Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Notes on Episode 7: Review of the new Star Trek Movie.

IMG_0306 This is one of the episodes of the Chronicles that I enjoyed doing, but it had a few little problems, mainly that I had to severely edit it for time. I did write some really good stuff for it, but some things had to go in order to get it to under 10 minutes.

Here is the script as I originally wrote it:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rebooting can be a good thing

Open:

In 2005, with the cancellation of “Star Trek: Enterprise,” I thought that the “Star Trek” had pretty much reached the final frontier, and the warp engines had finally conked out. But I was wrong. The phoenix rose from the ashes, and it had one hell of an attitude.

Title Sequence

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Starring Dean Basler

Written and Directed by Dean Basler

Rebooting is a time-honored tradition in computing. From the earliest days of DOS, we all know that the three-finger salute (aka control-alt-delete) is a way to restart a system that has locked up.

Hollywood has embraced the reboot in the big way in order to jump-start a moribund franchise. Prime examples include “Battlestar Galactica,” which had a good concept in 1978 (humans escaping annihilation) but succumbed to network meddling after one season. In 2003 it was successfully rebooted by Ronald D. Moore and David Eick, and lasted for four seasons and won a few awards (most notably the Peabody Award.)

In 2005, director Christopher Nolan and screenwriter David Goyer resurrected the Batman franchise with “Batman Begins,” which took Batman back to his roots after the savaging by director Joel Schumacher. (Remember the controversy of putting nipples on Batman and Robin’s suits?)

And of course, a reboot can misfire. The two examples that I can think of off the top of my head are “Superman Returns,” which was not a bad movie, did not resonate with the movie audience, and Tim Burton’s reboot of “Planet of the Apes,” which again wasn’t a bad movie, but was savaged by the critics.

But one reboot that I was apprehensive about was “Star Trek.” This was a show that was cancelled after three seasons on NBC, resurrected for a seven year run in “The Next Generation,” spawned two additional spin-offs, (Deep Space 9 and Voyager,) and a prequel series, Enterprise. The feature films were another story. Six features for the original cast, and four features for the Next Generation. After Star Trek Nemesis tanked at the box office in 2002, and Enterprise was cancelled after four seasons in 2005, it looked like the Star Trek franchise had run its course.

Then after the cancellation of Enterprise, Paramount Pictures announced that a new Star Trek film was in pre-production. Instead of being helmed by Rick Berman (who most of the Trek fandom blame for the dilution of the franchise,) they chose the writing team of Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman to “reboot” the franchise. Also included was their long time collaborator, J.J. Abrams, who has been responsible for some of the top television hits over the past eleven years, such as “Lost,” “Felicity,” “Alias,” and the current Fox TV hit “Fringe,” (which I myself consider a worthy successor to “The X-Files,”) and was a writer on hit movies such as “Forever Young,” “Armageddon,” and “Regarding Henry.” Abrams wasn’t chosen originally as the director, but was convinced to take on the directing duties based on his strong directorial debut, “Mission Impossible: III.”

I myself had reservations that the film would be successful, but people were saying that Abrams would give a fresh look at the “Star Trek” universe, and open it up for a new generation of moviegoers, while bringing back the strong fanbase that has been a hallmark of “Star Trek” over the past forty years. A daunting task, to say the least. Well, I purchased the DVD of the movie (in widescreen, of course) and all I have to say is…

STAR TREK KICKS MAJOR ASS!

Yes, as an action film, Star Trek succeeds…but action alone doesn’t make a great film. Without strong character definitions in the writing, it’s just another sci-fi action flick. And Star Trek more than delivers.

Now, you have to remember that this (because of the actions of certain characters) is an alternate-reality version of “Star Trek.” If you watched the “Back to the Future” movies or “Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles” you will understand where I am going with this.

From the get-go, it was a slap in your face, seat of the pants, adrenaline rush experience.

Right off the bat, we find out that a Romulan rebel is setting things in motion, by firing on a Federation ship. Australian actor Eric Bana (who was familiar to movie audiences in 2002’s “Hulk” as Bruce Banner) provided a layered performance as the tragically wounded Nero. He was both evil (in the destruction that he caused) and sympathetic (when the reason became apparent why he started on his path of destruction.)

His actions have an effect on the development of James Kirk (fortunately played with understatement by Chris Pine,) which shows the path that he had taken with respect to him becoming the captain of the Enterprise. Kirk in this version of Trek is a troubled young man, who needs a challenge to become the man that he is destined to be. Pine’s portrayal of Kirk as a man who loves women, yet is brash enough to take chances in the performance of his duties, enhances his status as the successor of the mantle that was previously worn by William Shatner.

