Yes. You always have at least one scene (and usually more) in every episode of the show. You know the kind of scene they have:
“I said, run!”
“Did you say…”
And then present company goes tearing down a corridor or a hallway or an alien cave at top speed being chased by a monster or an alien or both, usually lethal.
That’s the kind of energy I found in almost every other scene in the new Star Trek movie which is entitled, uh… Star Trek.
When I heard this project being announced I didn’t feel any apprehension or outrage or elation over it. I was all Star Trekked out. Younger actors portraying the Original Series’ characters. Young Kirk, Spock and McCoy. Trek 90210. Yeah, whatever.
But closer I got to the release, the closer I got excited about information that leaked out of the production. Also, because its director J.J. Abrams’ produced some outstanding TV shows in the past decade, like Alias, Lost and Fringe. And because of writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who are Fringe co-producers and writers of Transformers and its upcoming sequel.
Finally, I got to see Star Trek last night. It’s not high art. In fact I would do as far as say it’s a pretty lightweight movie. But it is one very fun movie.
SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT. SPOILERS!
But I don’t believe I will recap the storyline.
Here’s a point-by-point observations of the movie, with a touch of geekery:
- The plot is very easy to follow. Nothing complicated. In fact, the plot relies on some lazy contrivances like the “Appearing in the nick of time to save the day” trope, and the “Oh hey, you managed to be here as well?” trope. However the shortcomings of the plot is well-cloaked by the Doctor Who “RUN!” I mentioned above. In almost every scene, someone has to run, or else someone will get hurt. Kirk, McCoy and Uhura ran for the bridge. Kirk ran from space monsters on Delta Vega. Chekov ran to the transporter room yelling, “I can do this!” in orbit around Vulcan. It’s this manic and sometimes goofy energy that propels the story forward. It’s very infectious, and it’s sometimes grin-inducing, and it’s fun!
- The cast is outstanding. Chris Pine embodies the spirit of James T. Kirk without being a parody of William Shatner. Zachary Quinto plays young Spock like a natural. And Karl Urban is creepily uncanny as Leonard McCoy. Everyone else took a classic character, embody their original spirits but gave them their own new identities. And it works. A great ensemble cast. And Bruce Greenwood as Christopher Pike has great presence. I give one beep to see more of him in further movies.
- Although J.J. Abrams has gone on record as not being a Trek fan, there are so many callbacks to the old series and movies it’s unbelievable. For example, “You have been and always shall be my friend” came up and made me smile. A tribble is seen. Uhura’s Academy room-mate is a green-skinned Orion and no prizes for guessing who’s putting his moves on her. We see how Kirk beat the Kobayashi Maru simulation. The Enterprise even jettison their warp core. And you don’t even want to know which character from the series Star Trek Enterprise Scotty apparently killed by mistake.
- Obviously the design of the USS Enterprise is brand-new, but the starship is bloody huge. Compare the shot of the shuttle bay from old episodes like “Journey to Babel”, and take a look at the amount of shuttles berthed on their racks in the new movie. Even the 20 year old USS Kelvin has at least 800 crew members, compared to the dinky 300 plus of the classic Enterprise‘s. But I am not particularly fond of the new nacelles. They seem physically unwieldy.
- Space seems much more dangerous and alien than the regular star fields we usually see on TV. The virtual sound heard as a starship passes the camera by is filled with classic submarine-esque pinging sound effects. When people pass into space, sound suddenly shuts off except for their breathing. Phaser pistols emit comical pew-pew noises when fired, but you clearly hear sizzling flesh when they hit.
- The visual effects in space is spectacular. We can see features on the hull of a starship with much more clarity and at the correct and awe-inspiring scale. People are seen moving in individual windows. Phaser banks fire bolts instead of beams. Things blow up in space with momentary flame, then it’s all smoke and chaotic debris.
- This movie is more in the spirit of the original series. One, it’s more of an adventure set in space and is barely science fiction. (Come on. Original series? Galactic barrier? Giant space amoeba? They stole Spock’s brain?) There are no pretentious technobabble that annoyed me to no end in the modern Trek shows, except one time and that’s to make viewers underestimate Sulu. They don’t even try to explain the material used by Nero the Romulan villain to wreak havoc (by crapping up while writing DVDs, maybe?). They call it “The Red Matter” and it creates black holes. It’s not, ahem… “multi-dimensional chroniton particles held in suspension in natural inert tetryon-based subspace pocket” or whatever crap they usually come up with. And it looked like that floaty red liquid sphere thing from Alias.
- Delta Vega (whose location differ greatly from the original series) is close enough to see Vulcan in the sky like our own moon. And it’s not affected by the thing with the thing that does the thing? Speaking of Delta Vega, now I know where the Cloverfield monster originated.
- What’s with the blinding lens flare appearing from offscreen every 3 minutes or so? That was freakingly weird and distracting.
- Aww… the original meaning of the nickname “Bones” from Bones McCoy is changed. I am sad.
- However, Uhura’s first name is finally spoken onscreen here. Thank God they went with her classic fandom name (which I’ve read in novels since before time was time) instead of something unrelated to the mythology like Britney or Persephonitta. I am happy.
- “I’m giving her all she’s got, Cap’n, but she cannae take much more of this!” Scotty squeeee!
- “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” Sherlock Spock squeeee!
- This movie is follow up of The Next Generation‘s 2 part episode “Unification“. Though Romulans who had no eyebrow ridges in the original series, then developed them during The Next Generation – Voyager era, seemed to have lost them here.
- Michael Giacchino’s score: He’d already impressed me with his work on all of J.J. Abrams’ TV shows mentioned above, and Cloverfield‘s final credits music and every piece of Ratatouille score. At first I was underwhelmed by the soundtrack score when I first heard it before watching the movie. But when heard in the movie, it totally clicked. Very bombastic and epic score with his trademark frenetic rhythm, with a touch of Lost when Kirk was being born. And when Alexander Courage’s original series theme exploded onscreen during the space visuals in the end credits, I was humming along with a grin on my face.
- And finally… I couldn’t see if Amanda Grayson lifted anything off Spock or Sarek onscreen.
Will we get more of this mix of energy, enthusiasm, comedy (it’s laugh out loud funny at parts) and drama? I really hope so. I really want to discover more about this Star Trek universe. I will run, RUN! to view more movies on the big screen if they’re crafted similarly. I need the exercise anyway.