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Thread: Star Trek (2009) by J. J. Abrams

  1. #1
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    Star Trek (2009) by J. J. Abrams

    Star Trek (2009) – directed and Produced by J. J. Abrams

    Where no fan has gone before, J. J. Abrams and company have set out to recreate a tale that references all the goodies Star Trek fans love without the predictability of many past ventures. This is just good old fashion story telling with that Star Trek flourish. If you’ve never seen a Star Trek film or television show, you will have a very good time. If you are a Star Trek fan, you’re in for one hell of a ride! If I reveal too much of the story or discuss the film in too much detail, I would give away some of the films great surprises. Know that you find this film is full of them, even for fans.

    This story has everything a fan would expect from a Star Trek movie. My one regret is seeing the film with a “normal” crowd and not with my fellow fans. I can just imagine the parts that would bring applause and laughter or even cheers from that crowd (i.e. the opening). Of course in our town… silence with the occasional guffaw. Still, I would add that I did not detect disappointment when the audience left the theater. Smiles all around.

    For those unfamiliar with the origins of the Star Trek Universe, this film attempts to explain what started it all. This story takes us back to the period of time just before the birth of Captain Kirk, the most famous starship captain in moviedom history. The film begins in the midst of battle with a flourish of activity that not only reveals the course of the film but its major players. We find them not only at birth, but why precocious would seem an underestimated label in their youth. Rebellious, yes. Commonplace, no. One by one the inevitable happens. We find each person’s character as the show progresses. They show up unexpected at times. These are the people that Trekkers have long recognized as family.

    The villain is no less notorious, although he does resemble the same guy they dragged out in “Nemesis.” Much to Abrams credit, it is explained he is Vulcan, and hence the pointy ears. I found this part to be the film’s only weakness. Otherwise the script and its characters perform flawlessly. I would say in terms of surprise and excitement, this film is the equal to that golden standard, “Wrath of Khan.” In many ways, it surpasses it. For the ship’s crew are the same, are they not? Granted they appear younger here. But the cast nailed their personalities, right down to their cadence.

    While the subject matter of the film is overall a serious one, Abrams and company left in all the humor we’ve come to expect from a Star Trek show. Gone are the pretentious pious actors spouting poorly written dialogue as we saw only recently. Those versions of Star Trek nearly spelled the end of the series. Instead we have those same snappy lines that made the original characters so lovable, as if Scotty and Bones were back in younger bodies. Many kudos go to an ensemble cast of this size. It is difficult to stand out when the camera is focused in so many directions at once. Leave it to the editors and the writers to come up with moments of brilliance when Scotty or Bones (the true comic relief of the old show) blurt out a great line not thrown away by their actors. I must also commend director Abrams for bringing so many complex elements together in a pace and rhythm that is not too rushed, a mistake of many modern directors. Making a special effects film of this magnitude must seem like delivering eight babies at once. (Didn’t someone do that recently?) The only other film to Abrams’ credit is “Mission Impossible III” a forgettable experience. Based on the work I saw in this film, I hope we can look forward to similar efforts and that Abrams has redeemed his film career.

    “Star Trek (2009)” comes highly recommended for anyone who wants to have a great time at the movies. The tribute at the end I found very moving. The end credits rise and the original theme, withheld through the film, blares out its familiar tune with shots of some great 3-D scenes imposing the names of the principle cast and crew against celestial backdrops.
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    A friend who works for a local newspaper in New Brunswick got to see an advance screening and said he loved it.

    But he said there are flaws in the script, that the time travel crap was used to cover up weak writing. I don't know anything about that because I haven't seen it yet. Jus thought I'd throw that up there. And I've talked to 2 others who saw it last night and they say it's amazing but doesn't really seem like Star Trek.

