Monday, June 22, 2009

Trekking For Answers

I finally broke down and went to see Star Trek.

And I'll probably receive death threats from other Trekkies but I have to speak my mind ...

... so here goes ...

I had a little difficulty swallowing this pill as I consider myself a conservative Trekkie. While I take my hat off to J.J. Abrams directorial and cinematic style, I feel like a religious zealot who has just been told there is no divine being. My concept of (and comfort level within) the Trek universe has been thrown into disarray and chaos. Simply put, my Trekkie faith has been tested.

I was introduced to the world of Star Trek by way of The Next Generation featuring the adventures of Captain Picard and his valiant crew aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise-D. I was a die-hard geek as a youngster, building starship models from paper plates and other things I could find around the house. I even went so far as to act out storylines in my room! And that's not including the uniform I have or the myriad of models, books, magazines and props. Thankfully, I grew up and simply read the novels for my Trek fix however, something about the idea of traveling among the stars, exploring worlds and galaxies, continues to fascinate me to this very day. However, I've always been extremely reluctant to step outside "The Next Generation" series.

When Deep Space Nine debuted in 1993, I was very hesitant to tune in and avoided it like the plague. Eventually, once TNG was cancelled, I was slowly won over by Captain Sisko and his unique crew. Once I accepted that DS9 and TNG were not identical twins, I was able to enjoy every aspect of the show to the end. Consequently, the same thing happened in 1995 when Voyager first aired. Yet again, I jumped on the bandwagon several seasons in and stayed loyal to the end.

Nevertheless, the same did not ring true for The Original Series (TOS) or Enterprise (ENT). I followed Enterprise for a few episodes but disagreed with the overall concept of the series from the outset. I felt that the ship was a clone of previous designs and the continuity was all f***ed up not to mention the sexy Vulcan officer was a obvious rip-off of the sultry Seven of Nine on Voyager.

Unfortunately, I am a child of modern times and was never able to truly enjoy TOS. The halls were cardboard, the sets reeked of the 1960's and the model ship dangled from a string orbiting the same planet every week with a different color. Still, as a conservative Trekkie, I respect my elders and thus if it hadn't been for Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Sotty, Uhura, Chekov and Sulu, I wouldn't be the Trekkie I am today.

All this said, I still wasn't feeling the new movie. The special effects were great but felt overtly "Star Wars," especially with Spock's ship and the warp effect. While I understand it was intended to win over a new generation of fans, I don't think the long-time fans should have caved so easily. This movie has Hollywood stamped all over, from the lens flares to the melodramatic scenes, and the youth oriented cast. Furthermore, the casting of Tyler Perry and Wynona Ryder certainly added to that Hollywood-esque look. I seriously can't take the idea of Madea as the head of Starfleet Command!

While I enjoyed the writing, I felt the storyline strove incredibly hard to separate itself from the official Trek timeline. The idea of time travel and alternate dimensions seemed a bit over the heads of the summer movie going crowd and even as a devoted fan, I found myself having an “aha!” moment about two thirds of the way through the film. The scene that did move me the most was Kirk’s father risking his life as his son was being born. The sound, effects, camera shots … nicely done!

As for the characters and their portrayal … eh, some actors really channeled their forefathers (or mothers) while others seemed placed simply for their youthful assets. Chris Pine’s Kirk and Zachary Quinto’s Spock were right on point and the tense scenes between them were great. Chekov’s youthful clone overacted the accent and I was tremendously disappointed with Scotty’s buffoonery. While I was exceptionally glad to see Uhura’s character expanded greatly, she still seemed placed merely to attract horny teenage boys to the movie. While Karl Urban's McCoy didn’t come close to looking like him, the lines, the voice and the mannerisms screamed Bones. John Cho’s Sulu was a decent enough attempt but I think this was one of those scenarios where he was hired simply because of his ethnicity. Then again, Sulu never had much screentime (hmmm, kinda like Harry Kim from Voyager and Hoshi Sato from Enterprise). And lastly, while I applaud Ben Cross for a valiant attempt at Sarek, there can be only one Sarek of Vulcan.

The engineering set was the worst set ever for a Trek movie – a huge warehouse/factory? C’mon guys, you can do better than that … was the budget running low? The bridge was a bit nauseating but I could slowly get used to it. I’m still trying to figure out why there were price scanners on the console behind the captain’s chair …

Oh, and Nero. He was definitely one of the better villains in Trek movie history. Eric Bana acted his little heart out. Nevertheless, Nero’s intentions seemed a bit skewed. Going back in time and waiting around 25 years to exact revenge. And he was a simple miner! Not even a general or scientist or emperor! One Trek site noted that Nero did accomplish his mission, something no other Trek villain has ever done and I have to say I secretly applauded him for it. I’ve never been a fan of Vulcans so seeing their homeworld destroyed was a nice touch to bring down their arrogant selves. Still, Nero got carried away and wanted to wipe out every Federation world … dude, seriously … seriously. What’s wrong with this picture?!

Overall, my rating would be 3 out of 5 stars since I was entertained and felt it was a great way to kick off the summer movie season. Still those two stars I'm retaining because I believe it was a huge offense to the loyal fans. I've already heard rumors that a sequel is on the way and maybe this is just the jolt we need to reboot the franchise. Still, in the last few weeks, I've clung to the old ways and simply pretended this black sheep of the family doesn't exist; I've immersed myself deeper into the novels. Maybe someday I'll fully accept that which is ...

... in the meantime, I left the movie theater in a daze, walked into my boyfriend's apartment deep in thought and popped in the Star Trek: First Contact DVD to reorient myself ...

"aaaahhhh, hello old friend ... "

1 comment:

Curious said...

Hello, I don't want to disillusion you but I think you are too young to be a child of modern times. If you were, you would appreciate the cheesey plastic and fibreglass sets and scripts of Kirk and Spock where everyone drank and the hero always got the girl. A kind of Bond in space.

No, you are more like the post-modern type where everything is well lit and everyone is PC and conflict free, the Picard generation. Nothing wrong with that since it kept the franchise going.

And you are right, to accept the latest movie story line is to cave in and throw out everything that you know and believe in as a Trek fan. But that's what true trekers do. We learn to adapt and move on, it's sort of like our own Kobyashimaru Test.