Tuesday, 9 June 2009

On the new 'Star Trek'

This is not a review. This is just a collection of observations on the new J.J. Abrams-helmed movie that intends to reboot the lurching Star Trek franchise, following the footsteps of Christopher Nolan's Batman films and Daniel Craig's Bond films. "Back to square one," as they say; only this time, square one is not where it was before. Due to a shift in the time-space continuum, it has moved to a past where James Tiberius Kirk is a smart-mouthed orphan, and Spock is emotionally attracted to Uhura. Good or bad? As a fan of the original series, I have mixed feelings about the movie, but on the whole I enjoyed it. Illogically so? Not really.

First, the cast. Everybody's perfect. Just perfect. But my personal favourite is Zachary Quinto as Spock. I have always maintained the opinion that Spock's is the hardest part to cast, especially after what the supremely talented Leonard Nimoy did with it in the original series and the subsequent movies. Any actor would think twice before stepping into Nimoy's shoes, espcially a new actor. This could have been a make-or-break role. And I'm happy to say that Quinto has made it. Chris Pine is very good as Kirk, and if I may blasphemously say so, better than even Shatner (who would take scenery-chewing to new heights in film after film). Some critics have panned Karl Urban's McCoy as a mimicry of DeForest Kelley, but I don't think so. I think he has brought the same level of world-weary cynicism to the role that Kelley had before him. And that completes our holy trinity of the ST universe. 10/10, guys. Smashing support from Greenwood's Pike, Saldana's Uhura, Pegg's Scott, Cho's Sulu and Yelchin's Chekov. Only Eric Bana as Nero disappoints; the poorly-written role did not need a name actor.

The plot, with its logic-screwing black holes and time warps, does not fare so easily as the cast. As everyone knows, 'Star Trek' was originally conceived by Gene Roddenberry as a "thinking man's space opera", with more stress on character development and dramatic story arcs than flashy spectacles (one of the reasons for it being the limited budget of a TV series), and here Abrams, perhaps to woo the teenagers to the theatre, has taken the opposite course in throwing a lot of SFX on the screen. Maybe he wanted to ensure it's not their fathers' 'Star Trek' they're in for. Although I liked the sleek production design (the new Enterprise is awe-inspiring), but overall it was too much eye-candy and not enough darkness. And the retconning of the TOS storylines was a bit odd; especially Spock and Uhura's relationship. Somehow, it took away from Spock's "Spockiness", if I may call it that.

But the highlight of the movie for me was...... you guessed it! Leonard Nimoy. The man still has what it takes to be Spock. The bemused gaze, the half-smile, the quizzically arched eyebrow, and most importantly, the commanding voice. The little time that he was onscreen, he simply ruled the movie. And the final "passing of the torch" scene between him and Quinto brought tears to my eyes. I will miss you, Leonard!

So, to sum it all up, this fanboy sends his best wishes to cast and crew: Live long and prosper, guys and gals! You've earned it.

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