    I'll definitely be seeing it. Just not anytime soon during these sold-out screenings. I'm becoming less and less fond of being in packed movie theatres. (It feels like it's ganging up on my nervous system). I'm a matinee guy, and yes, I love to go to movies alone. Why? Not because I'm anti-social or anti-dating or anything like that, it's just that when I go to a movie, I go to see the movie, not chat, cuddle, gossip, be seen, text or any other juvenile crap.
    And at screenings like the new Star Trek, you can bet your cloaking shield that the audience is chock full of those types.
    You only pray that the sound system drowns out their tweets and twits and twerps and chirps...
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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    Boy do I have stuff in common with J...
    I won't be missing this but I'll wait until next weekend to watch it.
    It will be, as usual, a $6 noon show.

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    Excellent Casting, Except

    For a purist, the new STAR TREK update or "earlier" date has an amazing cast who almost to a person succeed to transforming themselves into younger counterparts of their older selves in the original series. The glaring exception is Kirk. For some reason his new younger persona doesn't seem to reflect William Shatner's Kirk.

    I found the beginning sequence both exhilirating but negatively manipulative and forced until the emotional climax. I wasn't impressed with the special effects. The storyline was decent enough and there was plenty to commend in this new version in the little tributes to the original television version. Yet there were some weaknesses, I felt with the weaponry used (that came across more like actual guns with bullets), there is one scene in which the word "gun" was used. The script and plot could have had one more go around to tighter up the technical flaws, especially with presenting more advanced space craft with a better electronic surveillance system and weaponry system - earlier Star Trek versions had much superior fire power along with dazzling special effects.

    I am not so enanmored with this effort as most everyone else, but I did enjoy seeing the movie and experiencing a truly fantastic rebirth of the franchise even with the distracting weaknesses in this movie.

    Can anyone help with with what's up with Uhura in this movie?

    As time goes on, this new Kirk will make his own Star Trek and the issue of casting will fade dramatically, probably like Tom Cruise and MISSION IMPOSSIBLE.

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    My fascination with the film definitely stems from exposure to the original series while I was in high school. This was the first time we had anything that approached credible in terms of science fiction. Granted, the current film contains many "technical" flaws, especially when it comes to time travel. I hate the entire concept. It's over used.

    However, I must disagree on Chris Pine's/Shatner's/ Kirk. The original series often portrayed him as a womanizer, a bit of a cad and outspoken. The biggest laugh came during his liaison reveal and the Andorian woman (a joke from the very first episode of Star Trek). As a anvid fan from day one, the "in" jokes often came fast and furious. I did not want to mention too many lest we spoil things for those who have not seen it.
    Colige suspectos semper habitos

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    Chris Pine as Kirk

    While I believe that Chris Pine will do fine as the new Kirk, I just can't see him as replacing William Shatner's persona. Perhaps it was the poor development and sparse backstory regarding Kirk as a youngster. There wasn't any explanation until much later in the film about the possibility of his character, particularly growing up without a father. I found that SUPERMAN and even SPIDERMAN did a better job of capturing the development of a young boy into manhood than this STAR TREK movie. Even though at a little over hours running time, I would have hoped for more exciting and emotional scenes that allowed the younger audience to gain some further insight into Kirk's youth, it would have even have been fascinating for the older generation. Then we could have even more strongly identified emotionally and experientially with this character. Personally, my first impression (likely because I'm getting older) of Kirk as a boy was I didn't like him at all - he was a rebellous, way too young punk, narcissistic in fact, and unlikely to really almost kill himself. I wished I could have understood the origins of Kirk, the boys, anger and defiance, much like what was missing in X-MAN ORIGINS - WOLVERINE - so many questions unanswered.

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    A non-Trekkie treks out.

    J.J. Abrams: STAR TREK (2009)


    Spunk meets Spock


    Review by Chris Knipp

    What do you do with a franchise that has been milked dry? You stage a prequel, or, in other words, a childhood-and-youth-of-the-hero movie. J.J. Abrams' aim in this simply-titled entry is to show how James Kirk and Mr. Spock got to be running the spaceship Enterprise. The non-Trekkie must approach with trepidation this dramatic effort to freshen up the hallowed TV series and its not-so-successful movie avatars. Is it enough to say it's beautiful and entertaining, but lacks something?

