#3 – Star Trek
I’ve come up with a sort of dare, for those that just aren’t interested in seeing this film – simply watch the first 15 minutes. If you still aren’t interested, that’s fine. Turn it off. The first 10-15 minutes of Star Trek fire on all cylinders – this is pop science fiction at its finest. Direct J.J. Abrams goes immediately for the kill with a fantastic space battle that puts anything in the Star Wars prequels to shame. It’s brutal, exciting, and exhilarating. If anything, it feels like a naval battle that could have taken place 300 years ago there’s not much fancy flying or shooting at ventilation shafts, here – it’s two ships slugging it out to the death. As the fight goes on, Abrams backs out the dialogue and sound effects, allowing Michael Giacchino’s score to do the storytelling for us. And, as the battle comes to its heartbreaking end, we’re left with a Star Trek universe that has been completely changed. It’s brilliant, exciting, and completely fantastic, and it lays the groundwork for an exciting film that brings Star Trek and its characters to bright and vivid life. (Sometimes a little too vivid, to be sure – JJ Abrams loves his lens flares. In fact, there’s a fun drinking game, if you like that sort of thing – take drink every time you see a lens flare. You will be drunk before they get out of the Academy.)
And yet, despite the changes, it’s still the same Star Trek universe that you know and love. Yes, something happens that alters the timeline forever, but Kirk is Kirk, Spock is Spock, and Bones is Bones. The actors, wisely, avoid doing impersonations of the actors that they follow, choosing to instead portray the characters themselves. Especially amazing is Karl Urban as Bones – from his first scene until the end of the film he threatens to steal the film from anyone who’s onscreen with him. Luckily, the rest of the cast is up to the challenge – current geek chic actress Zoe Saldana is fantastic as Uhura, Zachary Quinto is pretty much perfect as Spock, and Simon Pegg breathes fresh life into the film when Scotty is introduced to the crew. Anton Yelchin and John Cho round out the supporting cast members, and they do it fantastically. Finally, Chris Pine does a remarkable job of bringing Kirk to life. It’d be easy to get lost in the shadow of Shatner, but Pine never once struggles or falters – he *is* Kirk, and that’s that.
It helps the film quite a bit that Michael Giacchino wrote an absolutely fantastic score, one which abandons much of the existing Star Trek musical motif. Normally, I’d say this was a bad move, but the score that he wrote is exciting, memorable, and incredibly emotive. Giacchino has been doing fantastic work on television for the past few years (Lost, Alias, Fringe, etc), and he now has some absolutely fantastic and original scores under his belt. His Speed Racer score was one of the best soundtracks of 2008, and I’d argue that this Star Trek soundtrack is one of the best of 2009 (though, it’s often overlooked do to his equally fantastic score for “Up”.) It’s bright, hopeful, resonates long after the film has ended.
And, finally, the very best thing about the film is that happy giddy geek joy that you get from watching these characters fall into place. Early on the timeline is fractured, but as these characters start to interact it quickly begins to feel like a cosmic jigsaw puzzle, with an additional thrill adding to the experience every time that Fate snaps another character into their rightful place. When the crew is finally all together it’s a great feeling, one that has a surprising resonance. There are some awful tragedies in the film, and as this group of people begin to rely on each other and trust each other it seems like it’s destiny – that no matter what, these people were meant to be on the Enterprise, confronting the great unknown together. It’s optimistic, hopeful, and completely free of cynicism. It’s everything that Star Trek should be, and more. Kudos to everyone involved, because this isn’t just a great sci fi film, or a great summer popcorn movie – this is a great film. Period.
Wife’s Top Ten
#3 – Star Trek
I’m going to take a total cop out on this one and say I liked this movie for the same reasons that Jason did…and for two others – I love Simon Pegg and Karl Urban, and it managed to make Star Trek cool again.
The Worst Ten
#3 – The Ugly Truth
Abby (Katherine Heigl) is a control-freak TV producer whose idyllic but lonely life is interrupted with the addition of shock jock Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler) to her show. The two are constantly clashing over what defines a good relationship and the differences between men and women. But when Abby meets the man in her dreams, next door doctor Colin, she enlists Mike’s help to win Colin’s heart by acting like every man’s dream woman.
I was vastly disappointed by this film. I was expecting a romantic comedy that played off the differences between the way men and women think, with the ending showing a relationship based on compromises from both fields. I’m not sure why I expected a vaguely normal relationship from Hollywood. Instead, we’re treated to a constant stream of criticism on how the female mind works, insinuating that women are idiots if they want to wear comfortable shoes, ponytails, expect politeness from men and still believe in chivalry. Mike is always telling Abby what is wrong with her, that men will be more attracted to her if she is the complete opposite of herself. And he himself falls for her even because she stops being herself while trying to pursue Colin. The film also uses their version of a male mind to throw in every dirty joke in the book at the audience, expecting us to accept this as the comedy part of the film. The ending is so contrived, abrupt, and forced, that I couldn’t believe that it actually passed for an ending. This is one of the worst romantic comedies I’ve ever seen.