Sunday, 10 May 2009
To boldly go...
I went to see the new Star Trek film last night. It's normally everything I'd avoid in a film - I'm not generally a fan of sci-fi, couldn't care less about Lost and tend to think that if a film is genuinely good, it's able to carry itself without the need for excessive big-budget special effects. But back in November I saw a preview of some of the footage for Quench and wrote an article about it (available here). After knowing a fairly large chunk of the storyline, I had to see the film properly, simply to quell my curiosity.
I was surprised to say that I was moderately impressed with the film. It's probably not something that I'd watch again (because the film most likely wouldn't work properly on anything smaller than a cinema screen, if nothing else) and it doesn't do anything new within the sci-f genre, but what it does, it does well.
One of the most impressive things about Star Trek is how good the aesthetic is. It's simultaneously retro and modern, and colour is used really well. It looks sleek, and there are some incredibly stylish shots in it, particularly during the action scenes. And it's all set to a satisfyingly epic score.
Zachary Quinto is great, too; Spock could easily have been hammed-up or stonily monotonous, but Quinto manages to fall into neither extreme, instead playing the character in as convincing a way as is possible. Considering that Spock is an alien. Who meets his time-travelling older self who's come back from the future. And who is played by Leonard Nimoy.
That, actually, is one of the best aspects of the film: it's incredibly knowing, accepting the weight of the franchise that it succeeds and recognising that it will never escape it. It's arch, and funny in a manner which at times even approaches irony. It cracks out all of the classic, clichéd Star Trek lines, but manages to raise a laugh in doing so.
There could be more laughs, though. Simon Pegg is criminally under-used here. The man is a comedy legend; you'd think that if you'd managed to get him on board, you'd want to make a bit more of his part. As it is, he's a minor character, always vying for a little bit more attention than he's ever granted.
There's also a lot of the obligatory morality stuff, and the usual side-story about making a dead person proud. Not that you'd realise that Kirk's father was dead, because it's not mentioned at all. Well, not aside from a massively over-dramatic opening scene featuring baby Kirk being born as his mother is snatched from the jaws of death thanks to his father's courage and sacrifice. Completely overblown and slightly unnecessary.
Also a little overblown but rather more necessary is the plot. There's a lot of time travel; it all gets a bit Doctor Who? from time to time. It's one of those storylines that you can follow as long as you don't pay too close attention to it. It all ties up very neatly, though, and I guess that plausibility isn't an issue when you're setting a movie in space.
Overall, it's enjoyable. It's a semi-riveting way to spend two hours, and require no former Trekkie knowledge to understand. Think of it as Star Trek for beginners. It's hardly reinventing the wheel - or the spaceship, for that matter - but it does seem like JJ Abrams did good here.