Tuesday, June 09, 2009

To boldly go...

Now that Ashes to Ashes has finished I really really want to squee very very loudly about it. However I am deeply conscious that a certain Ms Phillips is waaaayyyy behind and I do not wish to spoiler her in any way shape or form. So I am restraining myself and not reviewing A2A yet. But I promise I will in time, because it has just been brilliant. Last night was edge of the seat stuff, and I felt just like I did when a) watching the Master being revealed on Dr Who and b) during the series finale of Being Human. And you can't get better then that.

In the absence of any Gene genie reviewing, I'll switch instead to my recent trip to see Star Trek, which I'm overdue reviewing anyway.

Split infinitives aside, if you grew up as I did in the seventies and liked sf, there were two must watch tv programmes. The first of course, was Dr Who, and the second was Star Trek. Without ever claiming to be a Trekkie I do love Star Trek. I love the daftness, the stupid uniforms, Spock raising an eyebrow and saying This is not logical, Dr McCoy, saying It's life Jim, but not as we know it, Scotty saying, I cannae hold her captain, she's going to blow, and Kirk for managing to remain (just) on the right side of the ridiculous fat bloke/hero tightrope he walks.

I also love all the films - particularly The Search for Spock and First Contact, and most of the spin offs. I love Star Trek Generations, missed out on Deep Space Nine, and have a fondness for Voyager which whiled away many a winter Sunday when the children were small.

So naturally I have been very keen to see the new Star Trek film, especially as all the trailers I've seen have made it look so much fun. I finally got to see it the other week, and all I can say is I wasn't disappointed.

If you haven't seen it, avert your eyes...












Star Trek the film has basically reinvented the story, and therefore revived the franchise for a new audience, in the same way that NuWho has done for Dr Who. Hurrah for that. Good franchises should be able to keep going for a new generation (tho' we realised our children are a little Star Trek lite when they were getting muddled up with it and Star Wars), and this certainly is a Star Trek for the 21st century.

The story starts with the birth of Kirk, just as his father dies saving his crew from a Romulan mining ship which has unexpectedly attacked them. Hang on a minute, I hear you say, I didn't think James T lost his dad? No me neither. I have to say thanks to details like this, the first half an hour of this was quite confusing, but in a good, what the hell is going on kind of way? And who is that Romulan guy, and why does he seem so angry?

It is quite some time before the answer are revealed to us, so in the meantime we get to watch Kirk growing up as a bit of a rebel, while Spock grows up trying to prove his Vulcan credentials to his classmates who tease him for being half human. In order to survive Spock represses his human instincts and emotions, though he rather sweetly expresses regret about this to his human mother (played by Winona Ryder). When he graduates from the Vulcan Academy, however, being told he has overcome his disadvantage of being half human, he turns down their offer of a place with them to go to work at Starfleet Academy, where he excels.

Kirk in the meantime is excelling at getting drunk and into fights. Encountering a pretty young cadet from Starfleet called Uhura in a bar, leads him into a fight with some of her classmates. The fight is broken up by Captain Christopher Pike, an old friend of his father's. Pike sets Kirk a challenge to see if he can graduate from Starfleet, which Kirk eventually takes.

On his way to Starfleet, Kirk meets and befriends McCoy, a medical cadet (played by Karl Urban, who of all the new cast brilliantly captures the essence of the character best - you could really imagine this was how a young DeForest Kelley would look), and we then switch forward three years to see him graduate by taking a computer test devised by Spock.

We've become used over the years to seeing Kirk and Spock as the best of friends, even if at moments that friendship can become strained, so I loved the twist in this that Kirk and Spock hit it off on the wrong foot from the start. Spock sees Kirk as arrogant and reckless, and accuses him of cheating when he manages to outwit the computer test Spock has programmed. In the middle of the subsequent hearing, a distress call comes through from Vulcan where a lightning storm has been detected and Starfleet is despatched to help out. Kirk is not among the cadets chosen to go, so McCoy smuggles him aboard the ship . (The scene where McCoy is jabbing Kirk with a needle to reverse the effects of the drug he's given him, rates as one of the funniest in the film.)

Kirk in the meantime is the only one who can see similarities between the incident they are attending and the one that resulted in his father's death. He is sure that they are walking into a trap, and is proved right when they get to Vulcan to see the Starfleet destroyed. Nero, (an unrecognisable Eric Bana) the captain of the Romulan ship, orders Captain Pike to surrender, and he does so, leaving Spock (not Kirk!) in charge of the Enterprise.

