Thoughts on Kingdom, Church, and Grace from an American living in Hong Kong

Friday, May 22, 2009

Saw Star Trek Last Weekend

Well, I saw Star Trek in China last weekend and …what can I say…WOW! First, I have to add that the normal travel time into downtown Qingdao is normally 1 ½ - 2 hours. Because of Friday night traffic and missing a ferry, it took us 3HOURS to reach the movie theater. When we arrived though, all became well though. For me, Star Trek has always been a group activity so I invited the boarding students in our charge as well as the school’s principal and family.

Wow, what can I say!

J.J. Abrams did what few thought were possible. He applied a couple defibrillator pads, motioned his detractors to stand back and yelled, “Clear!” as he shot about 20,000 volts into a tired, worn out franchise. And 20,000 volts is what you feel from the first seconds of the movie. Gone are the preachy utopian sermons and the annoying reminders that mankind has somehow “evolved” beyond the primitive nature found in the 20th Century. This Star Trek is gritty, faced paced, and despite being set primarily in space, remains refreshingly “earthy.” You know when the beautiful Lt. Uhura is first introduced ordering some “Bud Lights” from a bartender, this isn’t going to be your father’s Star Trek.

The story itself was the weakest element of the film. An uneven plot revolves around a distraught Romulan (Eric Bana) who vows revenge on Mr. Spock and the Federation after his world and family are destroyed. Why exactly he holds these parties guilty is never fully explored but it does allow Bana to yell and grunt a lot.

However it’s the seeing of the characters we have come to know and love, reincarnated for a new generation, that is the real element that makes Star Trek shine. Each character seems to channel the actors that made their character an icon, without becoming a parody themselves.

Chris Pine becomes the young James T. Kirk and navigates the thin line needed to embody the future captain of the Enterprise…without becoming William Shatner. Zachary Quinto fills the boots of Mr. Spock with a likeness of Leonard Nimoy that bordered on scary. Tammy and I’s favorite character though was Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy played by Karl Urban. He was the cranky, yet loyal friend who breathed real fun into the ensemble cast.

The Starship Enterprise, under J.J. Abrams expert hand, was a feast for the fan’s eye. He invoked the 60’s motif of the TV series while re-imagining it for the 2000’s audience. The colors, sounds, and heck, over all feel gave me goose bumps on a number of occasions. And all though the phrase, “Where no man has gone before”, was replaced by the boringly neutered, “Where no one has gone before, it was nice to see the mini-skirts and go-go boots of the female crew members were not sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.

The cherry on the top of this delicious sundae was the inclusion of Leonard Nimoy as the elder Mr. Spock who returns from the future to help the Enterprise crew. At various times in the past there has been a passing of the baton from the previous generation to the new. In both 1991’s Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country and 1994’s Generations, there was a farewell to the old guard yet deep down, we all knew they would return at some point in some capacity. When I saw the aged Nimoy give the Vulcan hand salute in this newest film, I thought, “This truly is the end.” With some of the original cast members having passed on, and the remaining becoming frightfully old, I sadly realized I would be seeing this generation of my beloved characters for the very last time. But the sendoff given by J.J. Abrams film couldn’t have been more respectful…or more exciting.

Final Verdict: A - This Star Trek goes where no other Star Trek has gone before.


Andrew said...

I have read a number of reviews that said this movie had no message. I would agree that the message was not at the forefront, but I still think it had one. Pike's speech to Kirk in the bar was amazing. I think the message of self-sacrifice and dedicating oneself to a higher purpose as the path to "finding one's self" was the subtle foundation of the movie.

Steve H. said...

Yeah, I'm usually all about the "deeper message" but like you said, it was just wasn't preached.

I'm still waiting for the Romulans to be done "right". I think the best representation was done in the 60's series.

I also hope now that Kirk is Captain, some of the rebel-ness will be toned down just a notch or two. It was almost too much