Friday, May 08, 2009

The Occasional Movie Blogger Returns w/thoughts on STAR TREK: ORIGINS - not too shabby, indeed!

WOW! A prequel/sequel done waaaaay right - what a nice surprise!

Saw Star Trek: Origins @ Eden Prairie AMC in MN tonite, & can safely say it no longer mattered that on my 3rd trip to MN, I still didn't get to go on the roller coaster or similar attractions @ the Mall of America - this film was quite the fun thrill ride all by itself! Throw in killer extended previews for upcoming surefire blockbusters Transformers 2 and Terminator: Salvation, and I was a happy chick.

Okay, first off, loved all the old subtle (and not so subtle) references & throw-backs to the old series, as well as the clever storyline (about which, all I will say -to avoid spoilers - is that it paves the way for a whole new battery of films/TV shows/books that aren't in any way beholden to any of the past story/timelines/events), and witty, character-driven/appropriate dialogue.

Casting was letter-perfect all the way around - something I wasn't convinced of when the choices were first announced.

  • About the only one who I had to warm up to was Chekov (Anton Yelchin) - the vocals were spot-on, but the actor's look just didn't match up to what I had in mind for a 17-year old version of the character; but by the time we were 3/4 thru the movie, I had made peace w/the curly blonde locks on my Russian reboot.
  • As a Heroes nut, I was sure that Zachary Quinto was going to be my fave going into the movie. For a white guy w/no Asian attributes, he pulled off young Spock quite admirably/enjoyably.
  • But the real McCoy (yeah, yeah, bad pun!) & first real scene stealer for me was Karl Urban as beloved old medical curmudgeon, Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy. Not since Ewan McGregor's turn as a young Sir Alec Guinness a la Obi-Wan "Ben" Kenobi in 1999's Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace has an actor so captured the essence of a well-known character, albeit in younger form.
  • John Cho fares well in his turn as Mr. Sulu, though other than an away mission with Kirk, didn't seem to me to have a whole lot to do. (I could share more here, but not without spoilers.)
  • Speaking of Kirk, Chris Pine wisely opted not to go the route of Shatner clone, instead crafting an edgy, rougher-around-the edges version of the character with core similarities - but a portrayal he can rightly call all his own.
  • We get an interesting glimpse behind the usually all-business Uhuru with Zoe Saldana in that lead. She's poised and perfect on-the-job like we remember, yet sophisticatingly sexy and witty off-the clock. There's also a fan-gift of a back-story woven in with another major character, that many may not have considered before. (Again, could say more, but not without giving too much away.)
  • By the time a hilarious & lovably irked Simon Pegg showed up as one Montgomery "Scotty" Scott, the movie had been on-screen way too long - but I'm happy to report, it was well worth the wait! They saved enough zingers for Pegg to be memorably quotable, while also letting his hard work on an authentic Scottish brogue shine through with Scotty's signature reply to a request for "more power" from engineering. (I won't tell you when it happens... only when it does, you'll practically be screaming it along with him!).
  • Eric Bana is Nero, the latest in a long line of clearly insane Star Trek villains. His motivation as revealed in the plot, is understandable, if constructed from a sort of twisted misplaced, singular-focus logic/blame. Bana disappears into the role, barely recognizable in face, physique or voice. Should put the Aussie back in rotation as a household name.
  • Last but not least, Leonard Nimoy - the only original cast member invited to be part of this latest film - again reprises the role of Spock. Looking older and frailer than prior depictions (the man is 78!), he brings a timeless "wisdom-of-the-ages" vibe to the character, along with a touching passing-of-the-torch presence linking the past to the new future-past (confused yet?). Interesting trivia: Nimoy was given casting approval over who would play the young Spock in the new film (spoiler alert in reference link).

Overall, I was especially impressed that no one did an out and out impression of any of the classic actors - though there were definite method nods & occasional style/delivery similarities reminiscent of Brandon Routh's near channeling of Christopher Reeve during a few select scenes in Superman Returns (e.g., the pushing up of the eye glasses with pointed finger on center of frame, the short, quick under-breath "mm-hmm" utterances, a certain glance or gaze, etc) - no bad copies, just worthy "reinterpretations"/"homages".

Other fine performances by minor characters include:
Bruce Greenwood as Christopher Pike, the captain of the Enterprise; Ben Cross as Sarek, Spock's father; Winona Ryder as Amanda Grayson, Spock's mother; and House fans will recognize Jennifer Morrison as Winona Kirk, Kirk's mother.

I can't remember when I've been this pleasantly surprised by the competence/coherence of a film. Young and old fans (and non-fans/newbies) alike will find an entertaining 2+ hours flies by, keeping you near the edge of your seat & at times, holding your sides from riotous appreciative laughter.

The visuals & ships/space shots were out of this world (ok, bad pun), but how can you go wrong with the special f-x house that George [Lucas] built, ILM? Of course, one expects them to meet or exceed past efforts, and with Star Trek: Origins, they don't disappoint. Again, the continuity of evolution from prior series to present incarnation was near flawless on every level: from cast to characters, and ships to wardrobe. The update to the USS Enterprise, NCC-1701 (" bloody A - B - C - or D!") exterior/interiors are presented in the detailed glory we always imagined they would be like "in real life", with enough design elements to fit the bill of the beloved original. The fashions/uniforms were competent updates of clothing clearly inspired by that of the original series, along with modern touches and believable guesses at futuristic garb in the 23rd century.

This movie was such an unexpected treat, just over half-way through I was mentally plotting my next viewing(s) along with a list of potential partners in crime. Should prove to be the much-needed hypospray [shot] in the arm to catapult the Star Trek brand back to the stratosphere; relegating the love-it-or-hate-it tv series Enterprise - once thought to herald the inevitable demise of the franchise - to no more than a mere blip on the Star Trek collective radar.

I say: "Live long and prosper, new Enterprise crew!"