Star Trek JJA: Second (Third & Fourth) Impressions: I've finally seen the Star Trek JJA movie on DVD, three times in fact, once with the commentary. How have my initial impressions changed? I like Ben Cross as Sarek and the Sulu and Chekov actors better, so I'm even more impressed with the acting. They created characters with a lot of heart. I was impressed with director Abrams inventiveness, energy and willingness to take chances in the visual presentation.
And I take note that Abrams' points of reference are primarily the Star Wars cycle, Indiana Jones and movies since, not past Trek films (except for a homage to the first.) So unless he was being disingenuous on the commentary, the many echoes of past Trek movies were accidental or in the screenplay. When they explained some choices, it was as if they were reinventing the wheel--either duplicating what was done in past Trek or considering and rejecting that choice.
On the basis of the commentary and the featurette, Abrams is enthusiastic and very present--the kind of person who inspires some, and exhausts others with his always on, always the center of attention personality. He also apparently doesn't know the meaning of the word "favorite." He has about 100 favorite shots, scenes and moments.
As for the movie's story, I still find it underwhelming. The pace and momentum of the film, plus the generally effective character moments, keep me watching, and on its own terms the story pretty much holds together. But what is at its center? Personal vengeance is the primary motivation of both the villain Nero and the hero Spock. That Nero could sustain that level of emotion for 25 years is mostly incredible. That he retains the loyalty of his crew for 25 years while apparently keeping them in the dark as to his plans and intent, is really incredible. He's a cardboard villain with cookie cutter motivation: a cliche.
As for the hero Kirk, what does he actually do that's heroic in this movie? He spends most of the time getting beat up. He loses most fights, is rescued from others, and wins one. I've revised my count of how many times he is literally hanging onto the "cliff" or slippery surface, from three to five. So I get it that he hangs in (or hangs on) but is that all there is? He has the makings of a leader--he's quick and intuitive, and action-oriented, and he listens to his bridge crew--but his heroism in this movie seems to be limited to enduring getting beat up. Spock certainly seems to come around to Kirk as the captain suddenly, and if that's motivated, it escaped me--four time.
I haven't seen the deleted scenes yet--I'll have to check whether there is a rentable disk that includes them.