Star Trek has been seen. Its world premiere happened last night, in Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse where, Trek fans showed up expecting to screen a newly restored print of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and were instead treated to the first ever public showing of JJ Abrams’ new Star Trek, hand delivered by Vulcan god Leonard Nimoy himself. Close friend of the Blend Jon B. was there, in the audience as it happened. Here he is with his report from the first ever screening of Star Trek:
I found myself in the enviable position last night of seeing the world premiere of the new Star Trek movie. No, not in Australia- in Austin, TX, where the Drafthouse reigns supreme and Tim League has presented me with ridiculously more amazing movie experiences than I have any right to expect in one life. First, a very humble thank you to the team that organized this event, including the very lovely woman from Paramount whose name I have sadly forgotten. Worthy of note: The film was introduced by the screenwriters and Mr. Nimoy himself, who are actively encouraging feedback and reviews. They want people to spread the word about their movie.
The new Star Trek movie is amazing- easily the best Trek movie since The Wrath of Khan, and a veritable feast of sight and sound: A captivating adventure that grabs you from the first and doesn't let go. The effects are staggering, finally what the stories have deserved so richly. There are enough huge fireballs, shattering explosions and exciting fights to go around. The movie's first 5-10 minutes are of note I feel: This sequence is brilliant and had me immediately on the edge of my seat.
The movie follows the story of the initial meeting of the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, twisting and turning from its original path thanks to a plot of revenge by the 24th century Romulan Captain Nero. The less said about what this entails, and what changes are in store for both the universe and characters- the better. I'm told there are some spoiler-rich reviews out there. Avoid them. This movie packs a lot of adventure and surprises, and is best seen unspoiled, in my humble opinion.
All the adventure is balanced, however, by dead on work by the actors and a generous focus of the story on the characters themselves. All of the main crew get a nice picture of who they are, only Chekov ever feels like window dressing, a problem every previous Trek movie has had (even my beloved Khan) in spades. In particular, I would like to single out McCoy (Karl Urban) and Scotty (Simon Pegg) for being much improved. Not only do the actors completely nail their parts, but both characters are much more interestingly written now.
As great as they are though, the weight of these stories has always been on Kirk and Spock. Both are well executed here, and I can safely say that I already like the new Kirk more than I ever did the old. He's still Kirk, but you understand why he's Kirk, and there's more humanity to him. Old Kirk was sometimes a dick because, well, he was. This Kirk feels a touch more pity, has a touch more pain, and actually goes out of his way to save his crew, which makes him far easier to root for.
Zachary Quinto as Spock, aside from the obvious physical resemblance, also feels right. This movie is more Kirk-centric, I think, but Quinto does a good job conveying the inner turmoil and barely suppressed green-blooded volcano boiling under the character's surface. The only issue I have is that a lot of the character development that took Spock many episodes and movies in the original universe seem to be compressed into a very short time here, and I worry that they may be wrapping all of this up too neatly and cleanly. In one scene, specifically, Spock seems to undergo a complete attitude reversal in the space of about three minutes- Seething with rage and violence one minute then suddenly, after a quick epiphany, positive and collected and ready to help in any way he can the next. It feels cut short, like something got left on the cutting room floor.
And that leads into my issues with the film. There are several bits that feel rushed, from the narrated flashback (forward?) which seems to clip along far too quickly and forces Nimoy to be abbreviated, to the handling of the Vulcans. Sarek is the only performance here I'll single out as being definitely poorer for the reboot. I'm not sure anyone could have filled those shoes, but the dignity and depth that Mark Lenard brought to the role is sorely missed. Otherwise, Chekov's accent, while deliberately pronounced, actually did become a little annoying in several spots, and Eric Bana's villain, while played well, is given a bit short shrift, with only a very brief explanation of who he is and what he wants. This cuts both ways though, as the movie nicely avoids the trap that so many of these films fall into, over-focusing on the main villain to the detriment of the heroes.
Overall- The runtime flies by with very few lulls in the pacing, reinvigorating characters and a universe that had, lets be honest, grown stale and tired. More than anything else, the movie just feels so much more fun than any previous entry. There's more humor, more thrills, far more energy and a much better movie here than anything I've seen from Star Trek* since the 80's. I admit I was skeptical- I was not prepared to care about this universe and these characters again, after the crushing mediocrity that they had become. I can be skeptical no more, though. This is a fantastic movie it's own right, one I would definitely recommend to Trekkie and new fan alike.
*Exception: TNG episode: The Inner Light
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