May 13, 2009

Set Phasers To Yawn

I guess I should preface this by saying that in high school, Star Trek was pretty much my only friend — and apparently this predisposes me to disliking J.J. Abrams' revival of the franchise. But respectfully, I would like to disagree: I think it is my love of good movies that predisposes me to disliking the latest film in the Star Trek series.

To be honest, I would have been perfectly happy to have someone come in and turn the mythos on its head; Kirk et al. could use some freshening up, if you ask me. Plus, I'm not and never was one of those Trek fans who insists that everything carrying the Trek name must fit into the perfectly logical and continuous universe created by all previous incarnations, because:

1) Plenty of other oft-reinterpreted franchises — I'm thinking particularly of Batman here — have no qualms tinkering with the mythos, and are much stronger for doing so;

2) A perfectly logical and continuous Trek universe does not exist, anyway — how could it, after all the torturous jumps through space, time, and logic that the seventeen gajillion previous Treks have made? And,

3) It is precisely such torturous jumps in space, time, and logic that make most Trek films so unbearable to sit through — and J.J. Abrams' attempt is no different.

Indeed, even though the new Star Trek has been billed as one that anybody can enjoy (and, gosh, I'm pretty sure I've heard that before), it devotes so much of its screen time to explaining for fans how it's possible for hot, young Kirk and Spock to exist in the same universe as paunchy, middle-aged Kirk and Spock (time travel and an alternate universe, natch) that most of the movie's two hours feels like one long, arduous set-up to get to a point where the real movie can actually begin. And then the movie ends.

In the meantime we're treated to a bland hodgepodge of sci-fi and action movie clichés (including a frankly baffling visit to the ice planet Hoth), a long, clunky, and unconvincing opening stuffed full of naked (often literally) exposition, and, of course, J.J. Abrams' trademark sluggish, tensionless directing — remember Mission: Impossible 3? Rather than turning the screws on his characters and letting tension build up over extended periods of time, Abrams just makes things happen in the movie as soon as the plot requires it ("We've got to get your heart rate down!" Dr McCoy implores a illness-ridden Kirk, and within seconds the stubborn young cadet has made a full recovery; "He is emotionally compromised," advises a sage future-Spock, "You just have to get him to show it" — and, again, a minute or two later, reckless present-Spock is lashing out in a curiously consequenceless ass-whupping). What we're left with is a bewildering array of short, effects-heavy set pieces that might be somewhat engaging if they seemed in any way connected to one another, but as is stands could probably be reshuffled into pretty much any other order and would have more or less the same impact. I guess we'll have to wait for the Blu-Ray release to find out.

The film's one saving grace, in my opinion, is Karl Urban's Dr McCoy, the only person onscreen who seems to understand what is required of reprising an iconic role — he does a mean Deforest Kelley, for sure, but mostly he manages to go beyond his predecessor and gives us a character that actually feels human, instead of like the rest of the cast's second-rate caricatures of actors who were already, let's face it, pretty hammy. Urban also provides the film's only pun, which is really fantastically delivered — and that, of course, is all you need to win me over.

Anyway, my rating: two pundigrions. Save your money for Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.


Sean said...

We are doomed to never agree on movies! I thought Star Trek was GREAT. Almost the entire cast - particularly Kirk - killed it, funny and charming and full of dramatic vim. In fact, Nimoy was probably the worst performance of the film. Totally disagree on the amount of exposition or the clunky direction - the movie whirled by for me, with terrific action and funny beats, effortless and fun. The stuff that didn't make sense didn't matter - was too much fun to just enjoy the ride.

Andrew said...

You seem to be forgetting, Sean, that I hate fun.

No, but really, I'm not just being a curmudgeon for the sake of it. I was genuinely bored for a lot of the time. Actually shifting restlessly in my seat.

Anonymous said...

Yeah Andrew, I have to agree with Sean. I liked it. I no longer like you.

your ex-friend, dan

PS you ALWAYS do this

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