Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Man on Film: Star Trek

I did not go into this film without considerable trepidation.

Of the works on J.J. Abrams' résumé, there is not one with which I have not taken issue. His directorial debut, Mission: Impossible III, was not good to be kind. "Felicity"--the show that operated in a parallel universe in which everyone spoke in whispers--was not my cup of tea either. Where I truly take issue with the Abrams catalog is with "Alias" and "Lost".

In the case of "Alias", I absolutely loved the first season and a half of the series. There are few series that have reached the heights that "Alias" did pre-Super-Bowl-reboot. Then--and I should lay the onus mostly on the network, ABC, because the show's trajectory from that point on reeks of a meddlesome network messing around in the kitchen--ABC decided that Abrams & Co. needed to de-serialize "Alias" to make it more accessible to the average viewer (read: moron). From that point on, the show lost its way and ended up abandoning the elements that truly made it work: the attempts to balance a personal life with an extraordinary one, all the while needing to protect the ones you love because your involvement in their lives ultimately endangers them. By the end of the series' run, it was such a train wreck that the obligation to watch was one carried out with pain.

With "Lost", it became clear towards the end of the first season that they had embarked on a journey that they fully expected to have been ended prematurely by the network that was airing it. On a dinghy out at sea, they ironically found themselves out at sea, much like the castaways on the island, without a plan feeling things out. As aimlessness became more and more prevalent with the series, anger began to grow more and more inside. The predictable discordant music cues, the preposterous twists, the forced reveal of a crossed path here or there--all began to irritate. By the time a few episodes in the third season had aired, my ire was becoming so great that I had to stop watching, something even "Alias" at its most aggravating had not managed to do.

So, coming into this Star Trek, my primary concern was that Abrams had shown a history of having fleeting moments of brilliant ideas that were ultimately undermined by his inability to execute. As an actual fan of the Star Trek movie franchise and of "The Next Generation" and the first few seasons of "Deep Space Nine" (once that Maquis nonsense took over the show, this viewer jumped ship), his failure to successfully follow through left me more than skeptical heading into the film.

Well, J.J., you can mark one down in the win column in my book.


Sure, I could quibble with slight disagreements between Abrams' vision for elements of the film and my own regarding the Star Trek Universe, but by and large, the film succeeded in what it set out to do. It is an entertaining reboot of a franchise that enables itself to set out on a new path thanks to an alternate reality kicking off (unknowingly) at the onset. The narrative may not be exceptionally rich, but it does manage to escape the trap that so many origin films of late have fallen into: that of making it half way through the film and having your principle characters aptly introduced only to find yourself lacking anywhere to go with the film. Unlike Spider-Man or Iron Man, Star Trek integrates the introduction of characters into the structure of the narrative seamlessly.

Unlike with nearly every film I see, there were no faults at all in casting. Chris Pine plays young James Tiberius Kirk with exuberant recklessness that makes the casual fan forget who William Shatner (the actor, of course, no one can forget Has Been, which is totally awesome). As much as it pains me to say, Zachary Quinto is spot on as Spock. Karl Urban and Simon Pegg own Bones and Scotty. Cameos abound, the oddest one being Tyler Perry in an utter, "What the fuck" eye-rub/head shake/repeat eye-rub moment.

Each character gets a chance to throw in their signature phrases, much to the delight of the audience. A red-shirt gets on a mission away from the ship.

Most importantly, though, a good time is had. Maybe the editing errs slightly to the side of the Michael Bay School of Filmmaking, but it isn't as disjointed as Transformers (in which the action sequences were absolutely unintelligible). As an event film--and this moreso that any other Star Trek film is an event--Star Trek works on nearly every level, which is about all you can ask.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...