited me and that drought has ended.
I won't give a plot synopsis because that would be typical and boring. All you need to know is that the Universe is in peril and the heroes of the Starship Enterprise are our best hope to prevail. At its best, "Star Trek" tells stories about people working together to overcome some ridiculously dangerous set of circumstances (sound familiar, "24" fans?)- be it a revenge-crazed space pirate or some amorphous space cloud that eats planets. The Original Series, upon which this new movie is set, was the best at delivering character chemistry amidst these struggles. Series creator Gene Roddenberry often referred to his casting of the show as "capturing lightning in a bottle." And while subsequent incarnations had their moments, none ever came close to what the originals established. Tonight, that's changed.
Chris Pine plays the role of Kirk, which had been "owned" outright by William Shatner for 40-plus years. What Pine pulls off is a believable incarnation of a cultural icon. Nothing Pine does contradicts Shatner's work- in fact he works so well within the framework of the character (his cockiness, his need for emotional approval, his "badassery") that he helps further define Kirk in a new ways. And Pine goes about doing this without imitating Shatner. The same goes for Zachary Quinto as the equally iconic Mr. Spock. These two actors achieve something unique- they revitalize familiar characters with their own brand of energy while remaining true to their predecessors. And it's a key accomplishment for this movie. For all the window-dressing of technology and faux-science speak, "Star Trek" is about a brotherhood. My nostalgia for the old show centers on the relationship between Kirk and Spock. I don't know how Director J.J. Abrams and his screenwriters were able to distill that relationship so well, but I'm amazed by the result.
Is "Star Trek" a 10 out of 10? No- the villain is a mish-mash and the overall premise is a rewrite or two away from being a solid story, but this movie is unabashedly fun. It's the same kind of fun that we have not seen in popular entertainment in a long time or with any frequency. And it's the kind of fun that brings me back to my childhood, when I discovered this strange TV series that had terrible cardboard sets and cheesy alien makeup. But this version is dressed with dizzying special effects and a budget that would make a spend-happy James Cameron go "Yeah, now we're talking."
If you've never seen "Trek" before, or if you're like a lot of people and think it's silly, I challenge you to see this new version. It's completely accessible to newcomers- save for a villain who apparently has a whole back-story that is never revealed in the film. I nitpick this stuff normally, but there's no point in doing so because the emotional impact of this movie is pitch-perfect. For 2 hours, I was transported to a different world that was both familiar and fresh all at once. It's like meeting an old friend again for the first time. What a rare and wonderful feeling.