Published at: April 7, 2009, 2:40 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here… Holy crap what a night.
I started it expecting to see 10 minutes of JJ Abrams’ TREK with the full feature of a pristine WRATH OF KHAN and ended it by watching about 5 minutes of WRATH OF KHAN (the opening credits) with the full feature of a pristine STAR TREK.
I would give all the credit here to Harry, and he certainly deserves some credit for kicking this idea off a while back, but from my understanding Paramount and Tim League of the Alamo snuck this one under his radar, too.
Tim League took the stage, beer in hand, of course, and introduced us to Harry who then introduced us to Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof who said that the premiere in Australia was happening within hours of that moment, so JJ couldn’t be there, despite his desire to spend the night in Austin watching Khan with a room full of real Trek fans. They also talked about Khan being their main inspiration when preparing this film, hoping they made a movie half as good as that flick.
Then the movie started, James Horner’s fantastic title music played over the credits, some audience members snickering at “and introducing Kirstie Alley” (I think she’s actually really good as the Vulcan, Saavik, in Khan) and then the first scene. The print was beautiful and then lines started appearing on the print. Booooo… then cuts… then it skipped frame, running for about 10 seconds split in half… up is down, down is up and all that before locking up, the frame burning.
Tim jumped on stage to say he’s going up to fix the problem and called for Orci, Kurtzman and Lindelof to kill some time. They show up, Lindelof going, “Okay… so, you wanna know what the monster is?” Clearly talking about the black smoke monster on LOST. People started shouting out LOST things (“I want to know what the statue is!” etc etc) and suddenly a man shows up on stage wearing a trench coat and a hat.
This man is holding a film can in his hand. He removes the hat and right there is Leonard Nimoy.
The audience went ballistic, standing ovation for the man, the girl behind me losing her shit. He takes a mic asking what’s going on here… why would you only show 10 minutes of the new movie? “JJ made a good movie, why only show 10 minutes of it?” Then he took a vote. Who wants to only see 10 minutes of the movie? Crickets. Who wants to see the whole thing? Thunderous applause .
And within seconds Orci, Kurtzman, Lindelof and Nimoy are off the stage (not before Nimoy could throw out one more Vulcan salute, of course) and JJ Abrams’ Star Trek plays.
To say that wasn’t a perfect segue into the movie would be a filthy, rotten lie. The audience was energetic, jittery with excitement. It’s the best one of these moments I’ve witnessed since BNAT 3 when Peter Jackson, Richard Taylor and Harry premiered FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING after telling everybody they couldn’t make it happen.
I will start my thoughts by saying only that I’m not a huge Trek nerd. I love the original series, Next Gen and a handful of the movies. I like the universe, but I was always a STAR WARS kid.
The flick starts out with a bang as the USS Kelvin is attacked by a giant Romulan ship that appears out of a black hole. The ship is almost instantly crippled, the Captain summoned by Nero, the movie’s villain who is searching for Spock. When the Captain leaves, he promotes a young man named George Kirk to captain the ship.
Young Kirk honorably runs the ship, successfully evacuating everybody before it is destroyed, including his wife, in the middle of giving birth. It’s actually a very touching scene, about as perfectly effecting and emotional as I could have hoped for.
It also kicks of the real split between this universe and the Trek universe we all know. Without any cop-outs, Abrams and his team establish that with this single event everything has changed. In short, it’s the perfect set up for a reboot. It can (and does, with Nimoy’s appearance as Spock Prime, as he’s listed in the credits) respect the originals while being free to do its own thing.
Everything we have seen still exists, just not in this reality. I think it’s pretty genius, actually, but only if they stick to this universe now. I’d hate to see them go back and forth with the existing Trek reality and this one in further sequels. I like the world (or maybe universe is a better term considering the material) that Abrams and his team has created here. I like the cast he assembled, I like the way this new universe turns some old Trek landmarks on their heads, while keeping true to what’s really important to each character.
I want to see more of that. I’d love to see more Nimoy in the future installments, but that should be the extent of it.
Abrams’ style is consistent in the film. There’s a reality to the sci-fi, but he doesn’t ignore the awe-inspiring sci-fi vistas and characters we want to see. He’s able to populate the universe with beings that could have walked out of the cantina on Mos Eisley, but are just like the Vulcans in that they do their jobs and are just part of the reality, even if they have huge eyes or crazy Don Post-ish heads. I liked that, outside of two or three instances (my favorite being the usage of the green-skinned girl), Abrams keeps all that in the background, giving the universe another layer.
