Saturday, 13 February 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Star Trek

Alright strangers here we go with a big one on our hands. The film that I am reviewing today is only JJ Abrams reboot of the Star Trek franchise. JJ Abrams is currently without question one of the most powerful men in the entertainment industry, what with a little series called Lost under his belt, not to mention Alias, Mission Impossible III and a producer’s credit on the thrilling Cloverfield. A lifelong fan of the Star Trek series, Abrams has taken upon himself the unenviable task of not just making a new Star Trek film, but breathing new life into the franchise without bringing upon himself the annoyance of fanboys threatening to sink the film. In Star Trek, we follow both James T. Kirk and Spock, played by Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto respectively, through the origins of how they came to be the Captain and First Officer of the USS Enterprise. Now, to start with the good, of which there is a great amount, the acting in the film is certainly the year's best example of an ensemble. Each of the actors in their respective roles (John Cho as Sulu, Karl Urban as Bones, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, Simon Pegg as Scotty) contributes to the atmosphere of team solidarity and unity aboard the USS Enterprise. This atmosphere is key and vital to the establishment of the relationships between the characters in the series. Also, Chris Pine is very good as Kirk. Establishing himself as a renegade who despite bucking procedure and having a chip off his shoulder, Pine injects Kirk with a quality that makes him instantly likeable despite his obvious flaws. The standout performance for me though is that of Quinto as Spock. Playing excellently the half-Vulcan/half-human, Quinto through his expressions and lack of them expertly portrays the conflicted persona of Spock with sublime ability. Wisely portraying Spock throughout as a mysterious and closed-off character, it is because of this that his displays of emotion are given more power and poignancy when he does shed his coated illusion of being in control. Like Pine's performance, it is this clashing of emotions (this time literally) between more human emotions and those which are recognised as non-human which drives the character, and Quinto makes Spock an instantly likeable character despite being in many respects an emotionless, insecure control freak. Contributing also to the actors' establishment of their characters is the strong script. The characters are for the most part, particularly with the characters and relationship between Kirk and Spock, expertly done: each serves a purpose in the film, no matter how small a part or how large, and without them, the texture of the film would be completely different. Also, another thing to be credited by the screenwriters is the way in which they have not forgotten the fanboys. Now, the film does not bother me in the slightest in this sense because I have never been a Trekkie, but I feel that the way in which they have established the story has been done in a way in which Trekkies would also be extremely satisfied. Put it this way, there is a really smartly used plot device which will satisfy those who have loved the franchise for years. I'll say no more. Also, cinematography in the film is excellent. I watched the making-of documentary to the making of the film, and there are a lot of interesting, budget-saving improvised ways in making shooting the film. For example, in scenes torches were shone into the camera to create interesting effects with the lighting. Also, Abrams himself would be on hand to physically "vibrate" the camera, but in a way which is really interesting and does not distort what the viewer is seeing. Furthermore, the cinematographers must be commended for choosing to use the anamorphic format to shoot on. This gives the film a unique kind of sheen to its art direction and makes the sets and lighting look so much better. Also, the film is brilliantly designed, and is certainly one of the most technically solid films of the year. Finally, Abrams' direction is strong, and as the main guy behind the film, certainly deserves high commendation. He can be compared to James Cameron, for he seems to be involved in numerous aspects of the production, but not so much to the point that the efforts of others, such as cinematographer Daniel Mindel, will not be overlooked. However, despite a great amount of good with the film, there are numerous issues with the film. Now, as mentioned earlier, the script in terms of character establishment of the USS Enterprise is done very well. In doing so, they have missed out the fact that this is purely exposition, even if it is good exposition. It is obvious that there is a villain of the piece in Eric Bana’s Nero, but in truth, they may as well have not even bothered. I think that because of the focus on the Enterprise character establishment, the screenwriters have forgotten about the establishment of a strong villain. Unfortunately, because of this misdirection in writing, they have instead made the Nero-subplot seem instead like an excuse to establish the story of the Enterprise, instead of contributing much to the film. It is rather a shame, because in the opening pre-credits scenes, Nero is introduced as a potentially interesting villain. Bana really does do his best with the limited character development that he has, but seeing as how his character is poorly written, it cannot help but be a hindrance to his performance. Furthermore, the Nero-subplot, which really shouldn’t be a subplot but clearly is, shows to us the limitations of the film as an origin story. In this sense, it is hindered even more so than the likes of Iron Man. Establishing a franchise often sees the case of first-movie syndrome, in which one of the sequels is usually the best one because all of the exposition is done away with. The Dark Knight and The Empire Strikes Back are examples of this. Unfortunately, Star Trek does often feel like “Alright, alright that’s how that happened, let’s get on with it.” Nevertheless, it is a very enjoyable film which I am sure, if Abrams stays on board for sequels, will evolve into an interesting reboot of the Star Trek franchise.
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.0/10
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Very pleased

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