Sunday, May 17, 2009

I love love love the new Star Trek movie!

I really wanted to see Star Trek on opening weekend. I recently talked about how the Nielsen Ratings are unfair in that their polls don't allow most viewers to have a "vote" in their TV programming. When it comes to movies, the way we can "vote" for the kind of movies we want to see is by bringing in big numbers at the box office. The first measure the studios have of a movie's success is its opening weekend take. It doesn't matter as much in the end as the movie's total box office gross, but it's still a mark of honor. The fact that I didn't do my part to add to Star Trek's opening weekend receipts bothered me more than it should have, but I had a friend who couldn't go last weekend and I said I'd wait to see it with her. Turns out she still couldn't see it with us this weekend anyway, so I went to see it today with another friend. I'll have to content myself to helping Star Trek's second week drop-off, which looks to be a respectable 46% down from last weekend's opening $79.2 million (including Thursday night previews).

Well, I loved the movie. Loved it, loved it, loved it. It was totally awesome. Everything I wanted. J.J. did not let me down. Nor did the cast. Or the crew. I'm sure once the post-movie euphoria wears off I'll start to see flaws and question plot points, like why did the red matter need to be at the core of the planet to suck it into a black hole (my guess is either because of complex physics that we are centuries away from understanding or because a giant energy drill is a great bad guy weapon and watching a planet fold in on itself is so cool). But right now, all I've got is love.

I think most people will agree that the movie had some great eye candy. And I don't just mean Chris Pine (or Zoe Saldana, for the other half of you). Space was gorgeous. The Enterprise looked amazing. The Romulan ship was frighteningly cool. The special effects were very smooth. The action was exciting and engaging. They paid their respects to the original Star Trek designs and then made it all awesome. Of course, in 40 years people will probably think it all looks really stupid and fake, but right now, I just think it's pretty sweet.

I really thought the cast did a great job. It's a hard job for an actor to take over a well-established character from another actor; the actor must stay true to the original character while making it his or her own. I must admit that I am not familiar enough with the original Star Trek series to say how well each of the new actors evoked their original incarnations, but I was totally convinced that the characters were their own. One of my fears going into the movie was that I wouldn't be able to shake images of Sylar out of my head when I saw the new Spock on screen. But on the drive back from the movie theater, I realized that I hadn't thought of Sylar even once while watching the movie. Well done, Zachary Quinto.

Not knowing too much about the original Star Trek, I'm sure I missed lots of clever nods to the classic series (people I've talked to recently seem to assume that I'm a big Trekkie, but the fact is, as much as I might like to be, I'm really not). I know that Uhura's green-skinned roommate whom Kirk wooed in the movie was a nod to the episode "Whom Gods Destroy" from the original series in which Kirk sleeps with a green Orion slave woman (thanks, Entertainment Weekly). I also knew that poor Chief Engineer What's-His-Face parachuting down to the drill with Sulu and Kirk was doomed to certain death by the color of his outfit. Bones exclaiming "Dammit, man! I'm a doctor, not a physicist!" had a familiar ring to it, but the rest I'm sure was lost on me. I need to find a real Trekker to explain it all to me--well, not too serious of a Trekker, since I don't need to know how much stuff they "messed up" in this movie.

One thing that helped make the movie so enjoyable was that it was very funny. There were a lot of good laughs in there. Some of it was pretty silly, like the whole sequence in which Kirk is trying to tell Captain Pike that the Vulcans are being attacked by Romulans all while his hands are inflating, his tongue is going numb, and McCoy keeps chasing him with new injections. But I like silly. And it was never so silly that it didn't work. I wished that Scotty didn't take so long to show up, since Simon Pegg is hilarious, but he did provide plenty of laughs as soon as he arrived.

In short, I think this new Star Trek movie did a very good job of rebooting the franchise. It had just the right balance of character, action, humor, story, and sense to be thoroughly entertaining and satisfying. It also cleverly tweaked the time-space continuum to allow the new movies to take the liberties with the storyline that they need to shape the new series. I am definitely looking forward to the sequel.


Sebastian said...

Gotta love how they all sign on for 3 films nowadays. Hooray! Comic book- and LOTR-conversion syndrome!

Sounds like it's had fairly good takings too.

I also wondered about the drill... But, hey, as you know from being a fellow sci-fi fan, best not interrogate plots too rigorously, especially when time travel is involved.

Eleni said...

Sure, they all sign on for three films, but the question is whether three films will get made. Given the first installment's success, of course, I see no reason why they wouldn't make another. In truth, the studio had already hired writers to work on the next Star Trek movie more than a month before this one opened. They were pretty confident it would be a success.