Sunday, May 10, 2009

Star Trek

One thing about Rotten Tomatoes, a site which I absolutely love and rely on, is that it can instigate some pretty high expectations for a film. For example, if a film has, say, a 96% on the Tomatometer, one might be inclined to think that this is one of the best films of the year, or almost perfect, etc. No, the reason for the high score is the movie is highly accessible, and well made of course. This is why Pixar films always have such a high rating, because they're high quality films created for broad, "general" audiences.

So, is Star Trek the best film of the year so far, or the best Star Trek film? No, but J.J. Abrams has created a fun, character driven summer blockbuster that will probably exceed most of the other special effects driven popcorn flicks this year. Films like Transformers 2, which is probably about 5% real and the rest of it CGI, have shallow characters with no substance or plot to speak of.
It bears mentioning that I was not overly impressed by the special effects, but they served the film well, as opposed to being a distraction. I'll take a good story with strong, developed characters any day over robots and explosions. Those might be cool to look at briefly, but the true beauty of film is losing yourself in a story and identifying with its characters, while being challenged in some way.

Abrams took a tired franchise, gave it a shot of adrenaline as well as a few pints of fresh blood, and launched it back into space. The story is well crafted, maybe a bit contrived at times, but the real catalyst for the success of this movie is the casting, primarily Chris Pine. He hasn't been in hardly anything, yet he storms onto the screen like he owns the place and demands to be noticed. His portrayal of James T. Kirk, captain of the Enterprise, is spot on; he nails the essence of Kirk without ever stooping to a Shatner impersonation. He's also given a bit more freedom to rebel than the original Kirk might have, given that the story sets him in an alternate universe in which he has grown up without his father. This adds a new dynamic to his character without changing who he is or ultimately will become.

I don't need wallow through a plot synopsis, because frankly, that is not why you should see this movie. The focus was on Kirk and Spock(s), their rivalry, and ultimately their budding friendship. Each original crew member was introduced in a charming, often humorous way, and the writers did a great job honoring the canon, while taking their liberties as well, in order to make it fresh. To put it simply, Star Trek is just a heck of a lot of fun, and easily worth your ten bucks to see it on the big screen. I look forward to seeing where Abrams takes the franchise from here, and I have no doubt it will be an exciting ride.

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