Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Star Trek

Click below for my review of the new Star Trek, the first 5-star
movie of the summer season (and possibly the last?):

Johnny's Star Trek review for Brit Films

Geeks, The Final Frontier. What sci-fi series brings together fans from the 1960s and today better than 'Star Trek'? Gene Roddenberry’s pop culture empire spans the generations, he was inventing mobile phones when George Lucas’ beard wasn’t even ready. His basic pitch, the United Nations in space with sexier uniforms and useful, still holds and now genre-meister JJ Abrams brings us a proper 'Star Trek' reboot. His mission was always a conundrum: make a movie that appealed to old school Trekkers that their kids would like too. Well, whether you dress as a Klingon on weekends or not, he’s done a great job.

This action-packed origin story is spun around the John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg and of the Trek universe, namely James T Kirk and Mr Spock. We are taken right back to their teenage years, when we see the maverick Kirk boy joyriding aimlessly in Iowa and the brilliant Spock acing all his test scores on Vulcan but getting bullied on account of this human mother (played by Winona Ryder).

They will of course become great friends on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise but this story takes off when both are still cadets, who don’t like each other at all. Kirk is the brawling womaniser who cheats on Spock’s Kobayashi Maru test (a back reference 'Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan' for the geeks) and the Vulcan is the brain box who’s unable to trust his instincts. When the young chickadees are called into service on account of a Vulcan distress signal, well, someone new is going get into Captain Pike’s hot-seat on the bridge...

From start to finish this 'Star Trek' is terrific stuff. The main discussion point will be the casting. The new actors do an excellent job rejuvenating familiar characters, without doing impersonations. Chris Pine gives you only a smattering of Shatner, but his Kirk is a spirited and amusing hero that the Boston Legal grandee would probably approve of, but not publicly. Even more impressive is Zachary Quinto as Spock, whose spot on characterisation makes his casting seem, erm, logical. And amazingly, New Zealand born actor Karl Urban (a hunky sort from numerous genre movies) seems to be channelling the deceased DeForrest Kelley’s performance as Dr Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy, by nailing the characters furrowed brow and cynicism—great stuff.

There’s light relief too in the form of Simon Pegg’s Scotty, who is more of a departure, but his comedy talents are used to good effect and he even gets a little kebab-faced side-kick.

All in, JJ Abrams and his writing team have delivered an eleventh 'Star Trek' which not only re-energises (sorry) the franchise but also breaks the even-number-only-ones-are-good rule. The action sequences are better than you’ll remember from previous films; they get more special effects bang for your buck with the latest techniques and a healthy budget. Despite a slightly overlong middle section and a clich├ęd time-travel plotline with old Spock (Leonard Nimoy) what’s not to like? And I haven’t even mentioned Uhura’s legs. Damn.

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