Friday, 8 May 2009

Star Trek movie - my first thoughts

I went to see the new Star Trek movie last night. Actually it was a very last minute decision. I had intended to wait until today. There was quite a good sized crowd in the cinema for it. I have to say it was a younger "cooler" crowd than would be normal for a Star Trek movie!
I have to admit at this point that I am a long time Star Trek fan. I've seen most of the movies in the cinema when they first came out, had the die-cast Dinky Enterprise toy as a kid, bought the novels and videos in the 1990s, and last week I bought the remastered DVDs.

Be aware of spoilers that may follow. I'll try to keep to general observations rather than a blow-by-blow account of the story.

The movie is very fast moving. The quieter moments are there but you can be sure the movie won't dwell on them for too long.

The opening sequence on the USS Kelvin was a strong one. The editing and performances were nicely handled as George Kirk is forced to stay behind on the doomed ship and talk to his wife who is escaping on a shuttle.

The young Spock being bullied by some snot-nosed Vulcans lets us discover how emotional he can be.

Bruce Greenwood was excellent as Captain Pike convincing Jim Kirk to enlist. I liked the scene on the shuttle where we get our first sight of Karl Urban as Doctor McCoy.

Zachary Quinto as Spock is good. I kept comparing his performance to Nimoy's in the old show so the fact I didn't hate him is a good sign. I think more than any other his is the part people will focus on most and he needs to make it his own and he did.

All through the movie Chris Pine plays a very cocky Kirk. The audience I saw the movie with seemed to love it. They were continually laughing, mostly at Kirk's lines and reactions, but also at anything Scotty did, some of McCoy's lines, etc. I like Simon Pegg but I felt he was overdoing the overreactions in the background. Still, he always got the big laughs so I guess that what the audience wants. The "Kirk with big hands" slapstick was a step to far, but again the audience seemed to love it. The movie maintains a jokey tone throughout with the exception of the opening sequence and the central "Vulcan sequence".

While avoiding spoilers I had more or less unintentionally discovered what happens in the middle of the movie. I wish I had not as the surprise would have been a major one.

Nimoy pops up as the older Spock from the future. Part of me feels his presence in the move was an unnecessary reminder of the first cast of actors who played these roles. On the other hand it works perfectly to tie the new movie into the series. By the time I saw his scene at the end of the movie I was comfortable with the role of "Original Spock".

I do like the new new look of the USS Enterprise. I think 75% of me loves it and the other 25% of me is complaining "but the engines are too close together!" Ah, I think it will grow on me...

Two observations about the Enterprise in the move. I would have liked to see a few more shots of the ship filling the screen. There's the "Titan arrival" sequence where she rises up out of the clouds and I'm reminded at what a stunning design the ship has. The other point is that we don't have a traditional engineering room. Instead it looks like they filmed in something like a chemical factory with lots of catwalks and big vats.

I would have liked to see more of Karl Urban as McCoy. In this movie he is only playing a supporting role. Uhura gets a much larger part than she did in the series along with a very surprising romantic partner.

It was great to see the classic gold, blue and red uniforms. Pointedly Kirk never wears the gold shirt until the very end of the move when he becomes the official captain of the Enterprise (much like Daniel Craig not saying "the names Bond, James Bond" until the very end of Casino Royale).

The cast was good. In hindsight Eric Bana didn't get too much to do as Nero but he made the most of it. The appearance of his ship and the casual way it swatted aside any opposition created a sense of jeopardy.

Michael Giacchino's music worked well. He stayed clear of the famous Star Trek theme pretty much until the end of the movie (again similar to the use of the Bond theme in Casino Royale).

At the end of the movie a few audience members started clapping. Actually clapping. At a Star Trek movie. What a strange world we live in where Star Trek is suddenly cool!

So that's the new beginning of the Star Trek crew. hopefully the next movie will be able to send them off on an adventure with a few quieter moments and a few more shots of the ship!