Without going into too much detail, I want to clear up some stuff. Nero isn’t a fantastic villain… he’s not a showy Khan, a real match for Kirk. But that’s fine, in fact it fits the story. Here Nero isn’t a brain, he’s not a warrior. He’s almost a truck driver that happened to be off planet when something horrible happens, causing him to seek his revenge with the person who tried, and failed, to help: Ambassador Spock.
That’s right, he’s not after Kirk. He’s not trying to use time travel to personally attack that family. He’s not after Kirk at all. His aim is the dude with the pointy ears.
As a result Bana is more of a lingering threat, a reason for Kirk to take the mantle he’s supposed to take now that he doesn’t have the benefit of the support of his father. Without that father figure, Kirk is out of control, his talent and energy without focus. Instead of using his father, it’s Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) that is able to start him on his path.
What Pine brings to Kirk, what he’s able to recreate from William Shatner’s iconic performance, is that playful glint in the eye. He can be deadly serious, but there’s always a smile underneath.
Pine has the swagger, the humor, but he also has the presence. I didn’t think I was going to be a convert to him in the role, but I thought he was great.
In fact, there’s nobody I felt didn’t deliver. Simon Pegg as Scotty is perfection (great job on the accent, dude), Zachary Quinto as Spock is not only visually perfect, but he hits that perfect balance of emotion and logic that is crucial to Spock’s character and Karl Urban seems like he was born to inherit the role of Dr. Leonard McCoy from DeForest Kelley. Urban will be an audience favorite, for sure, and his introduction (and nod to his nickname) is exactly what I wanted to see.
Another great surprise is Anton Yelchin as Chekov. He is given a couple of different scenes to shine and didn’t feel like he was just trying to mimic a Russian accent. That goes for everybody… from Zoe Saldana’s Uhura to John Cho’s Sulu nobody feels like they’re locked in to someone else’s performance. Each person seems to capture what we love about the characters from the original series without making us wish we just had the originals back.
I also have to single out Abrams’ collaboration with Daniel Mindel on the photography. They use a ton of lens flares, making them part of the look of the film. On the planets, on the different ships… there’s a difference in the lens flares just as there’s a difference in lighting and I think it really gives the film a unique visual style that I loved.
Without exception, I think the first 45 minutes of the movie is rock solid. The second act has a few problems, the biggest of which seemed to be a sequence of check-listing, making sure all the characters we know and love are on the bridge and the way they introduce Nimoy is a great hero moment, but seems very convenient. I forgive it because they pulled off the overall story, but I don’t think anybody can deny how convenient it is that Old Spock is exactly where he is when he pops back into the story.
But other than a few conveniences, I think Abrams pulled it off. STAR TREK isn’t just a successful reboot, but a genuinely fun and exciting science fiction action adventure. My biggest complaint is that it feels like they just got started up when the film ended. I want more! I want to see the further adventures of Captain James T. Kirk and his crew aboard the USS Enterprise.
Speaking of, when Orci, Kurtzman, Lindelof and Nimoy took the stage after the film they mentioned they were just now starting work on the next step and invited everybody in the audience to post their thoughts, positive and negative. They’re reading them.
My personal input would be to focus on the adventure. They have now firmly established the world, the characters and everything is primed for the big adventure film. They need an iconic villain. Eric Bana’s Nero is fine for the purposes of this story, but they need someone to challenge Kirk and his crew… not just in strength, but in a mental game, which is why people love Khan so much. He was a smart motherfucker. Those are my thoughts and friendly suggestions.
So, with the premiere in Australia probably letting out around now, I’m sure you’ll be seeing many opinions and if tonight’s surprise screening is any indication you’re going to be hearing a lot of happy geeks gushing about the film.
Our screening ended with Nimoy getting a long standing ovation and a touching speech ending with the Vulcan Salute and a “Live Long And Prosper.” STAR TREK is back, fellas. Now I'm going to pop on WRATH OF KHAN... I loved JJ's Trek, but damn... I worked myself into a Khan mood and that itch must be scratched!
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