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Quick Star Trek Review

Chris Applewhite will likely be along shortly to add his excellent 'Review for Nerds' but I thought I'd post some quick thoughts in the interim.

A buddy and I have a tradition of seeing most of these sci-fi/comic book/adventure films at their opening midnight showing as the people watching often surpasses the quality of the film itself. To date we've seen dorks of all ages dressed as Yoda, Dr. Manhattan and I think even Mola Ram although that might have just been Brandon Carter. For whatever reason our local theaters had no midnight showings and the 9:55 at Westgate last night provided no such entertainment. Now partially that's my fault as I politely declined Henry James' suggestion to don a red miniskirt and blackface but I think it's also attributable to Paramount's vigilance in marketing this film as a mainstream product and not simply another fan-wank for Trekkies. Will it succeed in capturing audiences previously uninterested in or unmoved by the classic franchise? If early critical reviews are to be believed it seems likely.

If the average moviegoer does connect with this film it will likely be due to the performances of Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto as Kirk and Spock respectively. Both are tasked with emerging from the long shadows cast by their predecessors and in Quinto's case he's forced to try to do so while sharing the screen with him (Leonard Nimoy returns for far more than a cameo). He's aided in his task somewhat by a script that lets Spock out of some of his normal constraints but Quinto's contributions need not be downplayed; he both honors the character and makes it his own. Thankfully Pine doesn't have to act opposite of the Shatneriffic one but it's still quite a task to follow in the footsteps of the actor who towers over the franchise. Shatner has to be one of the more humorous studies in American celebrity as where else can one make themselves a beloved national treasure by being a self acknowledged prick who takes himself too seriously?

In that one where you killed your wife, why are you so fat?

In that one where you killed your wife, why are you so fat?

From all indications Pine is nothing like Bill Shatner in real life although he does a tremendous job hitting Kirk's high points and never resorts to impersonation. In many ways his brash, smart mouthed Kirk carries the film and if the franchise is to move forward they've found a key cornerstone to build on.

As for the rest of the classic characters they're not nearly as short shrifted by the story as was the case with the original cast and generally they make the most of it. The best of these performances is Karl Urban's underused Dr. McCoy as you can never get enough irascible sarcasm and folksy racism. Uhura now does more than just answer the space phone and Zoe Saldana is up to the task. Anton Yelchin's Chekov is irritatingly played just for yucks from his accent but then I'm not sure Walter Keonig's was really any different.

The story is pretty solid for a popcorn flick although some of the explanations and devices for getting the crew in their appropriate chairs seem pretty pat. Ultimately though, the film's already two hours long so most of this can be forgiven.

The special effects are impressive although Director JJ Abrams employs the quick cutting style that's become the norm for filmmakers these days and drives me bananas. Fuck you very much Bourne franchise. The set designs seemed spot on, at once evoking futuristic possibilities and grounding them in a sense of reality.

As for the PG-13 rating, it's on the softer side and pretty safe for family viewing. There's more violence than classic Trek but never graphic and while the filmmakers can't resist parading some of the young cast out in their undies, that's fairly brief (although still quite agreeable in Zoe Saldana's case).

Now personally I can't speak confidently as to what Joe Q. Moviewatcher will think as that's not me. I'm a fan of the original series and have been since childhood when my dad made it a nightly ritual to sit my brother and I down in front of the tube to watch the then twenty year old show and later on the sometimes regrettable films. To this day the characters and mythos remain dearer to me than they ever could have if I'd discovered them on my own. This movie both pays tribute to that mythos and re-imagines it veering hard off established Trek canon right right from the start but giving subtle, respectful nods to it throughout. If you're already a fan you'll appreciate that but it's hardly necessary to enjoy the film.