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TREK reviews pour in from the Drafthouse screening!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. The reader reviews from tonight's screening at the Drafthouse are starting to come in and I'm sure we'll have some from the Australian premiere rolling in tonight as well. As they come in either myself or one of my fellow editors will update this story. Happy or sad, angry or gleeful or meh, we'll run 'em as they come in. Beware of spoilers! We'll start with a wildly enthusiastic review. I wouldn't go so far as to say this film "bests Khan," but I definitely share this reader's happiness at what Abrams was able to deliver.
Harry, I can't believe how great the new Star Trek movie is. Leaving the Drafthouse at just past midnight, I felt alive and invincible and in a state only truly great movies put me in. Walking past so many security guards, I had my suspicions that we wouldn't actually be watching Wrath of Khan. However, the shock of seeing Leonard Nimoy walking on stage after the film for Khan "broke" was almost too much. But, as he explained what we would really be watching, I started wondering if it was such a great idea gathering a room full of people expecting to celebrate the pinnacle of the Star Trek universe and pulling a bait and switch. It turns out it was. I'm glad they invited the comparison, because this movie bests Khan much the way Kirk did. There's a reason why this got moved from Christmas to summer. J.J. Abrams really did it. He has revitalized the franchise. He made a movie that is smart and funny and charming and thrilling and reverent and is totally accessible to people who previously thought Star Trek was not for them. I thought I was one of those people. While I enjoyed all of the even numbered Star Trek films until Nemesis, I never felt the desire to go back and watch the original series or Next Generation... until seeing this film. Now I just want to plunge head first into Star Trek and fill in all stories I missed out on by preferring Star Wars as a kid. I suddenly care more about Vulcans and Romulans and Star Fleet. This is the kind of movie that will inspire fervent devotion and love the way the original trilogy did. This is the kind of movie that the Star Wars prequels should have been. With this movie, the Trekkies have won the argument. Right now Star Trek is the most exciting Science Fiction franchise. And I never thought I'd say that. Stop worrying about the cast. They're perfect. Stop worrying about the director. He brought a visual flair the series has mostly lacked, without sacrificing the story. Stop worrying about whether it's canonical or not. There is a satisfying explanation to anything you think you might have a problem with. In fact, Just stop worrying, period. You've finally gotten the Star Trek movie that you've always wanted. Enjoy it. I know I will for years and years to come. -GAH!
Now here's one from a long time Trekkie who isn't as enthusiastic, but seems to have enjoyed it, giving it a 3 out of 4 star review.
Hi Harry - Long time reader, first time e-mailer here. I was among the lucky ones at the Drafthouse tonight to see "Star Trek" (I can send you a picture of my signed poster if you need proof:-) I'm definitely what you'd call a hard-core Trekkie. I grew up in the 70's hooked on re-runs of the old show. I have strong memories of going to see "The Motion Picture" and "Wrath of Khan" in theaters. I remember borrowing my brother's copy of "The Entropy Effect" (the first Star Trek novel) as soon as he was done reading it. I still have my original ticket stub for "Search for Spock". In '91, I sat through a marathon of (then) all 5 movies, including "The Final Frontier". Well, you get the idea. Tonight, I was THRILLED to be going to see "Wrath of Kahn" on the big screen. I've lost count as to how many times I've seen "Kahn", but I'm sure it's well over 100. I even did my "Kahn Happy Dance" for my friend Tony before we headed down to South Lamar. We got there early and had reserved seats (thank you Tim!). It was going to be a good night. After the big buildup by Orci, Lindeloff, and Kurtzman about the new film, I was a bit confused as to why they didn't immediately show the 10 minutes of new footage, but instead jumped directly into "Kahn". That seemed odd -- why talk about the new movie, and then dive into the old one? It didn't matter -- the print of "Khan" looked gorgeous, so I didn't care. But then 3 or 4 minutes in the scratches started to appear. When the movie "melted", my heart sank. Thankfully, Mr. Leonard Nimoy himself suddenly appeared, and all was right with the universe. Honestly, I was almost in tears when Nimoy came out. He's one of my boyhood idols; I'm a professional computer programmer in part because of the influence Spock had on me as a kid. It was amazing to see and hear this legend in person. What a treat. So when he announced that we'd be seeing the new "Star Trek" movie in full, I figured, "Okay, let's do it". Let me be honest and mention right now that I've had extremely low expectations for the new "Star Trek" movie ever since I first heard about it. I'm a big fan of "Lost", but frankly J.J. Abrams' directing style has always seemed better suited for television than the big screen (see: MI-3). As a Trekkie (don't even bother tagging me a "Trekker" -- I grew up in the 70's dammit!), I've been following the progress of the new movie on AICN and But it just didn't seem like I was going to enjoy it. The casting looked way wrong (almost a "90210 in space" feel), and the Enterprise being build on Earth!?!?! Please don't get me started. Some minor spoilers ahead: So what does a hard-core Trekkie think of the new movie? Well, I liked it. Much, much more than I thought I would. Sure, there are some definite issues from a "Starfleet" point of view (Kirk getting a battlefield promotion to First Officer when he hasn't even graduated the Academy? Scotty taking over the Transporter Room and Engineering 5 minutes after coming on board? Spock abandoning his post when Pike has been captured in order to rescue his parents? Seriously?) And then of course there's all the massive changes to the Star Trek continuity that take place due to that old deux ex machina of time travel. But you know what? There are so many good things in the film that it kinda didn't matter. The beginnings of the Kirk/Spock friendship are rock-solid. The acting was great (especially Karl Urban as McCoy). The script had some very funny moments, as well as some very thought-provoking scenes. The dialog was generally very well written. J.J. Abrams' directing was strong. The special effects were awesome and the battle scenes were cool. The sets were fantastic -- I loved all those M.C. Escher-esque pipes in Engineering (though I didn't care for "The Chompers" that almost got Scotty). But most importantly: The overall story seemed "plausible" to this Trekkie. Despite all the action and explosions, there was still a compelling story, with a compelling villain, strong characters, and a "logic" to the whole thing. And of course Leonard Nimoy's in it. Really, what more could you ask for? There are two or three "big knocks" I could shell at the film, mainly from a critic's standpoint. But really, why bother? It was fun, and enjoyable. I laughed at the funny parts, I got tense during some of the big action scenes, and I had good time. The big question on my mind right now as I type this is: "Was it Star Trek?" I'm still on the fence about this one. Parts of it definitely "felt" like Star Trek -- certainly much more than the later Next Generation films or heck, all of Voyager. Honestly, I think I need to see it again to make that judgement. But I gotta tell you, that's a personal call, and in the end it just doesn't matter -- this hard-core Trekkie still enjoyed the film. I'm glad I saw it, and I'll definitely go back to see it a second time. It's a rock-solid 3 out of 4 star movie for me. Thanks for listening, and feel free to call me "The Horta".