It is at this point we finally learn what the Romulans are up to. Nero is drilling a hole into the surface of Vulcan and planning to fill it with red matter which will destroy the planet. Kirk, Sulu and the ship's engineer, who isn't Scotty and is wearing red, so is therefore dispensable, dive down to stop the drill. After the dispensable engineer cops it, Kirk and Sulu manage to destroy it (after a thrillingly exciting sky dive, which had me on the edge of my seat), but not before Nero launches the red matter. An excitable Chekov manages to beam Kirk and Sulu on board in time to save them from destruction, but when he tries to save the Vulcan High Command Spock's mother falls and Chekov is unable to save her. As with the death of Kirk's father at the beginning, it was a genuinely moving moment, not least because of the restraint Spock shows, and the tenderness Uhura demonstrates towards him.

Kirk and Spock then row about their next course of action - Kirk insisting they must go back to save Captain Pike (who is being tortured by Nero for the command codes to earth's defences), while Spock sets a course for Earth. Spock then accuses Kirk of mutiny and dumps him on a frozen planet called Delta Vega, where he encounters... an older version of Spock. And here everything that was deeply confusing about this film suddenly becomes clear as mud. The older version of Spock comes from an alternate reality . In his world (ie the Star Trek world we all know and love) , he was dispatched with red matter to destroy a supernova threatening to destroy the universe. Spock's mission is to turn the supernova into a black hole, which he succeeds in doing. However, not before Nero witnesses his home planet of Romulus being destroyed, for which he blames Spock. Nero travels through the black hole to the new alternate reality it has created (one where James T gets to lose his dad early, Spock loses his mum, and they hate each other), and Spock follows him through some 25 years later. I'm a little bit baffled as to how or why Nero decides to blow up Kirk senior's ship, but that's a quibble really. I think JJ Abrams has pulled off a neat trick to breathe new life into Star Trek while playfully reminding faithful Trekkies what was so good about the original.

Needless to say, Kirk manages to get back on board the Enterprise, thanks to Spock telling Scotty, whom they meet en route, how warp factor works. Scotty as played by Simon Pegg is wonderful. I love Simon Pegg anyway, but you can just TELL that he has probably spent his whole life practising for this part. He was made to be Scotty, and a damned good job of it he does too.
Once on board, at the suggestion of Spock the elder, Kirk gets Spock the younger to admit he is emotionally compromised and give over command of the ship to Kirk. Hurrah. We've got there. Finally, James T is back where he belongs at the helm of the Enterprise. Cue typical Kirk behaviour - he and Spock beam aboard the Romulan ship, Kirk frees Captain Pike, Spock rescues Spock the elder's space ship, destroys the Romulan drill and sets it on course for the Romulan ship. Spock, Kirk and Pike are beamed on board the Enterprise just before the explosion, and Kirk offers the Romulans a chance to escape, which naturally they don't take.
Pike gets made an admiral, Kirk gets the Enterprise, and at the suggestion of Spock the elder Spock the younger joins him as second in command. Course set for more Trekkie adventures for years to come. Job done.

I absolutely LOVED this film, despite the slightly confusing plot. The cast all did a really good job of recreating the characters from the original, even where they didn't look at all alike. Chris Pine looks nothing like William Shatner (far too good looking for starters), but captures the arrogance, risk taking and wit of James T fabulously well, so I believed completely it was the same person. Karl Urban as McCoy, convinced the most, but Zachary Quinto's Spock was also really good.
John Cho as Sulu and Anton Yelchin as Chekov deserve honourable mentions, and Spouse voted Zoe Saldana's Uhuru as much better then the original (I think that may have had something to do with her looks though (-:) I liked Zoe Saldana too, but this being 21st century Star Trek, she gets to be a bit more then just a pretty face with nice legs, so she has an advantage over Nichelle Nichols.

All in all a treat for Star Trek fans, but a great way to introduce kids to the franchise. A rollicking ride from start to finish, and great fun.

Will be very much looking forward to seeing where the Starship Enterprise goes next...


Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Am more than a little peeved that I still haven't managed to get to see this (perils of a not-really-sci-fi-bothered partner). May need to sneak out for an afternoon screening on my own. If it's still showing.

Anyway, I haven't really read your review (I kinda skipped through your spoilery bit) but caught the line that Simon Pegg probably has spent his whole life practising for the part.

One minor point: someone is bound to pull you up on using Trekkies as there is a school of thinking that Trekkers is the preferred term!

Jane Henry said...

Lisa, ah you see, that's why I'm not a proper Trekker. Do go and see it, it's fantastic fun. And Simon Pegg is awesome. But then I'm a little bit in love with Simon Pegg anyway...