    What happens is a big battle to trounce an evil guy who's destroying whole planets, and some background on the young Spock and Kirk. The substance is simple: Spock's logical, alright, but he's also deeply emotional. Kirk's a testosterone-soaked bad boy, but he's got just the balance of smarts and derring-do to be a great leader.

    Beyond that, this Star Trek reboot is a dazzlingly pretty audio-visual experience, maybe the closest a lot of moviegoers will ever come to abstract art. It's geometric abstraction: though we're whirling around the galaxies, mostly what we see is space ships with their angles and curves. The early sequences are well balanced and fun, despite an opening that follows the typical but inexplicable blockbuster theory that you should hit 'em with all you've got in the first ten minutes. This 25-years-older flashback showing how daddy Kirk was captain of the Enterprise for a few minutes and saved 800 people while his wife was giving birth on board to the future James Kirk, is ridiculously loud and impulsive and confusing, and when it is clear, it seems corny as all heck. Anyway, mile-a-minute openings' may grab the viewer, but you can never keep up to that level. The only reliable result is that you've numbed the audience.

    The next scene, a nice contrast because it's back down on the flattest of earth surfaces, shows a pre-teen Jim junior--miraculously, since it's the 23rd century: where'd he get the fossil fuel?--racing a stolen Corvette across the desert a few lengths in front of a motorcycle cop, jumping out just before the 'vette pitches over a cliff and hanging there--a time-worn dramatic device that will be repeated again more than once. This tow-head smart-aleck is an annoying little cuss, but he's certainly got balls far beyond his years. He's ready to "boldly go."

    I have never watched a whole Star Trek original episode, and if I've glimpsed any of the ten-odd movie spin-offs, I've forgotten. I can believe, however, that this is both one of the better ones--and missing certain essential elements in the interpretation of the original characters and in the way "issues" are brought up in the series as originally conceived. The only "issues" seemed to be to stop a bad guy bent on destroying the galaxy, and the conflict between the cold logic of Zachary Quinto's Spock and the obnoxious spunk (but creative initiative) of Chris Pine's Jim Kirk. The young Kirk, more or less the star, played by Chris Pine, is a bad-boy cutie. His pretty face is always bruised and scarred from a brawl, or maybe it's acne. Pine's Kirk bursts with boyish energy that's hard to resist. What's not so easy is to imagine how such an obstreperous twerp would be allowed on board the space ship, let alone be rapidly moved to a leadership position in the highly regimented, not to say repressive and fascistic, intergalactic system.

    It's also not quite clear how a nerdy character like the half-Klingon Spock would be so highly regarded, if Kirk's kind of, well, enterprise, were deeply valued. Are they just two sides of one person, maybe?

    But mostly there's so much action going on in Star Trek that it's not important to ponder such questions. It primarily just gorgeous special effects.

    There are some appealing secondary characters (not as much multi-galactic social color as in Star Wars, though, by a long sight). Simon Pegg the English actor plays Scotty with a real Scottish brogue and a peppy comical manner. Anton Yelchin who is really a young Russian-born actor but grew up here and speaks perfect English, does a funny but accurate Russian accent as the 17-year-old navigator, Chekhov. John Cho, who plays the Asian crew member Hikaru Sulu, is the quite amusing guy who plays Harold in the Harold and Kumar comedies, but he's not very amusing here. I was surprised to see Winona Rider was in the cast. I thought she might have been the green floozy, but she turns out to have played Spock's human mother. I know nothing about the guy who plays the young Spock. He is not interesting. But Leonard Nimoy himself, the original Spock, is on hand to play the old Spock, who returns from the future to help out. That is a lovely touch, though the writers have to get tangled up in a time warp to stage it.

    Eric Bana as the evil leader Nero is fine, if you don't mind that all his cohorts look pretty much identical to him--all swarthy, shaven-headed, tattooed leathermen. The contrast with the bright-eyed dazzlingly-lit world of the Enterprise reminds me of the Drapes and Squares of my high school, or the Greasers and Soscs of S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders. How is it that the proper good-boy spaceships are by NASA out of Mies van der Rohe, while Nero's are like rough-hewn medieval sculpted weapons? You kind of have to like the originality of the Nero vessels, but they don't look very aerodynamic.

