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Sunday Notebook

By admin Published: November 15, 2009

A meditation on reinvention of previous pop culture, like "The Prisoner" and "Star Trek," is here.

The weekly DVD/BD column is here. Includes "The Exiles," "Farscape: The Complete Series" (which is not completely complete), "Margaret Cho: Beautiful," "Andy Barker, P.I."

Because "Star Trek" will be out on BD/DVD on Tuesday, and I have not yet gotten a copy to review, after the jump I have re-posted my review of the movie from its big-screen premiere.

The review:

Let's keep it simple: The new, big-screen Star Trek is the best
movie in the long series of films, and a distinguished, enthralling addition to the encyclopedic mass of Star Trek lore.

The movie is designed to appeal to old fans of the TV series and its movie successors; many in the audience will nod at the arrival of Christopher Pike or at the film's extensive use of the Kobayashi Maru battle scenario. No doubt there will be purists who object to some rewriting of Star Trek, but the many incarnations of the show and its successors have led to so much bending and twisting of the canon that the little heresies here seem quite forgivable.

Still, even someone who comes to the film with just a general sense of the old characters should find plenty of appealing action, drama and even some comedy. Aside from a brief flagging of pace late in the film, it's a solid piece of work; director J.J. Abrams has long since established his action cred with Mission: Impossible III, Alias and Lost. (And some of the themes in Lost also echo in Star Trek.)

Written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the new Star Trek takes us back to the beginning of the crew of the Enterprise — literally, since it starts with the birth of James T. Kirk (played as an adult by Chris Pine). Early parts of the film give us glimpses of the childhood and early adulthood of both Kirk and Spock (Zachary Quinto), and the paths that take them to Starfleet Academy.

As the movie unfolds, there are a crisis in space (and time), the introduction of the younger versions of other characters, the return of an old favorite (Leonard Nimoy), and numerous nods to Star Trek past. Pike (Bruce Greenwood), a mentor to Kirk, was the Enterprise captain in the original series' pilot; the Kobayashi Maru was pivotal to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Beyond some odd cameos — Tyler Perry as a judge, Winona Ryder as Spock's mother — the movie is superbly cast. Pine is a serviceable Kirk, especially when it comes to the hotheadedness that often marked William Shatner's Kirk. Quinto is even better as the young Spock, a tough role made even more challenging because of Nimoy being in the film. Zoe Saldana brings out the sexiness of Uhura, and Karl Urban's Dr. McCoy is a delight.

The look is mostly modern — the action scenes up to modern standards, the sets massive. Unlike the recent Star Trek parody on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the new film does not embrace the sometimes cheesy sets and lighting of the old show. But it never forgets to acknowledge the past in other ways, such as the retro costumes.

The pace is strong save for one unnecessary action sequence used to set up the appearance of a major character. Beyond that, though, the movie offers a great time. I was thinking about seeing it a second time even before the first time was done. More than once an overpowering sentimental feeling took hold because it was all just so cool.

I used to think that Wrath of Khan was the best Star Trek movie ever (although some of its emotional impact was diminished when Paramount opted for Star Trek III). But I went back and looked at Wrath of Khan again after seeing the new film, and the new film is better. You may want to argue for Star Trek IV or VI, or one of the Next Generation movies. I still argue for the new film. It is at once grand and down to earth. Bring on the sequel.

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