Saturday, May 23, 2009

Boldly Going Where Many Have Gone Before

I rarely go to watch movies at the theater. The cost has just gotten out of hand. I may average about one film a year at such a venue. The feature that got me out of the house this year is J.J. Abrams' reboot of Star Trek. The lovely spouse and I went to see it today, and got in for a fairly decent matinee price of $5.50 each.

I have to say, this movie is a refreshing change. Star Trek movies, while entertaining, had strayed too far from the roots of the original series which debuted on the NBC Television Network back in 1966. Filmed at Desilu Studios, Star Trek, pitched by creator Gene Roddenberry as "Wagon Train to the Stars", was not a big hit initially. It took on a cult following after its cancellation. Eventually the franchise spawned five spin off series in addition to the original; along with what is now 11 feature films. Now, in a mostly brilliantly done movie, Star Trek returns to the original crew of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and Uhura.

The actors who played the characters in the 1960s have long been past the age where it was believable to see then cavorting around the galaxy. The new cast did an outstanding job of paying homage to the history of the characters, while bringing their own talents to bear. Probably the most amazing of all was the performances of Zachary Quinto as Spock, and Karl Urban in the role of Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy.

This film will be enjoyed by Trekkies (or is it Trekkers), as well as people who never got into the Star Trek series. While largely true to the original, this reboot of the franchise ends up creating an alternate timeline with some differences to the continuity established over the years. I won't share any spoilers here, but nothing that is changed detracted from the story.

In fact, my only complaint is the fact that science fiction films seem to require a silly alien character. In the Star Wars series, it was the worthless, floppy-eared Jar Jar Binks. In the new Star Trek, engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott, has a silly alien pet of some sort. They could have dispensed with him.

There seems to be odd coincidences that sometimes crop up in Hollywood, and this film has one as well. For example, in the 1950s Superman television series, the actor portraying the Man of Steel was George Reeves. In the 1978 film Superman, The Movie, the actor was Christopher Reeve. One letter difference from the actor in the TV show. In this Star Trek film, the actor playing the role of Captain James Kirk is Chris Pine. That is one letter changed from the original Enterprise captain, Christopher Pike. It doesn't mean a thing, but I noticed it.

The bottom line? I give Star Trek a 4.5 out of 5. Highly entertaining for Trekkie and Non-Trekkie alike. Lots of action, good ties to the original, and a fresh start for a franchise whose mythos had begun to get too cluttered to follow. If you can, you should see this movie.