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Sunday, May 10, 2009
"Star Trek" (2009)
For years, we've wondered what a big-screen, big-budget version of "Star Trek" would look like. With the latest installment in the long-running franchise, we can now say the answer is, "spectacular."

Of course, if you want to see a visually stunning piece of film-making that doesn't quite capture exactly what it means to be "Star Trek," you don't have to look any further than 1979's "Star Trek: The Motion Picture."

I have to admit that going into this new "Trek" film, I was worried that style would win over substance. I also have to admit I was worried that any attempt to show us the first meeting of Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the rest of the classic crew would just annoy the continuity purist deep within me and diminish my opportunity to enjoy the film.

Yes, other franchises have had reboots and I've enjoyed them. But I didn't have as big an emotional investment in James Bond or Batman as I do "Star Trek."

Thankfully, the central conceit of the movie--a time travel storyline that effectively reboots most of the "Trek" universe ("Enterprise" is probably the only television franchise not rebooted and it does get a small shout-out here)--says, "Yes, we know there's this long, rich history, but we're starting over with a clean slate, so don't worry about it." And, for the most , it works, though I do have a few niggling, nitpicky details that the script ignores or overlooks (two big ones--Kirk's older brother George isn't mentioned and the fact that everyone in Starfleet has a detailed knowledge of the Romulans when the original series established that the Romulans were an extremely secretive group of people in the aftermath of the Romulan War...but that's my inner "Trek" geek coming out....)

In a lot of ways, rebooting the franchise may be the best thing to happen to it in a long time. Also, having the movie come out as the single entry from the "Trek" universe also helps. I say this becuase it allows the film to take some chances and not have to worry about how a series on television will deal with the after-effects. Also, by saying "hey, we're starting over again," you can make some changes, such as the destruction of Vulcan or the death of Spock's mother, and have them stand without having to find the "Trek" reset button. I really think the big winner in this reboot is the Pocket Books franchise for the sheer number of new novels mining some of the things brought up here that I'm sure will hit the market in the near future.

As for the movie itself, it's good. It borders on great and it's spectacularily fun entertainment. The story arc of watching Captain James T. Kirk come of age and find his place in the universe is nicely done . The parallels of Kirk and Spock work because that dynamic drove a lot of the better episodes of the original series. And for those of you who might say you don't buy the two being in conflict as we see through a great deal of the film, I point you to "Where No Man Has Gone Before." In many ways, this film is like that episode, showing us the early stages of the friendship to come.

The big question on many "Trek" fans will be--is it as good as "Wrath of Khan?" No, but then again, there's little that (to me) is as good as "Wrath of Khan." Part of that is that "Khan" is a love letter to the Trek fans. It also works because it offers us the best big-screen representation of the classic series characters. For this new "Trek" we're rebooting and while we have all of our old assumptions about the characters in place, they're still new and growing and developing.

For the most part, everyone in the film is well cast. My concern about recasting the crew (because who can play the roles again in quite the same way?!?) proved to be a bit more baseless than I'd assumed, though I still miss Shatner as Kirk. I do think Chris Pine captures the essentail swagger that is Kirk and the moment when Kirk takes command of the Enteprise is a great one. The way it works and the confidence you feel that, finally, Captain Kirk is where he needs to be and Nero would be better served to turn tail and run becuase his plan is about to fail spectacularily is one of the better in the movie. And, the film does have a large scheme in which Captain Kirk and company do get to save the Federation and the universe.

And, just like "Batman Begins," the movie comes to a point where it ends, but leaves you wanting more. As I walked out, I was ready to see the next installment and see what the series has in mind next. I think the next film could be better because it won't have to do the heavy lifting of introducting everyone to the audience and will be able to get in there, show the characters interacting and tell a great story. I'm hoping the next installment will be for "Trek" what "Dark Knight" was to "Batman Begins..."

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/10/2009 06:09:00 AM | |
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