Sunday, May 10, 2009


Friday Movie Review (quite late): Star Trek

The prequel movie to the series of the same name, Star Trek, was quite a pleasant way to pass two hours--completely lightweight as science fiction stories go, and more like a special two episode venue in a TV series than a movie, but fun. First a little background.

It is difficult now to recall how different television was in 1966. There was no constant self promotion by the three networks then. They didn't even tell you what was on next. There was a magazine out there, TV Guide, to do that. So one Thursday in early September, when I was 13 and a total geek who had read perhaps 500 science fiction novels, this new show, Star Trek, appeared and it was pretty good. The first episode to air was the salt monster one and although I like The Menagerie a lot better, it was a good start.

Compare that humble beginning to the hype that surrounds this film (and each and every Summer wannabe blockbuster), and you can see the origins of disappointment from the final product here. Few movies live up to their hype. This is, as usual, bad science fiction, with the emphasis on science. Very bad. They travel faster than light; there appears to be artificial gravity (yeah, right) and a suspension of the Newtonian laws of momentum, that is, they come to a dead stop instantly after traveling a billion miles per hour and are not reduced to protoplasmic goo a few microns thick on the inside front of the ship. The beam weapons are visible. Humans can mate with alien species and produce viable hybrids. I could go on and on. But that leap of faith suspension of nearly all known science has always been the substrate in the popular series. Heck, you can hear the engines Doppler by and explosions, with lots of fire, in space. Don't get me started about the idiocy of the red goo ball or time travel through, mind you, in and then back out, a black hole. These are time honored lies and mere plot devices, but still annoying.

So what's good about it?

There is some humor. Most of the young actors look pretty good. Student Kirk nails a green girl. Uh... There are lots of explosions. The pacing is very rapid especially in contrast to the first one, "all ahead, Mr. Sulu at glacial speed." Oh, and there are no Klingons.

You can barely recognize Eric Bana and Winona Rider, and most of the rest are pretty unknown, at least to me. One exception is Syler from Heroes. He does a good job in a reined in, wooden sort of way. Karl Urban, the former Eomer in the Lord of the Rings cycle, is near perfect as the young, or at least younger, Dr. McCoy.

The director is J.J. Adams, who has done a lot of interesting but ultimately pointless TV pseudo science fiction, like Alias and Lost. He was the producer of Cloverfield, which I liked. He has a deft touch with a lot of the relationships. Well done. The writers are a team, Roberto Orci and Alex Kutzman, responsible for such things as Mission Impossible III, The Island and Transfomers, and both were born after the original series of Star Trek was off the air for several years. Despite the wildly improbable plotline, which relies on billion to one coincidences again and again, the seem to have re-captured the essential likability of Gene Roddenberry's Utopia tinged vision of our future.

I just have one question. Where did the Nimoy Spock get the wood for his fire?


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