Friday, May 8, 2009

Star Trek (2009): 9.4

Star Trek (2009): 9.4
Directed by J.J Abrams
My experience with Star Trek is essentially nothing. The world has never interested me. I never really gave a shit; especially about the old crew. Give me a choice of which series to watch and I would pick Generations in a second. I always thought Spock seemed pretty cool if I ever gave the world a chance. So this movie coming out was not a huge deal to me. I was excited because J.J Abrams was behind it and as someone who helped Lost exist I immediately worship him. Also after seeing what he did with the Mission Impossible series, he had my respect in the world of film when I saw in that film that he could not only reboot a franchise that had in my mind been dead in the water after the abysmal pigeon filled pain fest that was Mission Impossible II (No offense John Woo, I loved The Killer but this…not so much), but could expertly film an action scene (something that comes along rarely these days in American film). The action scenes in Mission Impossible III had me on the edge of my seat; they excited me with their freshness. Then Cloverfield further impressed me not so much in the actors, who I thought mostly brought the film down, but in the film itself which moved past its gimmick stylistics to provide a genuinely participatory experience. So with a franchise that I do not really have an interest in getting a reboot from a director who interests and excites me, I was moderately interested but not overwhelmingly excited.
I really am of the opinion that it is just as hard to make a good blockbuster/big budget film as it is to make a film with more depth at its core, the films that more often get the respect of cinephiles. How many times do we see a well respected art house director make a mainstream American film and fail in terms of quality? Not everyone can make blockbusters that are good. It’s not easy. I honestly cannot even imagine how hard making any film must be especially one that has this much at stake. A successful blockbuster to me does not mean that it makes money. That just means it’s a blockbuster period. People are going to go to these films; I mean a film that has a huge budget and that actually genuinely entertains and pleases and excites and is well, good. It so rarely happens. So when something like this comes along it’s like a breath of fresh air and it makes you realize how poor so many big budget films are.
Star Trek took me completely by surprise. From the second it started it entertains, excites and moves. In fact the beginning scene depicting the death of Kirk’s father and the simultaneous birth of Kirk is so jam packed with urgency, action and emotion that the climax cannot dream of living up to it. It is hard to make us care about what is going on so soon into the film but I must say that the opening battle scene moved me and had me feeling for these people that I did not know. Michael Giacchino’s music (Composer of Lost among many other works) is so loud and so present that some might think it detracts, but honestly in a film like this, it enhances. Films with a budget this big is supposed to have everything act as enhancers. They do not have to prove that they can move people and control audience emotions without the manipulator of music; that challenge is for other films. The music here simply brought me more into the world and into the film and I for one loved it.
As I was saying, the film entertained on every level. I am not sure the last time I have seen a film with a pace as fast and pressing as this one that in no way compromised the material. The film starts out on a high and just keeps going. The level of energy that this film has is infectious and something that must have been ridiculously hard to accomplish considering that I never see it done well. Abrams keeps the brightness of the series in visual tone, in fact he makes it brighter and I applaud that. So much of the film is pitch perfect in terms of the reboot. It’s hard to update this kind of material but it felt very much respectful and in spirit of the original as it injected new life into it at the same time. Abrams uses…I cannot even explain it. Every shot on the Enterprise deck has shiny stuff across the screen. It is like the reflecting shininess of the room hits the camera and it shines every time the camera moves, which in this movie is a lot. It was a stylistic effect that I really loved. It added uniqueness to the look of the film.
The really impressive cast is where this film really hits the mark. From top to bottom everyone works perfectly. I love that, like Watchmen, they got recognizable faces for the roles but not out and out A list actors. Chris Pine was the actor I was worried most about because mainly I just thought he looked like a vapid CW guy (no offense Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, you are not vapid at all) such as Chace Crawford or dare I say it Chad Michael Murray. Within 5 minutes of Pine showing up in the film I realized I was wrong and he completely won me over. He’s a womanizer to be sure and does therefore really embody Kirk from the little I know but he also has a difficult task of embodying Shatner in that he has to be recognizable as the same character but at the same time he has to not in any way be anything like Shatner. The other actors can embody the old actors and bring something new if they choose but Pine had to stay away from the actor, at least it is what I would have recommended. And he does this and succeeds, making him likable and funny and rebellious. He has presence and charisma which I was worried he would not have.
As for Zachary Quinto, well I never worried about him because the second I found out he was cast I pretty much thought it was the most brilliant piece of casting I had heard in months. Since I ditched Heroes I also ditched Sylar which was a shame because I loved him on the show but he was not enough to keep me watching. So it was nice to see him again and he was perfection. Absolute perfection. I do not even know what to say about him except that he was everything I had pictured and more. Everyone else in the main cast is really just pitch perfect as well; John Cho, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg and Anton Yelchin. Eric Bana was good as Nero as well even though overall would have to say one of my complaints is that Nero simply was not that interesting and I think Bana had more to offer than the material gave him to work with. Winona Ryder makes a wonderful cameo appearance as Spock’s mother which reminds me just how much I love and miss her being more frequently around. Leonard Nimoy was of course wondrous. Tyler Perry sucks and I hate hate hate that he was in this but it is a minor quibble amongst the many great things.
I cannot deny that I had a few complaints. Only a few though. One I just mentioned which was that Nero just overall was not that interesting a villain. I thought Eric Bana was so good and it was a shame that he was not given the material to match his dedication. My second complaint was that the plot was a little confusing. Honestly it’s because pretty early in I decided to stop trying to figure things out and to just go with it which explains things. I cannot blame the film entirely because I know a lot of it is me being dumb. I just feel like a lot of stuff did not fully make sense to me even if I partly got it. My third complaint was the use of Uhura. I love Zoe Saldana. I’ve been following her since she randomly popped up in the first Pirates film and did not show up for the second two. She is not in very good movies usually but she has presence, talent and beauty. First of all the choice to keep the miniskirts was pretty annoying to be honest. I’m sort of peeved that did not update that aspect of things. Second of all Uhura is given nothing to do except of course to look longingly at Spock and offer to give him “anything he needs”. The film does not shy away from the fact that she is incredible in linguistics and yet it gives her no big moment like it does with the other characters to save the day. She just walks around in a mini skirt and makes googly eyes with Spock. I just wish she felt more integral to the group than she does. It’s the old when screenwriters do not know what to do with a female character, let’s give them a romance thing that I resent.
I must mention the special effects in this film; some of the best I’ve ever seen; period. I’ve seen effects as good as these, although rarely and I’ve never ever seen effects that have impressed me more than this. There were so many wow moments that took my breath away.
These seem like pretty big complaints but altogether they are pretty mild compared to how much fun I had. All in all this was a really great way to start out the summer. It has a lot of humor, plenty of action, an extremely young and charismatic cast and a refreshingly fast and urgent pace. Take a good look people; this is what a good blockbuster is. There is a good chance my Summer of 2009 in movies has hit its peak.

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