Before I start my review, let me offer congratulations to Sarcastica, who just gave birth to a baby boy named Nolan last night. Even though you didn’t name him Adam, which is an awesome name, or Avitable, which is an even awesomer name, I wish you the best of luck with your new family!
Now, let’s talk about Star Trek. It doesn’t enter theaters until May 8th, two weeks from today, but I was able to snag a ticket to a sneak preview screening of it (thanks Jess!). I got to the theater about an hour and a half before showtime and waited at the front of a line full of some of the geekiest geeks that ever geeked. I mean, talk about stereotypical. The people behind me were actually telling Klingon jokes, I shit you fucking not. And before you talk about the pot calling the kettle black, I fully accept that I’m a geek. I am not, however, a fan of Star Trek. I’ve never seen a full episode of any of the four thousand series that existed. I’ve never seen Star Trek I or II or III. I saw the one where they go back in time to save the blue whale from extinction. It was funny. And I think I’ve seen a few of the movies that didn’t include the original cast, but they were completely forgettable. The amount of knowledge I have about the world of Star Trek is extremely limited.
As a result, I walked into this movie without the baggage that most of the Trekkies attending had. I like JJ Abrams, I enjoy intelligent action films, and I’m a fan of some scifi. Even if this didn’t have the “Star Trek” name, I would have probably gone to see it. Unless it was called “Radioactive Hamsters” or something.
For those of you who want to see this movie, I will keep the review completely spoiler-free. Rather than discuss the details of the plot, I thought I’d focus on the good elements and bad elements of the film.
The Action: This movie did not slow down for me at all. I never felt compelled to look at the time or even look away from the screen. The story is very tight, and things move at an excellent pace.
The Dialogue: Everything felt genuine. It wasn’t a bunch of hokey futuristic talk that just sounds goofy. It felt grounded and even felt like it could be our future.
The Actors: Replacing the dynamic personality of William Shatner with someone else could have been catastrophic. It wasn’t. Chris Pine did an outstanding job of making the character of James T. Kirk his very own, without in any way mimicking the affectations known as Shatner’s acting style. Zachary Quinto was seamless in his role as Spock, and Simon Pegg made a great Scotty. The two big surprises for me were Zoe Saldana, who played Uhura, and Karl Urban, who played Bones McCoy. Saldana was compelling and one of my favorite characters from the movie. Urban somehow became a young DeForest Kelley. and with the exception of a few forced lines that took me out of the movie, was quite a chameleon. Eric Bana’s villain, Nero, had gravitas and felt like he had justice on his side. The best villains are the ones who believe they’re noble, and this was no exception.
The Plot: It was simple, straightforward, and managed to simultaneously tell a fresh story while eliminating any complaints from Trekkies about continuity. That’s right – they managed to tell a great origin story without in any way compromising the integrity of the decades of continuity and canon. And they set the stage for more stories that will have the freedom to explore any avenue they desire.
The Visuals: In one word: outstanding. Everything worked, everything felt real, and I didn’t see anything that jumped out to me as being obvious CG.
The Action: During a few of the fight scenes, they opted for a technique similar to a cross between the Bourne movies and Batman Begins. Namely, very close in, action moving too fast to track, and occasionally confusing shots where you couldn’t discern who was doing what. They also pulled out for some scenes, which I felt worked better. I prefer Zack Snyder’s technique of slowing down action scenes to show the choreography to the naked eye, but that’s just me.
The Dialogue: Some of the lines were very forced and were obviously stuck in there to pander to fans. Of special note would be McCoy’s trademark “Dammit, I’m a doctor not a physicist/circus monkey/garbage man/etc./etc/.” and Chekov’s inability to say the letter “V”. These lines were minimal, though, and didn’t really interfere with my ability to enjoy the movie as a whole.
The Actors: I like Anton Yelchin, but his Chekov was grating. Using a foreign accent as comic relief seemed to be the weakest part of the one Star Trek movie I’ve seen (nuclear wessel), and it weakened the movie here, too. I would have much preferred his character to have a slight accent, if any. For me, though, and I’m prepared to be crucified for this, the worst actor by far was Leonard Nimoy. It felt like his every line was him winking at the audience, breaking the fourth wall, especially the voiceover towards the end. I understand why they brought in a legacy character, but it was just indulgent, unnecessary, and annoying.
The Plot: The only complaint that I have about the plot is that it felt a bit anti-climactic. Without spoiling anything, I can only say that I was surprised that the end of the conflict was the end and there wasn’t anything additional about to happen.
The Visuals: Other than the too-close, blurry action scenes, I have no complaints about the visuals.
Winona Ryder’s old age makeup. She was excellent in the role, and it was nice to see her acting again, because she’s one of my favorite actresses, but her old age makeup was just as bad as it was in Edward Scissorhands, which was almost 20 years ago. Why they couldn’t take some of those excellent visual effects and just apply them to her face ala Cate Blanchett in Benjamin Button, I don’t know.
It’s a very strong reboot to a faltering franchise. Star Trek is fun, exciting, and accessible to diehard Trekkies, casual fans, and newbies. It’s not going to win any Academy Awards (well, maybe for technical shit), and it has a few missteps, but overall it was a very good film.
I give it a B+.