Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Movie Review: Star Trek

In the year 2009, the Enterprise was reborn, with stunning special effects and a great story line. 2009 marks the triumphant return of "Star Trek."
I've never been a fan of "Star Trek," and know very little about the mythology behind the series. Luckily, the newest movie starts from the very beginning, from the exact moment of Kirk's chaotic birth.
James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) was born out of tragedy, a sort of situation of life coming out of death. Years later, Kirk goes from space to Earth, carrying a rebel without a cause attitude to a small Iowa farming town in the distant future. After many years, young Kirk decides to make his father proud by joining the crew of the USS Enterprise.
"Star Trek" shows us the life of another young boy as well, one living on a distant planet. This boy is Spock (Zachary Quinto). Spock is a genius. He lives on the planet Vulcan. He never quite fits in well, as he is half Vulcan and half human. His genius leads him to become one of the constructors of the Enterprise.
Despite being a mixed breed, Spock remains a proud member of his troubled Klingon race. The race faces danger mostly from the evil Romulun Nero (Eric Bana), a man who wreaks destruction throughout the universe and threatens to destroy the Federation.
As mentioned earlier, "Star Trek" is not a sequel but a prequel. It's not a remake, but rather a re-imagining. It brings a classic into terms with this generation, and does so quite successfully. It is yet another chapter in a series of re-imaginings made this decade, which has also included "Superman Returns," "Batman Begins," and "The Dark Knight." Compared to these other films, "Star Trek" falls somewhere around the level of superiority of the under-appreciated "Superman Returns," yet doesn't quite reach the height of the newest Batman installments. Nevertheless, it's probably the best blockbuster released so far this year.
What makes it the best blockbuster so far this year? The best explanation lies in its director, J.J. Abrams. This movie is the perfect match for Abrams, who has had a long and prolific career; perhaps he is best known for co-creating "Lost." Abrams leaves his authentic auteur stamp on the film, as it often feels like an extended episode of "Lost."
Like "Lost," it is the backstory that truly makes the story possible. Abrams is a master of explaining current events, so a prequel is right up his alley. The film surprisingly tackles a number of issues dealing with fate, time travel, and the possibility of changing the past as well as the future. I won't go too far into this subject for now, so as not to give away one of the film's biggest surprises.
Despite the dark road of the battle of fate vs. freewill that the film goes down, "Star Trek" always remains what it's meant to be: a dazzling, special effects laden blockbuster. And the effects are spectacular. The haunting image of the destruction of Vulcan and the first appearance of the Enterprise are images you won't soon forget. The film is also accompanied by a fine musical score. At one moment, as Kirk and Sulu (John Cho) dive down to dying Vulcan, the music is cut and only the sound of heavy breathing is heard. The scene felt like a subtle homage to Darth Vader.
Unfortunately, "Star Trek" does have a few minor flaws. Though Pine gives a great performance as Kirk, filling him with a sense of humor as well as a rebellious attitude, Quinto does not seem like the best choice for Spock. He tries at times to give Spock a feeling of intelligence, but in the end it just turns into dullness. Little enthusiasm is shown in the way he speaks. But perhaps the problem lies more in the dialogue written for his character, which sounds more Shakespearean than modern day conversation.
No Abrams production is complete, of course, without a little allusion. In this case, the mythology of Star Wars seems to be rooted in Ancient Rome. The villain Nero is named after the Emperor Nero, who persecuted Christians and "fiddled while Rome burned." Certainly, this is a character who takes satisfaction in the pain of others. Also, Nero comes from the planet Romulus, perhaps a reference to one of the mythological founders of Rome: Romulus.
Mainly, all the Rome references suggest a massive expanding empire unlike any the world has ever seen. That empire of course, crumbled. But here, we focus on the beginning of the empire--the rebirth of it, rather than the end. And that empire: "Star Trek."

2 comments:

Khan said...

Correction: Spock is half VULCAN (not Klingon) and half human.

Ian Phillips said...

Thank you for the correction Khan. I need to brush up on my Star Trek terminology