Friday, May 15, 2009

Star Trek Review part II: To Boldly Go . . . Again.

There's been a lot of talk about movie reboots and re-hashing of old ideas.  Mostly by me.  The latest of these reaches back 40 years to redo a property that has reinvented itself many times over.  Why then are we faced with yet another version of that property known as Star Trek?

Well, apparently because somebody actually got it right for a change.  J.J. Abrams, the creator of Lost, Alias and Cloverfield – who suggested Star Wars needed fixing (the "Some Like it Hoth" episode of Lost) – has "fixed" Star Trek.  
The overwhelming thought I had while watching this new movie was "why haven't the previous Star Trek movies been made like this?"  The easy answer of course is that there's never been this much money thrown at a Star Trek movie before.  This could also explain why the odd-numbered movies were less successful than the even ones.   One theory (William Shatner's, I believe) is that with each success of the even ones, the studio would back off on the budget for the next one – with a corresponding lack in quality.  You see, Star Trek V wasn't Shatner's fault, it was Leonard Nimoy's for making such a good movie before him.

***Possible spoilers.  I'll try to be vague***

Ok, here's what happened, or will happen (it's in the future, you see).  Sometime between Scott Bakula's Enterprise and William Shatner's Enterprise we find ourselves aboard the U.S.S. Kelvin (the coolest ship in the fleet.  Anyone?).  This ship at first looks like an upside-down Enterprise with only one engine sticking out the back.  Capt. Baldy (the first in a long line of bald captains) discovers a big ole ship coming out of a big ole black hole.  The tattooed Romulan commander of this big ole ship, Capt. "Bruce Banner" Nero, asks where Ambassador Spock is.  Little does he know that pointy ears hasn't been born yet.  Hmm.

Meanwhile, George and Winona "the blonde chick on House" Kirk are expecting the imminent birth of their son, James Tiberius.  Unfortunately, just when Momma goes into labor, Daddy has to man the bridge while his captain gets kidnapped by the bad guy.  Pappa Kirk provides cover for all the escaping shuttles so Mamma and little Jimmy can get away with the rest of the crew.

We jump ahead about a decade or so and switch between Iowa, Earth and Vasquez Rocks, Vulcan to see the growth of young Kirk and young Spock.  We get some useful back story before we advance forward in time to heartthrob age for the two lads and see the results of the choices they've made in their lives

Much like the opening credits to Wolverine, this is some of the most interesting stuff in the movie as we get information that's hardly been touched on before in any other movies or TV shows.  Now because of some freaky time travel anomalies involving the first appearance of the Romulan bad guy 25 years earlier, we now get to see an alternate universe, origin story, type thingy introducing us to all our favorite characters for the first time . . . again.

After "Princess Diaries" Kirk wrecks his step-dad's 250 year-old Corvette Stingray (Broke my heart to watch that.  Stupid kid.) he grows up into a young drifter who spends his time picking fights with Starfleet cadets in apparently the only bar left on Earth.  Since the Academy's in San Francisco (at the Presidio, I believe.  Current location of Lucasfilm.  Tell George I sent ya') and the bar is in Iowa, that's the only reason I can think of for the cadets traveling 1925 miles for a Slusho.  Iowa is also where the new Enterprise is being built.  On land.  Not in space.  In Iowa.  Anyway, following an aborted attempt to pick up Uhura and getting his butt kicked by surly cadets, he encounters Captain "President in National Treasure 2" Pike.  Pike encourages Kirk to join Starfleet with a guilt-trip about his dead father saving 800 people including him and his mom.  After some motorcycle-riding-soul-searching, young jimmy decides to give the "military" a try.

The next day, he meets Doctor "I think he was in Xena" McCoy who has also decided to join Starfleet because his wife left him and took "the whole planet".  McCoy sounds like an hypochondriac that is deathly afraid of space.   Kirk, of course, points out that Starfleet is a space organization.  The two fly off from Riverside, Iowa to San Francisco in a shuttle piloted by good ole Capt. Pike.  The next 3 years pass without anything worth filming.

In a scene written for the fans, we get to see how Kirk beat the Kobyashi Maru No-Win Scenario mentioned in Star Trek II.  For those of you just joining us, the Kobyashi Maru is an unwinnable battle simulation used to train future Starfleet Captains.  When Kirk is asked (in Trek II) how he handled taking the test 3 times, this is what he said,

McCoy: Lt., you are looking at the only Starfleet cadet to ever beat the no-win scenario.

Saavik: How?

Kirk: I reprogrammed the simulation so it was possible to save the ship.

Saavik: What?

David (Kirk's illegitimate son):  He cheated.

Kirk: I changed the conditions of the test.  I don't like to lose.

(From memory.  How'd I do?)  

This is where the new Kirk really started to grow on me.  Reminiscent of Leonidas in 300, Kirk casually eats an apple while he waits for his computer hack to take effect.  I can totally buy him as a young, cocky version of Shatner's Kirk.  I've often said that Kirk is the one captain that I'd most like to be like (though not necessarily serve under) and this new Kirk doesn't make me change my mind.  He saves the ship, defeats the Klingons, and gets hauled into the principal's office.  However, his court martial gets interrupted by an emergency situation.

Suddenly, the Romulan Capt. reappears and starts attacking Starfleet vessels.  All the Academy cadets are pulled out of class and assigned to various ships to go fight off this "new" threat (that apparently everybody forgot about happening 25 years ago.)  Except for Kirk who's on academic probation, but ironically knows something about this Romulan baddie.  McCoy sneaks him onto the Enterprise by injecting him with some sort of virus.  Doc then makes several comical attempts to cure him as Kirk tries to warn Pike of the impending danger.

Some major action sequences here as we also meet the rest of the crew.  Pavel "He's also Kyle Reese in the new Terminator?" Chekov's accent is too thick for the voice-recognition software to recognize.  Hikaru "Harold and Kumar" Sulu has a cool, fold-out sword.  Uhura's still not buying Kirk's come-ons.  It isn't until about half-way through the movie that we meet Montgomery "Shaun of the Dead" Scott – probably the most entertaining addition to the new movie.  We also meet an older version of one of the characters played by an original actor, who gets Kirk and Scotty back to the Enterprise.

***End of Spoilers*** 

I went into this movie expecting to be disappointed.  I mean, this being movie #11, an odd-numbered one, it was destined to disappoint.  And the #10 movie before it wasn't much better.  Whenever you try to revamp, reboot, or retool something you run a big chance of re-ruining it.  Apparently I sat through the whole movie in a sort of tense, waiting for something bad to happen state.  But, I have to admit, I enjoyed it.  It was a good Star Trek movie.  It was a good movie of any kind.

I realized why I've seen all the movies and TV shows that proceeded it and why I went to this movie in the first place.  I like Star Trek.  I like the idea of the show, I like the characters, I like all the special effects.  Star Trek has been described as a hopeful vision of the future, a place where everyone is equal, a Wagon Train to the stars (whatever that means).  But it's more than that.  As Deep Space Nine producer Ira Steven Behr put it best, ". . . we blow stuff up real good."

So unless they do a Star Trek V, I'm still going to like it.  And I think the rest of the fans will, too.  Now whether this has the mass appeal of say, Star Wars, remains to be seen.  But they're definitely off to a good start.

– Live Long and POPper by Capt. Fussypants (ReevesReel) –

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