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Living long and still prospering
by Asa Butcher
2009-05-11 10:36:47
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Star Trek
Directed by J.J. Abrams
2009, Paramount Pictures

Very few things in life can remind us of that feeling of excitement that is an integral part of childhood, but this week one of them can back into my life at Warp Factor 11. I had no time to raise shields or go to Red Alert, instead I was left with my face set to stunned… oh yes, I became a little boy again as I sat in my cinema seat and waited for J.J. Abrams' rebooted Star Trek to begin trying to recall the last time my body had tingled with so much anticipation.

Over the past few years of Ovi magazine I have written about my passion for the Star Trek franchise in all of its many guises, so my childish excitement at the first Trek film in seven years and the first following Captain Kirk's crew in 18 years can be of no surprise to regular readers. However, the question now is whether the new film left my expectations exhilarated like a week on Risa or in despair like a week on Rura Penthe; the answer is the former.

What a ride! What a rush! What a reboot! What scale! What time is the next showing? You may believe I am being biased, but let me reassure you that the new film has apparently upset the "die-hand" fanboys and that, my friends, is very good news. When the die-hard fans whinge and moan it can only mean that the reboot has purged the system of irritating viruses leaving the rest of us to breathe in a refreshing take on the dated original series.

I can only describe the visual effects, model work and CGI as Trekker Pornography. It is unlike anything I have seen before in a Star Trek film, even in the four films starring The Next Generation crew, with an overwhelming scale of starships and planets that can leave you breathless in awe. Every visual aspect of the Star Trek canon has been overhauled, with new Transporter effects, new uniforms and new console layouts (yeah, some of us were looking at those), while some of the cinematography almost sits you in the Captain's Chair.

One particular cinematography effect that I loved were the use of lens flares, especially on the Enterprise Bridge scenes, that added realism to the sci-fi universe up on the screen, while the tracking shots chasing Chekhov (Anton Yelchin) to the Transporter Room made you want to help him push the crew out of his way! The choreography of the ships in intense battle, the dizzying orbital sky-dive and even the opening car chase to the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" just keep stacking the thrills on top of one another - I don't think my eyelids blinked once during the opening U.S.S. Kelvin attack.

Director J.J. Abrams breaks for the occasional comedic and unexpected romantic moment to allow the audience to catch its collective breath before returning to the action. This is only Abrams' second time as director on a film; his first was Mission: Impossible III on which he also collaborated with Star Trek screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, plus composer Michael Giacchino whose dramatic score will make you want to go and buy the Official Soundtrack CD.

Aside from M:I III, I am not familiar with J.J. Abrams' work; I have never watched "Lost", "Alias" or Cloverfield on which he had a producer credit, but I am certainly tempted to explore his universe a little further on the evidence of Star Trek. I absolutely loved his no-holds-barred opening to the film that has a plot twist that changes the future of the entire Star Trek universe - no wonder the die-hard Trekkies were foaming at the mouth after the Prime Directive was jettisoned after two-minutes and is truly summed up by the film's tagline: The future begins!

The future has begun, but this time we have Chris Pine instead of William Shatner and Zachary Quinto instead of Leonard Nimoy. Their respective performances as the legendary Kirk and Spock leave you gasping for more as their on-screen chemistry encapsulates what the original duo cultivated over 30 years, while Quinto appears to morph into a young Nimoy on more than one occasion.

If we treat Star Trek as an origins story, then we are in store for one helluva experience come Star Trek 2A, as the whole crew can begin to receive the screen time they each deserve. My favourite among the new crew is certainly Karl Urban's Dr. Leonard McCoy with his pessimistic and dark outlook on life, a philosophy summed up in his first meeting with Kirk as they board a shuttlecraft: "Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence."

There are a number of great performances from many of the supporting cast, such as Bruce Greenwood's Captain Pike and Chris Hemsworth's George Kirk, while the two actors portraying young Kirk (Jimmy Bennett) and young Spock (Jacob Kogan) are two future stars to watch for - and don't forget to keep your eyes open for Winona Ryder! My only grievance with the film is Eric Bana as the villain de jour Nero, but that complaint is based on my dislike of the actor rather than his performance in Star Trek.

What more can I say about Star Trek before this review just becomes a love letter to J.J. Abrams? Ah yes, this review may subtly imply that Star Trek fans will love the reboot, but let me reassure the regular film goers out there that this is a film light on irritating in-jokes, Trek terminology and nerdiness. It is one cool film that merely benefits from four decades of fore story, but even now that has all changed! Go and watch it! Psst… Leonard Nimoy is a force of nature!

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Emanuel Paparella2009-05-11 15:12:10
Sometimes you will see a movie drop big-time; not this one,this one has legs despite the fact that we live in a world where every week there is a new blockbuster, or better, it has a space ship on a journey that travels at tremendous speed imitating the warp speed of our imaginations. Homer's Odyssey does the same thing to our imagination and that explains its endurance too. They are both based on the power of myths and parables and stories. Homer's Odyssey is also a journey, albeit with a dereailed destination. Could it be that we find Star Trek so appealing because our journeys too have been derailed and our imagination threatened? Could it be that the ultimate frontier is internal as well as external and that its destiny is to return to where we left from and know the place for the first time? Food for the imagination.

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