The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, May 11, 2009

STAR TREK (2009)

Look, I'm just gonna say it: this is really the best "Trek" movie ever. Yeah, I said it. Better than "Wrath of Khan", which really only gets top marks because it had the original cast, and that was such an incredible blast seeing them get it right. If they'd re-cast it..? A decent space opera. but other than that, every other "Trek" had no sense at all of being a movie. All of them were blown-up episodes of the television show, with aging casts and no sense of wonder at all. Where were the monsters? Even on Trek they had beasties, within the limits of television budgets. Where was the romance? The Borg Queen was about as close as they ever came. They were never about the human relationships, really--they were about recreating the fun of watching television actors we enjoyed playing characters we loved, and frankly, many of the actors weren't really that good. Go ahead...tell many of the core Trek actors really had much of a career outside those shows? They were decent actors, but lucky beyond belief to find roles so iconic that fit them so well.

So J.J. Abrams comes along and shakes things up. Gives us real full-screen spectacle. Sensuality. Tragedy. Dynamite action sequences that are genuinely breath-taking (nothing in any of the 10 previous movies has anything CLOSE to that sky-dive sequence.) Leonard Nimoy, back as Spock and just wonderful. I could complain that most of the fight scenes looked under-rehearsed, but hey, nothing's perfect. Hell, I liked it so much I'm not even complaining about Uhura and Spock, and don't think for a moment I couldn't. This is just the most fun I've had at a movie in ages, my second-favorite "re-boot" after "Casino Royale." And the topper? The absolute topper? I saw it with my karate instructor, Sijo Steve Muhammad. Half way through the movie, I was crying, and realized that it felt like seeing "Enter the Dragon" with my father, back in the day. The kid inside me was happier than I've been in quite some time. Yeah...this is real movie-making, real entertainment, and it will make more money in its first week than any other "Trek" in its entire run. Deservedly so. I enjoyed the original "Trek." It was genuinely groundbreaking, and wonderful entertainment, and I've seen 'em all. But this movie pays more honor to the original than any of the other films, which just kept trying to re-capture the same old lightning in musty, small-minded bottles (when they broke out the go-carts in "Nemesis" I just wanted to hide.)

Trekkies, rejoice. The thrill is finally back. When I saw "Casino" I realized I'd been faking it for years with 007. That I wanted so badly to be entertained by Bond that I was willing to make happy noises as genuine as those emitted by a fifty-dollar hooker on the fourth day of a Shriner's convention. This is the real deal. Enjoy. Oh...for Trekkies? An "A+". For the rest of us? A solid, solid "A."


Dan Moran said...

:-) Loved it myself.

Frank said...

I absolutely agree.

The time I spent watching this movie this weekend was the most fun I've had at the movies in a long, long time.

Mike Ralls said...

Loved it and highly recommend it too.

Although Star Trek 6 had monsters (shape shifter) and felt like a movie to me. I don't think I really liked a single on of the TNG movies.

Reluctant Lawyer said...

Looking forward to seeing the movie.

Could have done without the shriners convention reference.

B. Smith said...

It was the best time I've had at the movies in a long time. The audience applauded at the end of the showing I attended.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Connecting this to the previous discussion: In the Trek movie, Kirk offers peace to Nero. This proves Kirk is a good guy. Nero turns him down emphatically. This proves Nero is a bad guy. Kirk kills Nero, and the audience gets the satisfaction of a bad guy being killed.

Any examples (especially from movies, but other media are ok) of successful, difficult negotiations?

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

Well, since the whole Star Trek series requires the United Federation of Planets, the Enterprise prequel TV series has to end with the United Federation of Planets existing, and as a result winds up with some episodes involving successful negotiations (even successful, difficult negotiations, seeing as successful easy negotiations would have made for dull TV).

Anonymous said...

Steve, spoilers aside what was so egregious about Spock and Uhura aside from the way she seemed more sexualized than Nichelle Nochols ever did in that skimpy outift (Nichelle radiated a quiet calm and class to her character)

Anonymous said...

Non only did I not find the Spock/Uhura "thing" egregious, I was delighted by it.

The new Trek is very, very good, but it falls short of great. Nevertheless, I found myself in an unusually euphoric frame of mind for several hours afterwards. It took me a while to figure out why.

Zoe Saldana plays the Blond. She is practically the only woman in the cast. She is the one, the only, focus of the two lead actor's romantic attentions, (green girls aside). She is the ultimate prize. As a black woman I felt extraordinarily validated by this.

Would it have been better if Spock and Kirk had both been played by black actors? Absolutely. But I'll settle for this for now. Baby steps.


Steven Barnes said...

Sorry about the Shriner's reference. Uncalled for, but I was tired and lazy.
I didn't want to complain in the review--I considered it petty, considering how much I loved the film. But there is a part of me that counts the number of times I see black women with white men, as opposed to the opposite, in media. I'm up to a continuous run of 13 images in different movies and television shows, and it annoys the hell out of me. That's what I call "FC" (financial correctness) as opposed to "PC." And no, I wouldn't want Kirk and Spock to be played by black actors. I'm not saying they shouldn't have done it (I thought the relationship was quite nice). I'm not saying I especially want to see black men with white women...just that since there is obviously pressure to keep that from happening, and that I resent black men being non-sexual in general, I take no pleasure in watching cinematic images of black women with white men. And used the mental excuse "well, it's in the future, he's a Vulcan..." etc so I could enjoy the film. I just wish that the world would change a little faster, so I wouldn't have to use that mental trick.

Anonymous said...

I understand completely. And I agree.


Anonymous said...

Seriously?! Couldn't they have at least stuck her with another minority character (even Sulu if they wanted original cast and classmates?). I remember a young lady posting a while back that she found the hypersexualization of Uhura and her inclusion with white men to be too reminiscent of old promiscuous black female stereotype dating back to the wide hipped, larger breasted cartoon characters of the slave days and after in jim crow. Do they realize they're consciously doing this, or is Hollywood really that f'ing clueless?

Anonymous said...

Uhh, in what way was she hypersexualized? Splain that to me.


Anonymous said...

Was it necessary for her to remove clothing in that movie?

&e K said...

Just back from a month in vietnam and working to catch up on your blog. soon as i saw star trek i jumped in there first. I am lucky to have a very persistent friend who hassled until he got invites for us to the world premier here in sydney at the opera house. ginormous screen and millions of speakers and heaven for me. he felt that since i'm probably the only original ST crew member in sydney it was only fair i attend. the only clanger for me was Uhura. thought the essence of all the others was captured but her dignity was lost. thought the new was abrasive, and superficial. oh well, have to say Nichelle and i were friends and i admired her as well. we were the only two black women on the lot for a long time. Is Spinrad still around? he, Ellison, and Sturgeon and i were friends back in the day. Most embarrassing moment: meeting Will Smith. Wanted to say how much i appreciated his work, how well he had portrayed Ali, who Malcolm X had introduced me to, etc. and i said hi and was stuck with my mouth open and not another word came out. felt someone rubbing my hand, looked down to see Jada and was so struck by her that i don't remember anything more til i later. you met them. is there magic and goodness there? Pls forgive long post.