Star Trek — the review’s up!

Star Trek — the review’s up! May 7, 2009

My review of Star Trek is now up at CT Movies.

I hope to say a lot more about this movie later, perhaps after a second screening, but for now, I just want to highlight one of the more unique reviews that I have seen so far, as well as a few other Trek-themed items.

First, the always-interesting Karina Longworth concludes her review at SpoutBlog by comparing the new film not to previous Star Trek shows, but to the previous TV work of director J.J. Abrams, specifically Felicity (1998-2002):

On the level of craft, it’s either a sign of his limitations or fitting considering the images of Star Trek with the greatest pop cultural endurance, but Abrams shoots most of the action on the Enterprise in TV mode, with a wideangle-lensed camera whipping from side to side on a single set, facial close-ups interrupted by blinding light flares. In thematic terms, Abrams’ most notable contribution is a demonstrated interest in the plight of college girls caught between cute brainiacs with a yen for common sense, and brooding blonde hunks with a knack for instigating sloppy hand-to-hand combat. In applying this to Kirk and Spock’s classic conflict between passion and logic, Abrams is to a large extent remaking his own Felicity (coincidentally, the same dynamic animates Reality Bites, which like Star Trek features Winona Ryder as an archetype over which a nerdy brunette guy attempts to exert control), and in a way, Star Trek allows Abrams a second chance to overcome that series’ inherent limitations. Eventually Keri Russell’s Felicity had to choose one male polarity over the other, and live a life deprived of the charms of the second place candidate. But being that the boys of Star Trek will ultimately choose each other — er, their common mission — over womankind, space can benefit from both, while the question as to what type is more desirable can remain infinitely unresolved.

Whether or not it all of this works as a movie-movie is an issue that critic-fans won’t be able to fairly assess, and critics who are not fans may feel unequipped to care. I’ll gladly give Star Trek a high grade for its eye candy and sugar-shot power of diversion, but I’m hesitant to give it too much credit for breaking the mold of the summer blockbuster. With its wise cracks, its cast of exaggerated characters, its indulgence in majestic moving paintings of intergalactic battle, and its insistence that it takes a wacky bunch of misfit stereotypes to keep space a safe place, Star Trek is structurally not much different from something like Armageddon. Michael Bay gets no respect, and it’s probably fair and right that he shouldn’t, but it’s hard to put a point on what JJ Abrams brings to that formula that’s uniquely his, other than that which seems an artifact from his previous work for TV. The Felicity similarities make the lead actor’s atractiveness all the more legitimate a point of critique. By — uh, spoiler alert? — placing Kirk and Spock in the running for the same woman’s affections, the conflict between passion and logic is transformed from a question of guiding life philosophy to a question of preferred type of boyfriend. If anything, by being true to his previous TV work, Abrams fundamentally alters part of the brand’s traditional core concerns.

Second, Matt Zoller Seitz has come up with a fascinating video essay on ‘Vulcan: The Soul of Spock’ for The L Magazine, and he concludes it with this great little insight:

Surely a character plagued by this many demons deserved to be labeled unhappy. Yet to apply that label to Spock would be most illogical. While one could never say he’s at peace with himself, one could say that he’s at peace with the fact that he’s not at peace. Perhaps, even though he never says as so Spock knows, or feels, that his soul contains multitudes: warrior, scientist, lover, son, and most of all, Starfleet officer.

This last role is by far the most satisfying for Spock because, as they say on earth, in the military, you don’t salute the man, but the uniform. This interpretation is validated by Nimoy’s fleeting but brilliant bit of stagecraft in the finale of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in which Spock, on his last legs after repairing a radiation leak that threatened to destroy his beloved Enterprise, hauls himself up, then absentmindedly straightens the hem of his coat. It’s his nonverbal way of honoring ideals and aspirations worth dying for. He’s too human to be Vulcan, too Vulcan to be human. But in uniform, he’s simply Spock.

Third, on a semi-unrelated note, the Georgia Straight interviews Vancouver-raised actor Bruce Greenwood, who plays Captain Christopher Pike in the new movie, and gets this amusing quote out of him:

Pike is not the first character Greenwood has played who has leadership credentials. The list includes a couple of CEOs, a fictional president, and even a real one, John F. Kennedy, whom he played in 13 Days, the story of the Cuban Missile Crisis. He says, though, that he doesn’t actively look for those kinds of characters.

“I have done a few of those characters in movies that have gone beyond the radar,” Greenwood says. “Perhaps they come to me more often for those kinds of things than they do for other things, but it’s not something I seek out. I am generally just drawn to the strength of the story. If they invited me to play the desiccated heroin addict, I would be thrilled, but I guess there is a danger I would play it with some kind of authority.”

And finally, Jewish Journal has a list of the “Top 5 Jewish moments in ‘Trek’”, with a bonus clip from Frasier thrown in for good measure.

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