    It seems to be the rule now that when a blockbuster is half decent, the flacks rush in with raves when it's barely out of the can. I'd side more with Anthony Lane ("This new Star Trek is nonsense, no question. . .but at least it's not boggy nonsense" or Roger Ebert ("you want space opera, you got it").
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 05-12-2009 at 05:14 PM.

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    I really enjoyed Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986). I remember reading somewhere that it's the least dependent on special effects of all the Star Trek motion pictures. Does anyone have a favorite among them? Can't call myself a fan of the show or sci-fi in general. The last sci-fi film that totally won me over was A.I..

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    Star Trek: The Motion Picture & A.I.

    I am pleased to read that someone else enjoyed A.I. which really didn't get the credit or reviews that pure sci fi deserved as a super sci fi fantasy fairy tale. I am also one of the few people who believes that the best Star Trek movie was the first movie version (1979) based on the storyline and how it was presented (as an exciting, mysterious, dangerous alien invasion - the elements of the best of sci fi movies), it had the creepy but beautiful elements of discovery and awesome strangeness. The beginning of STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE really had the intense powerful scary but slick build up that STAR TREK (2009) while it had some of the powerful punch came across as exciting, chaotic frantic, but also emotionally manipulative even though it did have its moments. But for the new generation (not the next generation), this most current STAR TREK likely has the elements that they like the most, unlike those older audience members who have some experience to contrast this movie with earlier efforts some of which we detested but some which we embraced and use as a standard by which to experience this newest of STAR TREK versions.

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    I also like A.I., very much. And of course 2001: A Space Odyssey. What about Solaris? I am going to rent Danny Boyle's Sunshine to re-watch it because I remember it as having some very beautiful moments, though it was a flop. I may have seen Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, after all. Don't remember it well though if I did.

    Don't think one can really say one is "not a fan" of sci-fi, because it is too important and central an approach to "reality." How could one dismiss Alphaville, La Jetee, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Brazil, The Quiet Earth (Geoff Murphy), 28 Days Later, the even better and more pointedly political 28 Weeks Later; Soylant Green, Glade Runner, Gattaca, 1984; the list goes on and on. The quality varies but the significance is so often there. Significace is rarely reached through special effects of the explosion kind we find a lot of the new Star Trek, but production values like Kubrick's can greatly enhance the sense of another reality, which somebody really clever like Roeg can accomplish that with very simple means.

    I am hoping JOHN HILLCOAT'S The Road from Cormac Mccarthy's novel will be good.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 05-12-2009 at 11:10 PM.

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    Solaris remake

    I watched SOLARIS (1972) last year (which would have been for about the fourth time). I still feel that it is over-rated. It has the look and the attractive features of the classic, but somehow, it still is somewhat superficial in that it tries to be imitate a classic, but I've read the book a long time ago and well, something is missing in the original. It could actually have been better. I am also one of the few who enjoyed and really like the more focused and carefully crafted remake of SOLARIS (2002) which didn't try to make such overall generalized mysterious statement and focused on a love story angle. It was more crisp, mysterious as well, but in some ways more emotionally touching and rewarding than the original. The Originally tried to be a 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY Eastern European style - for me it was more of a vaguely disguised gimmick at the end. The remake had an ending that had a more fascinatingly human/alien twist.

    My take on SUNSHINE from IMDb:

