Star Trek (USA, 2009)
Directed by J. J. Abrams
Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Eric Bana, Leonard Nimoy
J. J. Abrams is perhaps the single most overrated filmmaker working today. In a cinema age dominated by marketing and brand name recognition, he is the crown prince of hype, who has pulled off audacious levels of success by pulling the wool over our eyes. He is the master of taking something which is ordinary, unremarkable or downright poor and making it appear like the Second Coming of compulsive viewing. He is, to put it another way, our generation's Wizard of Oz.
Super 8 two years later), the film is a breath of fresh air for those who endlessly groaned about the creaky special effects in 'Trek films. You won't find any plastic rocks or monsters made out of pipe cleaners here, with the CGI being crisp and the aliens realised in a generally convincing way. The camera may be on the move a little too often for those of us who like stories to unfold naturalistically, but cinematographer Daniel Mindel keeps us on an even keel with attractive lighting and responsive compositions.
Leonard Nimoy made his own. The best piece of casting, however, is Karl Urban as Bones: he's so hilariously irascible, but the film never lays on the humour too thick in either his performance or his dialogue.
Patrick Stewart said that he wished some of the show's "wild, ironic humour" could have been incorporated into The Next Generation. Regardless of how well this would have worked, there is quite a lot of welcome humour to be found in Star Trek. One of the biggest problems of the original series was how seriously William Shatner played every scene, when the sensible thing would have been to acknowledge its limitation and knowingly embrace its silliness. Here, we get to see Kirk as more of a wisecracker, and Spock is the perfect foil, especially during his early scenes at Starfleet.
Star Wars film by any other name. It's not surprising that Abrams was more of a Star Wars fan than a Trekkie growing up, with the resemblances growing stronger as the film progresses. The entire sequence on the ice planet is simply the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back with a bigger, less memorable monster.
Batman Begins did for the Caped Crusader is to overstate its virtues while doing Christopher Nolan a hue disservice. When Nolan approached the Batman franchise, which had been in hibernation for a similar length of time, he wanted to take Batman back to its dark, moral roots, reshaping the iconography to explore complex philosophical ideas. It's no surprise that Abrams is now helming the latest Star Wars film, because he clears prefers spectacle to scintillating conversation, and dog-fighting to dissections of dogma.
I previously mentioned Star Trek in my WhatCulture! article on Eric Bana's career. Check out the article in full here. You can also read my tribute to Leonard Nimoy here, and my WhatCulture! article on Patrick Stewart's career here.
NEXT REVIEW: The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists! (2012)