Summer Movie A Go-Go: “Star Trek”

Posted: May 12, 2009 in Jeff Holland, Threat Quality
Tags: , ,

Oh-ho, Star Trek! Well done!star trek 1

There, that’s my review.

Fiiiiine, I’ll say a little more. This is where we’re gonna get more complimentary AND critical, all the while being remarkably vague because people should have to seek out spoilers.

For entertainment value, Star Trek is the Iron Man of this summer movie season – a movie that goes out of its way to give audiences enjoyment without pandering or assuming that explosions and boobs are the way to do that (not that you really get to see boobs in summer movies anymore, since they’re all made to optimal PG-13 audience specs). People tend to like:

–  a quick – though not baffling – pace (the movie moves at a good clip without being hard to follow – save for the end, where I kinda forgot what the objective was, but by that point wasn’t too worried)
–  sharp dialogue (Kirk’s reaction to the appearance of an elder Spock is pretty priceless)
– occasional humor (I think we all expected Simon Pegg with a Scottish accent to be hilarious, but it turns out Kirk gets onto the Enterprise via a well-choreographed slapstick sequence)
– a villain who star trek 2resonates enough that you do cheer when the hero(es) prevail and is smart/vicious enough that prevailing at least takes a bit of work (Eric Bana is suitably menacing, with a motivation you can almost, kinda, sorta get on board with).

But what sets a capable summer action movie apart from, oh, just picking a name of the top of my head here, Michael Fucking Bay movies, is that the story is rooted in believable and recognizable human emotion/behavior. We Need To Care Why These People Are Doing What They’re Doing.

We like Kirk and Spock, even when they’re being a bit on the jerky side, because we know what it’s like to want to be good at something, recognize the need to prove yourself, and most of us know what it’s like when someone makes fun of yo’ momma (fewer have had to say “Don’t make fun of my dead dad!” on the playground, I’d presume). And watching two people with opposing methodologies learn to work with each other is a recognizable experience.

(For anime fans, the love-hate relationship between the two actually resembles the Gene and Mugan from “Samurai Champloo” – though Kirk is slightly less…cavemanish?…than Mugan.)

If there is a problem with the plot – and I don’t think it’s a problem, so much as a personal nitpick – it’s that the time-travel story feels less like a dramatic arc and more like a clever in-story explanation for the series reboot (which means elder Spock is actually integral to the plot, rather than the fun little cameo I was kinda hoping it would be – in fact, he almost literally overstays his welcome). To me, a clean break from all old continuity would’ve been preferable, considering that given the slow decline in popularity and quality over the years, it’s not like too many people would’ve been broken up over losing it. After all, starting fresh didn’t hurt the rebooted Bond or Batman trek 3

Of course, the response to that is: Bond and Batman aren’t properties that can explicitly deal with their old continuities. If Pierce Brosnan looked at Daniel Craig and said, “You’re James Bond now” it would’ve been bizarre. If there were allusions that Gary Oldman would someday age into Pat Hingle, it would’ve been downright disturbing. But a great many Star Trek plots deal at length with time travel, and addressing a new timeline is pretty much the only way to assuage the die-hard Trek fans who, let’s face it, could have hurt early buzz with their complaining.

So there you go. If time-travel as story-patch is a big problem for you, maybe you won’t get so much enjoyment from Star Trek. But if the genre “movies that are entertaining” is up your alley, it’ll be $10.50 (ye gods, ten goddamn fifty!) you can safely part with.

Star Trek is the official first movie of summer for me (sorry Wolverine, looks like you’re gonna be a matinee on a slow personal day), but it won’t be the last. Here’s a tentative list of what’s coming up:

Terminator: Salvation
(Alternates: Sam Raimi’s horror return Drag Me to Hell and Rian Johnson’s Brick follow-up The Brothers Bloom)

Year One
(Alternates: Land of the Lost and The Hangover are pretty dependent on good reviews; Transformers 2…look, if all my friends are going, it’s a high possibility I’ll go too – but I won’t have fun, dammit!)

GI JoeJuly:
Public Enemies (though Michael Mann movies aren’t exactly “summer-movie-paced”)
Harry Potter 6
(Alternate: Funny People, though the trailer of this new Apatow movie gave entirely too much away.)

G.I. Joe
Inglorious Basterds

(And in both cases, this is why I use the term “tentative”…Kill Bill used up most of my Tarantino good will, and G.I. Joe just looks agonizing – but hell, gotta see something in August, right?)

  1. aejr says:

    You always make me want to go out and see the flicks you review. Why are you not getting paid for this???

  2. Jeff Holland says:

    Hmm, you’re right.

    Gimme a dollar!

  3. V.I.P. Referee says:

    Saw it tonight, wanted to wait before reading your review—all the bases for a proper start were there. The Spock and Kirk tension was excellent and the techie aspect had solid boundaries to accompany the fireworks. Certainly worth admission.

  4. V.I.P. Referee says:

    …and Senor Holland, when you get a chance: What did you think of Zachary Quinto’s “Spock”; in particular, following his “Sylar” gig on “Heroes”?

  5. Jeff Holland says:

    I was pleasantly surprised by Quinto, actually, considering my general loathing of the Sylar character. Not so much his portrayal, so much as his continued existence. The character should have died at the end of season one like he was supposed to, and was only kept around because the audience liked him. And when you let the audience dictate the story, you’re in trouble (see: the subsequent seasons of ‘Heroes’).

    (A favorite Whedon theory of storytelling: “You have to give the audience what they need – not necessarily what they want.”)

    But Quinto as Spock: I think we all kind of figured Spock as a young man was much like the kid in class who reminded the teacher she’d forgotten to assign homework. And I liked that his struggle to control his emotions was played far more subtly than it could have been (other than that whole beating-up-Kirk thing – You Don’t Make Fun of Spock’s Momma!).

    And of course, comedically speaking, I’m always a sucker for the pairing of a brash, cocky sense of humor with an unflappably dry wit, which Quinto delivered in spades.

  6. threatqualitypress says:

    I just saw this movie, and was not happy with it. Nothing makes any god-damn sense.

    Also, for fully 25% of the time, I couldn’t tell what anything looked like because of the fucking lens flare.

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