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Star Trek: The Re-boot

My review is now live over at Into the Hill. But here’s a sampling:

Well, here we are.

First we were introduced to those three sub-par, so-called Star Wars “films”, then the re-birth of a new, younger Bond, followed by bold reconsiderations of Batman, Superman and a host of other superheroes (not that any of those films stoop to the low, low level of the Star Wars prequels) all of whom successfully breached the tech-savvy, heavily ironic, slightly jaded world that is early 21st century cinema. Now, arriving in warp speed, arrives a re-boot of the famous Star Trek franchise called, well, Star Trek – a thoroughly post-modern, visually bold and essentially re-defining take on a cast of characters long beloved by pointy eared followers the world across, or should I say, the universe across.

Advertisements for this new Trek film, which is directed by J.J. Abrams (of ABC’s Lost and last year’s Cloverfield), insist that this ain’t your daddy’s Star Trek, and they certainly weren’t lying. Of course, how could it be? This is a film of blue screens and fantastic explosions; it’s CGI heavy and hell-bent on driving your adrenaline through the roof, it’s a film that simply couldn’t exist in it’s present manifestation even ten years ago. Where previous installations in the franchise’s 45 years were perhaps stuffy to the not so die hard viewers, and where older versions were perhaps too heady (or should I say nerdy?) for audiences looking for pure escapist fare, Abrams version is nothing if not sleek, sexy and, well, escapist. It’s fast paced and witty enough to serve as a worthy blast-off for a box-office summer that promises to be exciting as ever.

Mr. Abrams certainly faced a rather daunting task when he took on the project: to recapture the imaginations and hearts of the millions of fans who, for so many years, faithfully followed the adventures of Captain James T. Kirk, Spock, Dr. McCoy, Scotty and the rest, while also effectively capturing the short attention spans of today’s younger moviegoers – and keeping them interested for the long haul. This film is clearly a launching pad for an entirely new series of films and inasmuch is a fine film overall. However, standing alone, it certainly has its clear flaws.

The film’s great success, though, lies in its ability to collect a fantastic new cast, led by relative newcomers Chris Pine (as Kirk), and Zachary Quinto (as Spock) and featuring a stellar, hilarious performance by Simon Pegg (as Scotty). Pine plays Kirk with a Han Solo like charm and charisma, and with a distinct sense of hipster-esque sarcasm. He’s the film’s archetypal bad boy who learns a valuable lesson about friendship and working together with others. The film doesn’t successfully delve much into his character or what truly motivates him (other than passing references to his father-less youth) but I trust that future films will do so with the necessary precision. Pine is a fine, confident actor and will almost certainly find himself the new object of Hollywood fanfare. Quinto’s Spock is proud and analytical, even cold, but he is the most complicated character in the film and the one who will likely carry the heartbeat of the franchise forward. His logically driven Vulcan (you know, from the planet Vulcan) half competes, for much of the film, with his more emotionally driven human side (his mother is from earth, after all). On the one hand, he believes he must act according to logic, to what adds up. On the other hand, he can’t help but feel things. He knows emotion but doesn’t know what to do with it, doesn’t know how to approach it, doesn’t seem to know what it means. Kirk is the polar opposite. He lives one minute at a time, driven fully by his desires and emotions and passions. He is rash and bold and trouble seems to follow him wherever he goes. He’s scruffy and usually caked in mud or blood, and at first he’s self-serving and pragmatic in his approach to pleasure. He’s a mumbler and often sarcastically insulting. Spock, meanwhile, is clean cut, well spoken and by the book, if you will.

One might say that in these two lead characters we have the juxtaposition of two paradigms: one aging, fading away; the other only now growing to maturity, one looking back with nostalgia (as Spock is forced to do), the other looking forward with brash confidence (as Kirk does). One the one hand, one might say, we have the suit and tie paradigm of our parents and grandparents generations, the generations who were first introduced to these characters. On the other hand, we have our current, hedonistic, post-modern generation, fashioned as it is by the desire to cast our own seed and cut ties with the 9-5 mentality of our predecessors. We’re tech savvy, worldly and forward thinking, guided by our senses and confident in our abilities to face any challenges. Those old folks had their ways and they worked for them, right? Now we have ours and they work for us. Or so it goes. This film leans, I think, toward the latter camp, in tone and voice. There’s a hint of wistful nostalgia, but mostly out of duty. And ultimately when Spock is advised (by a face most Trekkies will immediately recognize) to do what “feels right” for once, we discover the true sentiment at the core of the film’s philosophies.

To read the fest of the review head over to Into the Hill, and while you’re there check out the other great content, or click on the Emusic banner and sign up for some free downloads!

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