Monday, April 19, 2010

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.

6 comments:

On Smash said...

To me it's half a good movie. Even my friend who saw the film several times and loves it admits that the 2nd half looks like it was produced by monkeys. I was not impressed by James T Skywalker.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I just started following your blog a few weeks back and I have to say I've been really impressed. As a science student and a sci-fi fan, I appreciate the way you stick to the exploratory spirit at the heart of Trek.

I noticed that you haven't talked a lot about Uhura's character in the JJA film. She strikes me as problematic--on the one hand Saldana is a great actress, but on the other hand it bothers me to see her treated as a sex symbol (to Kirk) and a love interest (to Spock) rather than an active character in her own right. Then there's the conspicuously absent Nurse Chapel, the briefly present Mrs. Kirk, and the maternal-then-dead Amanda... Where'd all our reboot ladies go?

Captain Future said...

Thanks, Anon, and welcome aboard. I mentioned Uhura/Saldana in my first review as a character and actor I liked. We do learn of Uhura's skills and expertise in languages, which gets her promoted on the spot. Of course there's no doubt her sexuality (like Nichelle's) is a focus. But it seems to me a more balanced mix. That's one element I credit this film for--the emphasis on the particular skills of Uhura, Chekov and Sulu. In fact, their skills are more evident than Kirk's. Still, you're right, that bridge is boy heavy.

Pierre L. said...

My opinion I believe to be similar to Cpt. Future is that the movie was a good effort but not quite achieving Soul status. The casting was excellent for most of the protagonists though suffering from a lack of depth resulting, as you mentioned, to clich├ęs seen numerous times before in previous movies. They stuck to a "proven" story idea while rejuvenating the characters to gain acceptance from a greater audience. It's not enough.This idea of the everpresent villain in Trek movies is tiring and holds such a small part in the soul of Trek. My opinion is known on this topic on a previous post (see label "To be human").

As for the actors, for example, though Mr. Quinto is an excellent Spock, the character reminds me of the first episodes of TOS, where Spock was smiling and laughing and then became more Vulcan with his renowned glacial approach. It is not enough to mention the word logical numerous times in the movie, the character must show it also, as Ben Cross magnificently performs. Making Uhura his love interest, as opposed to Nurse Chapel, as Anon said, is also a bit ludicrous, and so openly out-of-character with a predominant human side. Then again, Mr. Nimoy is probably the hardest act to follow.

Pala said...

I thoroughly recommend the Q&A with the screenwriters of the movie.

It's done by Creative Screenwriting Magazine:

http://media.libsyn.com/media/creativescreenwritingmag/StarTrekQandA.mp3

Pala said...

Woops, the link's wrong on my previous comment. Here's the right one. Sorry...

http://media.libsyn.com/media/creativescreenwritingmag/StarTrekQandA.mp3