    "There are echos of ALIEN (1979) from the mechanical corridors to the now famous kitchen scene. The are whispers of the eerie ALIEN sound effects. There is even a shot from FIRST SPACESHIP ON VENUS (1962) with the growth of a plant. This movie almost descends to the level of EVENT HORIZON (1997), a science fiction film that turns into a horror movie, however, SUNSHINE apparently has more integrity by the end. Still the title, SUNSHINE while apparently obvious in its reference to the sun, should have been re-titled to SUNBURST or something with more flash and action. SUNSHINE is more correctly a science fiction thriller and incorporates whether intentionally or not a nice Japanese culturally backdrop with some of the crew as well as their honor. Strangely, this movie is both stereotypical and devoid of stereotypes. While there are not the obvious nerds, the flamboyant playboy, the scared beautiful seductive girl, there is plenty of macho male hormones that aren't really well explained except for their outrageous antics. There are also the frantic, hysterical females who unlike in ALIEN don't seem to get equal coverage. By the end of the movie, the editing and continuity seemed strained as several strands of scenes seem to get lost and there is of course the extra passenger strangeness towards the end of the movie. The brilliance of this movie, however, is in its visual delivery and the sound effect and soundtrack that helps to carry this movie. Unfortunately, this movie could have been among the best science fiction films, but the flaws in it detract from its apparent beauty. Seven out of Ten Stars."

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    Good comment, I guess. I have to see it again.
    The brilliance of this movie, however, is in its visual delivery and the sound effect and soundtrack that helps to carry this movie.
    That part is what I relate to. Isn't a big part of the power of Kubrick's 2001 the sheer mad intensity of the production values?

    2001 is an ant-blockbuster. It totally avoids all the frantic noise and rush of stuff we see today, and the opening ten minutes of the new Star Trek, which declare it to be very middlebrow, but also quite well done. I can't get over the fact that in infinite space, all we see is spaceships. Kubrick gave us a real SPACE Odyssey. He gave us SPACE. Even his spaceship is full of vast empty space.

    Blockbuster manufacturers are afraid of empty space and of silence, the way radio broadcasters are afraid of pauses. They're afraid the ADD viewer will zone out, switch channels, start texting.

    Maybe the Russian Solaris is overrated, but the Soderbergh one isn't very successful either. It's a bore!
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 05-13-2009 at 12:16 AM.

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    Good discussion, guys.

    Re: 2001.
    Kubrick asked Is there any intelligent life on earth? and we haven't had too many "affirmatives" in terms of movies set in space. There are precious few indeed that give us an idea of what it's actually like out there, or that give us overwhelming desires to "boldly go" into the vast, unknown expanse that is space.

    Sunshine is great.
    Star Wars is great, but it's fantasy.
    Same with Flash Gordon.
    Fantastic Four touched on it.
    Event Horizon wasn't bad.
    Alien and Blade Runner kick ass (but are fantasy as well)
    Red Planet makes a good attempt.

    2001 really tried to put the audience in outer space, and that's part of it's Legendary status. Before 1968, there was nothing that could touch Kubrick's vision. And to this day, I can't think of any sci-fi film (besides some sequences in Lynch's DUNE) that comes close to immersing the audience in an other-worldly context that inspires mute awe or primal desire for the mysterious, the celestial.

    Kubrick really tried to give the audience an experience in space, a non-verbal one. That film will always stand the test of time. I've seen it zillions of times and it's still a monolith in and of itself, forget the 4 slabs we saw in the movie. Kubrick's 1968 film has been called his Masterpiece and I cannot disagree. That one was like the Big Bang for cinema history. Scorsese said it: anything was possible after 2001.

    I am curious to see how this new Star Trek turned out.
    "primarily special effects", Chris?
    It's ILM at the helm of those, so it's gotta be great in the special effects department, right?
    I don't get too worked up about Star Trek, but I don't hate it or consider it to be crap entertainment. You gotta have SOME kind of space operas on TV and in the movies, and the concept of the whole Star Trek universe intrigues me. Plus I really like the uniforms of the original 60's show, with the bloused black pants, boots and primary color schemed shirts.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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    I said "primarily glorious special effects." The effect of the "effects" is beautiful.

    2001 is unique.

    However I want to repeat myself, that often smaller budget sci-fi films can be extremely thought-provoking and original, such as Alphaville, La Jetee, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Brazil, The Quiet Earth (Geoff Murphy), 28 Days Later, t 28 Weeks Later; Soylant Green, Blade Runner, Gattaca, 1984, and more. I strongly feel that it is not our responsibility to congratulate Hollywood for making blockbusters. Nonetheless, the new Terminator looks pretty cool.

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    Glorious or "gorgeous"?

    :)
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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