Friday, May 08, 2009

STAR TREK: The Jack Sack Movie Review

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.


Dr. Alice said...

That's great to hear. I wasn't planning to see the film, but your review is making me interested. I've always been more about the character stuff (probably why my favorite Trek series is DS9). If that's what this film is about then I will go.

Rickey said...

Wait, you call yourself a Star Trek enthusiast and you haven't read the comib book prequel that explains Nero's motivations? For shame...

TheJackSack said...

Damned if I have to read a fucking comic book to explain key plot elements in a movie. In the 2 hrs they've afforded themselves, you think they'd be able to at least have the villain's motives explained clearly.

And I also suffer from "pulpuslacerataphobia" (fear of paper cuts).

Rickey said...

Yeah, hopefully they'll give us a more fleshed out, Khan style bad guy for the next movie. From what Rickey's read, this movie is primarily all about the crew of the enterprise (kind of like Liam Neison's throwaway character in Batman Begins playing second fiddle to Bale's Batman). Has Rickey mentioned how freaking psyched he is to see this movie?

Downloaded Giacchino's score last night and it's ridiculously awesome--very fun and adventurous. It does a great job of paying homage to the Horner and Goldsmith scores without ripping them off.

As a big fan of Lost and Fringe, Rickey welcomes you aboard the Abrahms/Orci bandwagon. These guys are great at trafficking in geek material.

TheJackSack said...

Yeah, the Giacchino score is pretty damned fun.

When are you seeing it? I may have to tag along!

Rickey said...

6:30, you want in?

TheJackSack said...

When you're ready to see it again on Sunday, gimme a call!

Rickey said...

Sounds like a plan--Rickey has the obligatory mother's day stuff to attend to, but an afternoon matinee on Sunday should definitely work.

TheJackSack said...

The Jack Sack has a mom too, don't make it sound like I completely spaced on it being "Mother's Day" this weekend... because I didn't... not one bit... (crap).

TheJackSack said...

@Dr. Alice: This is a more lived-in version of "Trek"- not that posh flying hotel in space vibe like TNG.

Ivan said...

I actually thought Nero's motivations were pretty clear and in no need of a comic book prequel.
The movie was very good.

Coffee Nomad said...

I absolutely loved all the characters except for the new Spock -- i liked the original stoic version more than the new condescending version

JustABill said...

I thought it was AWESOME!! It captivated me for 2 hours, and didn't seem like it was that long.

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