Thursday, May 21, 2015

Rewatch: Star Trek

2009, JJ Abrams (Felicity) -- Blu-ray

I had a rough couple of weeks (I am especially bad at adulting these days) and, as usual, that lead me to a spate of rewatching; this round was space movies.

Its not surprising this movie was made the way it was. The original cast were played out, some having passed on and most were waaay past any prime. The TNG series of movies were also out of steam, as the characters had passed even out of syndication. Enterprise did not gain enough traction to warrant a movie. It was time for something new.

Or something rebooted.

And yet, it's not quite a reboot, as it ties into the original series, via Old Spock. It also ties into Enterprise because Captain Archer has messed with his timeline so much, he has altered its future. That is my personal take on how much more techno the new movie feels, in comparison to the original series or even TNG series. The look & feel of Enterprise is so radical compared to TOS that there is no way it could not aesthetically affect the future.

We start with the perfect Star Trek opening. A lone ship, the Kelvin, is investigating a space anomaly. A massive, and I mean MASSIVE, ship emerges from the anomaly and immediately attacks the Kelvin blowing past whatever defense she had. They have to abandon ship and the first officer, one George Kirk (played by a very very non-Thor Chris Hemsworth), sacrifices himself to allow the crew to escape, including his giving-birth wife.

I love this sequence because it highlights the Federation ideals, sets the tragic tone for the movie (I still get pangs when I see the ship ripped open, and people sucked screaming into space) and sets up the fast paced action. It just looks good. I also has some weird looking aliens, more weird than were ever shown in the shows.

George's baby ("Tiberius? You kidding me? No, that's the worst") James is raised without  daddy and a legacy to fulfill. Its obviously a heavy burden for Jim is a brat, a brat that steals a vintage car (as in non-floaty, non hydrogen powered) and outruns the cops (android cop??) before driving the thing into a ravine. Jimmy grows up to be rowdy farmboy Kirk.

By now, JJ Abrams has derailed whatever conventions we have for Star Trek movies. Sure, this is an origin story, but he opens things up with tragedy, bar fights and a salaciousness that would probably have Shatner giving the thumbs up. We get it; Jim Kirk is a genius but considers himself too good for Star Fleet. He uses most of the opening of the movie as a set piece to introduce almost all the familiar characters: Uhura, Bones ("took the whole damn planet in the divorce") and, of course, Spock. We get Chekov and Sulu once we are on board.

JJ Abrams is teased for his love of lense flares (watch Fringe and you will see them used to effect) and they are never seen more than they are on the bridge of the Enterprise. All that white plastic and clear screens lends itself to playing with light. That bridge is just plain gorgeous. And think of all the different bridge configurations he had to draw upon!  I would hate to be the crew assigned to keeping all that white sparkling.

A major part of the plot is that the Enterprise shows up late to the battle with the Romulan ship Narada, because Sulu leaves the parking brake on. When they do arrive, all the other ships sent are a mass of floating rubble. How many fricking Star Fleet Academy cadets and junior officers were killed in that blunder?!? That there are any left to honor Kirk at the end of the movie is astounding, but I imagine they were able to to pack the audience with ground personnel.  Either way, losing all those ships must have further impacted the way the Federation acted in this alternate timeline, perhaps contributing to the more militarized Star Fleet in the next movie.

Despite being a reboot and an alternate timeline, Abrams has a lot of fun with references. We get Kirk romping with the Orion Gaila (Rachel Nichols from Continuum), so I  guess their "slave girl" status is moot? Kirk hacks the Kobayashi Maru. Of course, Captain Pike and the first visible loss to Pike's crew is a guy in a red space suit. I also love the reference to Archer's dog, which soundly connects the show Enterprise to this continuity.

I soundly love this version, likely more so than the movie series of the original cast. And hopefully it will not suffer the same morose fate as all Star Trek movies do, getting relatively worse as time goes by. And no whale movies please.