May 11, 2009

Star Trek

Rating: Varies (see below)

It's hard to rate a Star Trek film. Do you rate it compared to other movies, or compared to other science fiction movies? Or do you rate it in comparison with the rest of the franchise?

Either way, this film is certainly above average. As a science fiction movie, it delivers somewhere in the top 10%. As a Star Trek movie, it's a solid #2, behind the classic Wrath of Khan. As a movie, it's fairly average, with a massively overwrought plot that doesn't really make a lot of sense, counterbalanced by some excellent performances and a lot of good popcorn fun.

Luckily for Trek fans, the best performances in the film are given by our favorite four characters. Chris Pine is a great Kirk, Zachary Quinto manages to divorce himself from Heroes' Sylar completely and give us a Spock that feels very genuine, and Simon Pegg is a fun, if silly Scotty. Far and away the best of the big four, however, is Karl Urban's McCoy. Every word that comes out of his mouth is pure McCoy and he nails the character without seeming at all like he's doing an impression of DeForest Kelley's original.

My main gripe with the movie has to be the weak, weak villain. Eric Bana plays "Nero," a Romulan from a future in which Romulus has been destroyed and who, for rather idiotic reasons, has come to the past for vengeance. He's got the ingredients for pathos, but the movie just doesn't give him much to do with them. On top of that, he's sort of a "working class" Romulan, and lacks the panache of a really good space opera villain. Basically, he's pissed off, has a plan for vengeance, and really isn't very clever at all. There are a couple of attempts to give him some Khan-style gravitas, but they fall almost completely flat.

The plot, as I mentioned above, is way more convoluted than it ought to be. I don't know why the writers feel that time travel has to feature so heavily, considering that the very best installments of the series (Khan and Undiscovered Country) left it out. It is necessary for the pseudo-reboot that Abrams is effecting here, though, I guess.

This is kind of pedantic, but the "science" in this science fiction film, is almost more Star Wars than Star Trek. Trek has never been particularly realistic, but there's always been an attempt, at least, to cover up the hand-waving with some believable technobabble. I guess any cinematic attempt to work black holes and time travel into a plot is going to get a little goofy, but they don't even bother to handwave much this time around.

As far as visuals go, the action scenes at the personal level are better than any previous installment's, and the space sequences are very slick. Turning the Enterprise into a fighter plane rather than a battleship, while making for much more kinetic battle sequences, does have its drawbacks, however. There is little sense of mass in these vessels, and a corresponding failure to evoke the gut-wrenching feeling of damage that was so powerful in Khan.

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