Monday, May 18, 2009

Star Trek Movie Review

My wife & I saw Star Trek this past weekend and I can describe the movie in one word:


The film's action takes off at warp speed and barely lets up. But this isn't purely an action flick. The emotions evoked by the primary characters and their antagonist are as fiery as a solar flare.

I rate this as the best Star Trek movie yet. (Yes, even beating out Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan). Non-trekkies have raved about this film. Although some critics won't give this the same 5-star rating I do.

What makes this movie so good? (Warning, my examples below contain plot spoilers...)

The movie starts off with a bang--literally. A giant, evil-looking vessel emerges from a space anomaly and attacks the Federation starship USS Kelvin. The intruder is captained by Nero, a Romulan Renegade from the future. With the Kelvin crippled and the captain dead, George Kirk sacrifices the Kelvin--and himself--to cover the crew's evacuation. A crew that includes his wife giving birth to James T. Kirk.

Nero is on a quest for vengeance against Ambassador Spock and the rest of the Federation for the future-destruction of the planet Romulus by a supernova. The problem is: Spock's ship, which also fell through the same anomaly, hasn't arrived yet.

Nero did more than blast a Federation starship and kill Kirk Senior. His emergence has now altered the Star Trek timeline. As a result, James T. Kirk grows up to be a troubled townie in Iowa. Spock being half-human has his own growing pains. The two meet at Starfleet Academy and clash after Kirk "alters the conditions" of the famous Kobeyashi Maru Simulation.

What follows next, is a roller-coaster ride depicting the first mission for the USS Enterprise and her crew. But the movie is not just a special-effects extravaganza. Even when the action drops out of warp speed, the personal drama is just as blazing, if not more so, than the action.

In fact, I'd say the drama was primal. "Primal" is screenwriter Blake Snyder's favorite word. According to his book Save the Cat!, if you want to a story to grab your audience, then play on their primal instincts: Survival, hunger, protection of a loved one, fear of death and sex. (Remember we're dealing with a 20-something James T. Kirk).

And this movie touches just about touches on all of these.

Along with high-drama, director J.J. Abrams deftly handles the character development of all the Enterprise's bridge crew. We're talking about characters fans have known and loved for over 40 years! Accomplishing the this was no small feat. And no Star Trek movie worth it's dilithium crystals would be complete without by-lines, catch-phrases and well-known character mannerisms. All this occurs throughout the film but never feels forced or cheesy.

In the end, the valiant crew of the Enterprise prevails as they always did, but this time cost is enormous. Not only is Kirk's father killed by Nero, but so is Spock's mother--along with about 6 billion Vulcans when their planet is destroyed.

Since the original Star Trek series aired, the United Federation of Planets evolved into a near-Utopian society, especially with the next-generation style shows. J.J. Abrams' movie shows us a slightly grittier Federation--and then hits it with a body-blow. Vulcan was not some tiny colony in the outer reaches, but a core world of the Federation. Not only that, but it's a planet that's existed in the minds of fans for 43 years. Unlike the planet Alderaan, which was blasted by the Death Star within the first hour of Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope.

Now despite my rave review, this latest rendition of Star Trek continues the show's penchant for coming up with some off-the-wall pseudo-scientific gobbledygook. Or, in the words of "filksinger" Voltaire--to make sh*t up:

In this case we're introduced to "red matter," a black-hole inducing doomsday material; which of course the crazed villain Nero manages to get his hands on.

And when Kirk & Scotty need to get off a desolate ice-planet and get back on board the Enterprise flying away at warp-ludicrous speed, what do they do? They beam aboard using "trans-warp beaming."

How convenient.

However, color-coded doomsday matter and the make-stuff-up synergy of the Enterprise crew doesn't detract anything from the movie. In a way it enhances the film. Because it wouldn't be a true Star Trek movie if there wasn't anything to poke fun at! It's part of what has made Star Trek so much fun to watch over the years.

So it's a dark & dangerous galaxy the Enterprise venturing into. But for those of us sitting in the comfy multi-plexes, the future seems bright & amusing.

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