I also applaud the decision of the inclusion of the character of Christopher Pike in this version, because his actions have a direct bearing on the development of Kirk. Bruce Greenwood brings the correct amount of gravitas to his role, and gives the young Kirk something to fight for.

Zachary Quinto, who we all know as the thoroughly evil Sylar on “Heroes,” gives a remarkably strong performance as the young Spock, with a few surprises thrown in. His interactions with Uhura, played by ZoĆ« Saldana provide us with insights into his duality as a child of Vulcan and a child of Earth. Saldana also holds her end up as she proves that she can be tough as the rest of the guys, yet shows that her feelings for Spock don’t get in the way as a Starfleet officer. She proved that she is more than an “interstellar telephone operator.”

For the role of Leonard “Bones” McCoy, New Zealand-born Karl Urban, who was a major character in the last two “Lord of the Rings” movies (which I didn’t see,) and “The Chronicles of Riddick” became McCoy. His bitterness, cynicism, and his fears were a perfect counterpoint to the brash young Kirk, and he was a perfect emotional foil for the cold logic of Spock.

John Cho, who came to fame in the “Harold & Kumar” stoner comedies, and can be seen in starring role on ABC’s “FlashForward,” captures the essence of Sulu. The controversy over the casting of a Korean-American in the role of a character of Japanese descent is a moot point. He was perfectly able to follow orders as the helmsman of the Enterprise, yet he proved that he could kick ass on the same level as Kirk does.

Anton Yelchin also gave a stellar performance as the young, wet behind the ears navigator Pavel Checkov, taking the same puppyish charm that Walter Koenig brought to the role when he was cast in the original series, yet it proved that he was close to an intellectual equal to Spock. His mispronunciation of “V’s” when speaking did not diminish his character, but had the opposite effect which was make his character endearing to everyone else.

Simon Pegg, whom we all know from his roles in “Spaced,” “Shaun of the Dead,” and “Hot Fuzz” (one of my favorites) and worked with Abrams on “Mission Impossible:III,” proved to be the perfect casting choice of Scotty. Every part of his performance, from his Scots accent (even though he is a Brit,) to his self-depreciating humor, and his love of engineering raised the bar that was set by Jimmy Doohan.

I could also go on about the supporting cast, such as Ben Cross as Sarek and Wynona Ryder as Amanda (Spock’s parents,) but suffice it to say that their stories drive the plot, instead of just being tacked on to satisfy the fan base.

But the most surprising performance was that of Leonard Nimoy reprising his role of Spock. Just like William Shatner appearing in Star Trek Generations to provide a bridge between the Original Series and the Next Generation and drive the story, Nimoy more than delivered in his performance of Spock Prime. His scenes with his heir apparent, Zack Quinto, was one of the most powerful performances that I have ever seen in a Star Trek movie. If he isn’t nominated for an Academy Award, it would be a slap in the face of the man who has embodied the spirit of Star Trek for more than forty years.

The one character that I have saved for last is the Enterprise herself. For as much as Star Trek is a people driven story, the Enterprise is the center of the action and very much a character in her own right.. Instead of a massive redesign, like in the “Next Generation” the production designers took the classic design of the Original Series and made her look fresh and new. When Abrams said that the new bridge design was cooler than the Apple store, he wasn’t kidding.

Wrap up

If I seem like that I am gushing in my praise for this reboot of the Star Trek franchise, well…yes I am. I loved Star Trek for a long time, and I thought that it had run its course. But maybe it does take a fresh set of eyes to look at a well established universe, and take it in a direction that would please the “old-school” Star Trek fan, yet make it current and exciting for today’s audience.

To Paramount and CBS, thank you for not giving up on it.

To JJ and his crew, and the new cast, thank you for giving us a universe to revel in.

But most of all, thank you for allowing me to fall in love with Star Trek all over again.

I’m DeanBear…live long and prosper.

End Titles:

Written, Produced, Edited, and Directed by Dean Basler

Star Trek available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Paramount Home Video

Star Trek is a registered trademark of CBS Studios, Inc.

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The DeanBear Chronicles blog site:

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http://www.deanbear.com

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The DeanBear Chronicles - Episode 7: Review of the new Star Trek movie




2 comments:

Seth said...

I loved it too - it was actually surprisingly good, even though there's some "Darker and Edgier" aspects that kinda grated on me. Well done movie though.

DeanBear said...

Well, there are some of the old guard who don't like it, but I am one of those who do.