Well, it has been a while, my malchiks. Gather ye round so that I might try to make it up to you.
Firstly it has been the end of the semester, which brings with it much craziness and activity frenetic. We have had some really cool stuff happen at work. A local theatre, American Stage, is moving into a new facility soon, and they are selling off as much of their stuff as possible to make the move easier. One of the most aggravating problems in our theatre is the thirty-year-old seating. It is squeaky, ugly, and the most uncomfortable seats you will find this side of Old Sparky, but since we are the red-headed step-child of the college we cannot get any funding for renovations. Well, American Stage made us an offer to sell us their seats at about a fifth of what it would cost to buy new ones, and at the same time we managed to convince the powers that be that we needed new carpeting as well. The negotiations dragged on, and finally we got permission to make the purchase...with our own money. Well, that part sucked, but at least we are replacing a large percentage of our seats(American Stage's auditorium was less than half the size of ours) with attractive, quiet, and above all comfortable seating. And we're getting new carpet in the deal. Next we are getting the hideously brown walls painted. Yay! Now if we can just come up with the $200K I need to upgrade the medieval lighting system. ;-)
And now on to much more important matters. Star Trek.
It's back, baby!
Now let me give you a few caveats here. Star Trek XI is not a flawless movie; not by a long shot. There are plot holes you can drive a truck through, and the science is probably the worst of all the movies, and I cannot refute anyone who claims they hated this film. If your first introduction to Trek was The Next Generation or later, you probably will not enjoy this one. If, however, you cut your SciFi teeth on the original five year mission this movie is a very satisfying trip back to your childhood.
My primary concerns were how would I deal with other actors portraying Kirk and company, but let me say that these guys did a fantastic job. Chris Pine pulled off the unthinkably difficult task of channeling Jim Kirk without channeling Bill Shatner. His subtle Kirkisms are almost subliminal and with one exception almost require multiple viewings to catch. Karl Urban's Dr. McCoy bugged me at first, but on my second viewing I warmed to him. Zoe Saldana was amazing as Uhura, which was a good thing since she is one of the central drivers of the plot. Simon Pegg's Scotty was a joy to watch, and John Cho's Sulu is part sub driver, part swashbuckler. Anton Yelchin's Chekhov bothered me a bit at first as well, but as I got used to his accent I warmed to the character. And I saved the best for last. Zach Quinto's Spock is flawless. I have seen a bit of Heroes, and was not impressed with Quinto, but he nailed Spock. Although this Spock is more open to things our Spock would never have been. But I say too much. ;-)
The supporting cast is excellent with two real standouts. Faran Tahir as Capt. Robau of the USS Kelvin is only on screen for five or six minutes, but he is awesome. And Ben Cross as Sarek totally owns the part while still honoring the late Mark Leonard. The only person who is somewhat forgettable, and this isn't his fault as an actor, is Eric Bana as Nero. There is a back story to Nero that gives his character much greater depth and motivation, but most of it is either in the comic series Star Trek: Countdown or ended up on the cutting room floor. This is a shame because Bana plays a great baddie, but he was shackled with the fact of being secondary to the actual story of getting the crew onto the Enterprise.
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And what is that story? In a nutshell a Romulan mining vessel, the Narada, is accidentally sent back in time after a disaster on Romulus. They encounter the USS Kelvin, a starship who's crew includes George Kirk and his pregnant wife. The Romulan Captain, Nero, kills the Kelvin's captain and destroys the ship, but not before first officer Kirk evacuates the ship and then sacrifices himself so the crew, and his newly born son James, can escape. This creates a new timeline where Jim Kirk never knew his father, and seemed destined to never join Starfleet. What follows is the tale of how the crew we sort of know get together and save the day. And this is where the film excels. The Original Series was not big on the science, or the technobabble, or even the hardware as much as later series were, but the relationships between the actors were the heart and soul of Star Trek. This movie captures those relationships beautifully. Even the cliche of Kirk and Spock hating each other at first was made to work smoothly and believably. And even though this is an alternate universe, with an uglier Enterprise(in my opinion), JJ Abrams bends over backwards to throw us die-hard fans bones left and right. From Scotty's 'I'm givin' her all she's got!' to McCoy's 'I'm a doctor, not a ____' to a cleverly placed tribble Abrams does his level best to make his own movie without alienating us. And the irony is that despite the annoying 'This is not your father's Star Trek' ad campaign, it is exactly your father's...meaning my generation...Star Trek. Dodgy science, sketchy plot devices, tangential monster fights, and big flashy battles...you can't get much more TOS.
By all rights I should have hated this movie, and there is a scene in the middle that has so many coincidences that I very nearly lost my enjoyment of the film, but again the way the actors so perfectly portrayed the characters I just maintained my willing suspension of disbelief, finding rationalizations for what was happening rather than decrying it. And the music that plays over the closing credits brought tears to my eyes.
The bottom line is that I love this movie, warts and all, not because it's the best of the series, but because it let me be ten years old again. Both times I've seen it I left the theater with a big grin on my face, and when I see it again with my wife I expect that grin to be even bigger.
Live long and prosper, my friends.