Phew! It’s true what people are saying…JJ Abrams’ new Star Trek movie sets its phasers for stunning and delivers a whole starshipload of pure entertainment at top warp. I wouldn’t ever consider myself to be a Trekker, though I have followed all incarnations of the show over the years and know enough of the in-jokes to pick up the references in the new film, but the great thing is that anyone can plug into Kirk and company’s new adventures and enjoy them without having to clue up on any of the franchise’s heavy baggage.
Is it a perfect Trek movie? No, I have a feeling that might be the next one, but this comes mighty close. Chief among the failures, for me, was the jump “three years later” after Kirk has joined Starfleet Academy, and the slightly old feel of a worn out franchise. This was supposedly a movie about Kirk and Spock’s formative days in the Academy, but all we get is their intro and a jump to their first adventure. Call me feeling cheated, but I could have done with a whole lot more Starfleet and less of the pretty routine second half. Eric Bana was actually very effective as the Romulan villain, but the scenes set in his ship were very Next Generation and didn’t seem to match the rest of the movie’s ideals.
Likewise with Michael Giacchino’s score, which was by turns a very nice nod back to 1960s adventure but sometimes lumbered with a 2000s blockbuster sledgehammer feel. I didn’t mind the rock soundtrack song used to intro young Kirk, and actually admired the decision to force the score to the fore during the very dramatic moments – a choice that very much worked for me – but for someone who is otherwise very adept at weaving in others’ themes (such as his excellent work for Speed Racer), I was surprised that Giacchino didn’t draw upon more of Alexander Courage’s famous theme apart from the final moments, which felt tacked on and oddly out of place. I also missed some of James Horner’s later movie themes too, but that’s just me.
I thought the casting was great for the most part, though I kept thinking that, had this been set a little earlier, the guy playing Chekov would have made a great young Kirk. In the role proper, Chris Pine has the real guts of a young William Shatner, and that’s where the film really succeeded; not in providing a carbon copy of before, but offering something new, but familiar, with all the correct spirit of the original. I didn’t even mind the Enterprise redesign – how do we know, in this alternate reality, that this is not how it was always supposed to look!? It was spooky how Spock-like Heroes’ Zachary Quinto was, even if I didn’t think he captured the vocal just right, a tougher comparison to have to make seeing that old Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy, is also in the film.
And very well done that concept was, too. I loved how established Trek lore was undone by the twisting of time, how Kirk was born under extreme circumstances, and how Captain Pike was included in a very nice nod back to the original series. Nimoy was pitch perfect as an older Spock resigned to his fate, and I do hope we see more continuity from him in the already being written Star Trek: Phase II (or whatever they call it, though you must admit that would be cool). John Cho, as Sulu, also got his moment to shine, and Zoe Saldana’s Uhura was more Uhroooga if you ask me, though I wasn’t too sure about Karl Urban’s Bones, not quite right and coming off a little like a copy of the real thing, while Simon Pegg’s Mr Scott was played too much for broad comedy. Scotty is perhaps the most parodied of the characters, but he’s not a comic creation, though here almost every scene that ended with him then threw in an extra comic aside just after the scene should have cut.
All in all, not too bad criticisms for a film that had a lot riding on it and could have gone either way. But it can be said that the positive sides of the film deserve the kudos they are drawing, and I may even go back to see it again. Though some cynics may see the Star Wars similarities (farm boy joins the fight against a villain with a big planet-destroying ship), Nimoy’s participation lends a seal of authenticity to the whole endeavor, his final “these are the voyages of the starship Enterprise” putting the emphasis just on the right word and soothing any fears that this might be “fake Trek“. Far more consistent than any of the Star Wars, Superman or Indiana Jones revamps, this certainly is Star Trek, Jim, but not quite as we know it!
Actually, that line reminds me of British group The Firm’s excellent 1980s animated video for their song Star Trekkin’, which I can’t believe hasn’t been more picked up on with all the Trek mania going on. If you’ve never seen or heard it, enjoy this wonderful homage, complete with all the famous phrases, to the original crew – as portrayed by potatoes!
New to our review section proper recently is Rand’s take on The Venture Bros: 3rd Season on Blu-ray, a very fun show that I keep wishing I saw more of (yes, that’s what DVD and BD is for, I know). I’m no prude, but I have to agree with Rand on the “uncensored” nature of the episodes included here: as with the most recent South Park collection, I find the bleeping of bad language to be much funnier than the words themselves, and indeed that’s what I always loved about that show. But it sounds like the humor carries these edgy moments through, which is the main thing, and Rand has good words to say about these “cartoons for grown-ups” and the discs’ packaging.
Also added to our site is a full run-down of Tiny Toons Adventures: Season 1, Volume 2, the second half of the syndicated series. I’m hoping that the next volume comes along soon, because that’s where some of the real Tiny Toons gold lies, especially if they see fit (and they should) to include the specials spun off from the show. This second slice doesn’t feature any supplements as such, which can only mean good things for a third (and final?) collection, though the cartoons mostly hit their target even if this feels like a bit of a lull between the excellent first episodes and the choice stuff that was to come.
We’ve more on the way, so stay tooned! — Ben.