Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

Star Trek: Scifi Goodness for the Masses June 2, 2009

After weeks of anticipation, I finally managed to see Star Trek yesterday. It was well worth the wait! What a fun, exciting, satisfying movie! I have never been a fan of the Star Trek multiverse of movies, tv shows, conventions, etc. It was always a little too geeky, cheesy, and out there for my taste. The funny looking blue or green-faced aliens, some with tubes coming out of their heads… All the terminology that I didn’t understand… Maybe my sheer love for Battlestar Galactica has softened my viewpoint of Star Trek, or maybe J.J. Abrams really did reinvent this classic scifi icon for the masses. It’s probably a little of both. Whatever the case, I simply loved this movie, and here are ten reasons why:

  1. The Music – How strange, that in an action movie, the music would impress me more than anything else. I shouldn’t be surprised, though, since Michael Giacchino composed the original score. He has supplied music to many of my favorite shows, including Lost, Alias, and Fringe (all J.J. Abrams shows – I guess he knows how to hold on to a good composer), as well as to several movies, including Ratatouille, Mission Impossible: III, and Land of the Lost . One of my favorite musical moments was the operatic piece during the movie’s climax. It made for an epic conclusion.
  2. The Sound – So this is kind of related to the music, but expands to all the sound effects, from explosions, to racing cars, to gun fights. The sound was simply amazing! It helped that I was in a theater with the best Dolby Digital surround sound I had ever experienced. I felt like I was taking off with the Starfleet on the maiden voyage of the Enterprise, as the sounds of the engines filled up the theater and made my insides shake. And when Kirk and his comrades were parachuting at lightning fast speed onto a drilling platform, I could almost feel the wind whooshing past my face. And when the soaring music would enter a scene, I was transported into that world of space travel, the Starfleet academy, or even young Kirk going for a joyride in his stepdad’s car to the high octane strains of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage”.
  3. Spock – Zachary Quinto has totally redeemed himself from his over the top portrayal of Sylar on Heroes (probably more the writers’ fault than his). He was fascinating as Spock (has Spock always been such a complex character?). He did a great job of showing Spock’s inner turmoil over his mixed ancestry, and his struggle between remaining completely logical, or allowing his human emotion to be a part of who he is. The interesting development of his character alone made me want to go back and watch some other Star Trek movies or episodes.
  4. Scotty’s bizarre little alien sidekick – When Kirk meets Montgomery Scott (played by the perfectly cast Simon Pegg) for the first time, the audience had the added entertainment of Scott’s short-statured alien friend, who didn’t say much, but who had an annoying tendency to sit in the wrong place – right in the middle of where Scotty needed to be working. This unusual comic duo made us laugh out loud several times during their scenes. It always feels good to laugh during an action movie to relieve some of the tension from all the intensity. There was plenty of opportunity to laugh during this one!
  5. Captain Kirk – Chris Pine had some big shoes to fill, playing the role of James T. Kirk, a name that immediately makes everyone think of the larger than life William Shatner. And I have never seen any of the other movies or tv shows he has appeared in. The casting department must have known what they were doing when they hired him, though, because he was perfect. He had a nice balance of rugged good looks, fearlessness, cockiness, loyalty, and leadership. Often characters like this annoy me and are very off-putting, but I really liked him. One of my favorite scenes of him is when he wakes up on that icy planet and unwittingly involves himself in a chase with two terrifying creatures. It was funny and frightening at the same time, and he played both very well.
  6. Familiar actors in unrecognizable/atypical roles – I thought I spied Winona Ryder under that aging makeup, and sure enough, it was she who played Spock’s human mother. I wonder why they cast a relatively young actress (she is in her late 30s) to play a woman who must have been at least in her mid-40s. I do see a similarity between Quinto and Ryder’s facial structure and eyes, so perhaps physical resemblance won out over age appropriateness. I kept thinking that main villain Nero looked familiar, but I was shocked when I found out it was Eric Bana. He usually plays clean cut leading men, not tattooed, psychotic warlords. (I look forward to seeing him in The Time Traveler’s Wife later this summer.) It was nice to see Jennifer Morrison (from House) as Kirk’s mother. I wish they would have found some room to include her beyond the initial scenes involving Kirk’s birth. Surely his mother would have been influential in his life, and it would have been nice for the writer’s to touch on that.
  7. The special effects – With a big budget and seemingly limitless possibilities that come with technology, it’s no surprise that the special effects were impressive. A couple of scenes that stand out in my mind: the parachute dive onto the Romulan drill, and the scenes involving the black hole. The “beam me up” effects could have been more realistic. Perhaps that was a throwback to the old school look of the original tv series.
  8. The story – I was relieved to discover that I didn’t need to understand the complex mythology of Star Trek to follow this story. Even for people who don’t like scifi, there are characters and developments to enjoy: a rebellious young man (Kirk) tries to live up to his father’s legacy as a leader, a stoic Vulcan struggles with questions of human nature and how they apply to him, a Starfleet tries to prevent history from repeating itself and tries to save its home planet, etc. The story was relatively easy to follow (save for some of the time travel aspects), but it wasn’t oversimplified either.
  9. The experience/the hype – I had heard so much about this movie from my friends and acquaintances, some of whom have seen it two or three times. Sometimes an overhyped movie results in a letdown at the theater, but in this case it actually added to my enjoyment, since the movie really was that good! Just the experience of sitting in the theater and being transported via the big screen and the surround sound, to this world of space ships and aliens and good guys and bad guys, was quite memorable.
  10. J.J. Abrams’ special brand of awesomeness – In my opinion, J.J. can do no wrong (well, except for maybe Six Degrees and What about Brian). He must be totally in tune with my generation, because sometimes I feel like he is making these movies and tv shows just for me. I love everything about Lost, Fringe, Alias, Felicity, and now his movies, too (MI:3, Cloverfield, Star Trek). I realize he’s had different involvement with these projects, ranging from producing to directing to writing, and even to composing, but I see many common threads running through them. His successful formula includes well-developed characters, riveting action, music perfectly suited to the scene, bizarre revelations, and satisfying plot twists. Some may see his near-obsession with time travel as a flaw, but I think his fascination with the subject makes his shows/movies more interesting (especially Lost and Star Trek). The creature on the ice planet reminded me of the monster in Cloverfield, and the red matter reminded me of the giant red ball in season one of Alias. My favorite characteristic of J.J. Abrams’ work, however, is his special ability to incorporate music and character development to draw viewers into a scene or story. I had tears in my eyes in the opening minutes of Star Trek. We had only a few minutes to get to know Kirk’s father and mother, but their heartfelt exchange after his birth, and the circumstances surrounding it, were very emotionally engaging for me. Abram’s blend of music/character/dialogue/direction is what had me engaged in this summer action movie from beginning to end. So, thank you, J.J., for another unforgettable moviegoing experience.