Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday Film Review: Star Trek (2009)

To start off with a gem from Mystery Science Theatre 3000, "If you wonder how they eat and sleep and other science facts, remind yourself it's just a show and sat back and relax."

For being a science fiction flick made in the post-Michael Bay's Transformers deluge of massive machines and weapons exploding for three hours, Star Trek, which reboots the franchise with the iconic characters of Mister Spock and Captain James Tiberius Kirk, travels where few sci-fi filmmakers have gone in the past five years: into the cosmos of entertaining films, although Star Trek suffers from a few plot-wormholes that made this reviewer quirk an eyebrow in confusion.

The merits of the film, firstly, arise from the fact that Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine do not attempt to mimic Leonard Nimoy's Spock or William Shatner's Kirk, respectively. So it's not an imitation of Nimoy's expressive furrowed brows or Shatner's witticisms. Instead, we get a Spock torn between the two halves of his genetics--the logic of Vulcans and the emotion of humans--and a Kirk who keeps his laissez-faire attitude, albeit through throwing caution to the wind.

After the first twenty minutes of obligatory origin stories (since it is a reboot, after all), Star Trek accelerates into its plot's thrust...but here was an initial hangup. A Romulan named Nero (whose planet got engulfed in a supernova, so a psycho avenging a home lost in flame...that's not riffing off of ancient history) has traveled back in time through a wormhole, and he is, unbeknownst to our heroes, waiting to destroy Spock's home planet of Vulcan. Now, here's plothole the first: Why is the Federation spread so thin that its Star Fleet has to send cadets into space? Then, plothole the second: Why doesn't Nero take the opportunity to destroy the starship Enterprise--and importantly, Spock--when he has the chance?

Instead, he commits a classic bad guy blunder: not just killing the good guy while he has a chance. But no matter. There are some plot issues that arise from the timey-whimey premise (which I shan't go into here for the sake of avoiding spoils, except to say that somehow elements of parallel universes co-exist without destroying the entirety of the universe due to some implosion-causing paradox), but Star Trek is, first and foremost, fun--as any good sci-fi or fantasy flick should be.

And it's obvious that J.J. Abrams--the creative vision behind the reboot--still enjoys a few good Star Trek jokes. Firstly, there's a scene when Kirk, Sulu, and an ensign Olson have to disable a drill that's boring into Vulcan's crust. And Olson's quite obviously a redshirt, equipped with a red jumpsuit and parachute, and so when I saw them divebombing toward the drill, I immediately knew--just from the red uniform--that poor Olson was expendable. (Sarcastovoyance: Olson was, in fact, expendable.) There's also a witty trade-off between Kirk and Spock; when Kirk finally employs some logic, Spock finds fault with the ideas on an emotional level.

Star Trek doesn't have the most brilliant use of the time-space continuum; for that, I kindly direct your attention to Doctor Who. But what Star Trek does well is respecting the historic series while retooling the franchise for a genre that's used to too many explosions and not enough plot. And somehow, with all of the excitement, Star Trek manages to have an intricate--albeit flawed and slightly wormhole-y--storyline. It's an enjoyable film, particularly for sci-fi buffs, but it has enough action/adventure/why-is-Uhura-wearing-an-improbably-short-skirt-in-a-military-organization? elements to engage a broad array of viewers.

In short: ignore the timey-whimey plotholes. Watch it and enjoy the stuff it does really well, such as the interplay between Spock and Kirk.


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