Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Why "Star Trek" Rocks
Not that the world needs another glowing "Star Trek" review, but the last time I saw this level of excitement about a movie was when "Watchmen" came out few months ago. And that's probably not a fair comparison because a) "Watchmen" isn't as widely recognizable as "Star Trek" and b) audience and critic reaction to "Watchmen" was mixed at best. So far, I've only talked to one person who disliked "Star Trek," and many people — sci fi geeks or not — plan to see it again when it hits the IMAX. People are even going to Burger King just to buy themed drinking glasses! (OK, maybe that's just me.)
Here are my thoughts (WITH SPOILERS) on what made the movie work so well.
1. The story: Sometimes, simple is best. There were no painfully long scenes focused on intergalactic diplomacy and trade federations. Instead, "Star Trek" offered classic redemption/revenge plotlines, witty dialogue and big, shiny things exploding. You know the CGI is good when it never occurs to you that CGI is being employed. And a major high-five for the element of surprise: Spock and Uhura? Didn't see that coming!
2. The supporting cast: Beyond Kirk and Spock, I don't know a whole lot about how the members of the Starship Enterprise are "supposed" to act. But I know a good supporting cast when I see one, and this is it. As Leonard "Bones" McCoy, Karl Urban is grumpy, put upon and very funny. Anton Yelchin is a cuddly, English-mangling Chekov. If there's a more fetching young actress than Zoe Saldana (Uhura), I've yet to see her. Casting Simon Pegg as Scotty was a stroke of genius, and even in a small role, John Cho as Sulu literally kicks ass.
3. Zachary Quinto: I'm running out of adjectives to describe how good Quinto is as the iconic Spock. This is no surprise to people who watched the first season of "Heroes," but I didn't expect him to so thoroughly own the part — even with the venerable Leonard Nimoy in the film. He's kind of a dick in the beginning — the smug prodigy who is never, ever wrong. And I really liked the idea that, as a half-human, Spock's unusual self-control is more of a choice than a biological given. That makes the moments when he's clearly struggling to remain logical much more interesting.
4. Chris Pine: I've never seen Pine in anything, so I had no expectations for his take on James Kirk. The reckless womanizer who doesn't play by the rules is a total cliche, but the likable Pine portrays Kirk with just the right balance of humor and bravado. He's a frat boy to root for, and he never takes the joke too far.
5. Little Spock going all Ron Artest on his tormentors: I don't know how they do it on Vulcan, but on Earth, talking about somebody's mama is asking for punch in the mouth. Played by Jacob Kogan, child Spock metes out some harsh punishment when a peer calls his human mother (played by Winona Ryder!) a whore. I mean, he beats that kid down, and totally without warning. This is the first hint of the rebooted character's inner conflict, and it's a doozy. Best line: "I trust you have prepared new insults for today."
6. Leonard Nimoy: His appearance as an alternate-reality Spock is great because ... just because. It's freakin' Leonard Nimoy. That's enough.