And another Drafthouse attendee who tinkled a little bit when Nimoy showed up on stage with a film can:
So you go in expecting to see a new print of The Wrath of Khan and you end up with projector burnout and Leonard Nimoy telling you that you're about to see the new Star Trek movie, and like that, you're on your way. And over three hours later, I feel like that was five minutes ago and that I have regressed to the age of 8 and that part of me has melted into a gooey geek like substance that's going to have a hell of hard time getting up for work in the morning. In short, tonight was incredibly awesome. Let me preface what will follow by stating that, while being a fan of Star Trek, I could not consider myself a hardcore Trek fan. I grew up on Captain Picard, and always viewed the original series as kind of an affable, goofy uncle. As I got older, it became clear though that while I preferred The Next Generation as a series, Star Trek movies were better. And in particular, it was that goofy sense of fun and earnest pathos that drew me to the films (Voyage Home is my favorite Star Trek movie, which largely reflects what I like about the series...that is the humor of the cast). So when I heard JJ Abrams was doing the new Trek movies, I was not up in arms, but I didn't think it was a great idea. I haven't particularly been a fan of Alias or Lost. And then Chris Pine was cast, and I was even more skeptical. I did not particularly appreciate his performance in Bottle Shock, rating it as one of the worst I saw last year. But the other casting choices were intriguing, and the preview had undeniably impressive visuals, so I deferred pre-judgement while not particularly feeling any real sense of enthusiasm. That is to say, I was at the screening tonight to see a new print of Khan (my second favorite Trek movie) not the ten minutes of footage from the new movie. Now...let me start by giving props to the two guys I had the most doubts about. JJ Abrams has created a stunningly beautiful sci-fi vision that pretty much raises the bar for any space film to follow. The design and look of the film is absolutely fantastic in every sense. This is essentially the main element that sets this particular outing in the Star Trek franchise apart from the others and will probably be the thing most talked about right off the bat. There are scenes in this movie you wish you could have rewound and watched over and over again, they are so incredibly gorgeous. And Chris Pine is perfect as a young Kirk setting the comedic tone of the film right from his first appearance as the adult Kirk. He knows when to command a scene and when to let his co-stars shine, and really this is a film with a pace dictated by his character's actions. And everyone else follows suit, and nails their roles to a 'T'. Urban, Quinto and Yelchin (Bones, Spock and Checkov) pretty much pick up where their predecessors left off while Pegg, Saldana and Cho (Scottie, Uhura and Sulu) approach their characters in ways that present new possibilities down the road. Essentially, you have a cast that appears well suited to the comedic banter of the original cast with JJ Abrams providing visual gravitas the original series never really had. And the combination creates a pretty heady mix. That's not to say there aren't any negatives. Bana's Nero is not given enough time to become the kind of villain that Montalban's Khan was, and much of his motivation is inferred rather than developed onscreen. I have to wonder if there's a longer cut floating around in dvd release land that might provide more nuance to that performance, but until then, what we're left with his a villain more symbolic than fully realized. The other criticism actually deals with one of the film's strengths, it's incredibly fast pace. On one hand, part of what works so well about the movie is that it feels like a cinematic roller coaster. On the other hand, the banter between the cast is so incredibly entertaining and the writing so strong, that you wish the film could have slowed down to enjoy itself a little more. Further, the fast pace of the film is part of the reason the film never quite reaches the slow burn emotional height of something like The Wrath of Khan, although that movie is name checked and reference more than once in this movie. Those criticisms aside, Star Trek accomplishes far more than I ever thought it would or could. This is on par with the Star Wars trilogy in terms of the big screen entertainment and sheer imagination on display. And while it doesn't pack the emotional punch that it could have, it does set itself up to do that in subsequent installments of the franchise. The talent involved appear to be more than up to the task, and hopefully the public will make it possible for them to do their thing with increasing freedom and confidence. With in my family, it's a well known anecdote that when my older brother was a kid, he would through his shoes at the screen of tv shows that excited him too much causing that show to be at least temporarily banned from the household. I have a feeling that this is the type of movie that would cause that kind of jubilant shoe throwing. It is one hell of a ride. If you use this review, call me Chaplinatemyshoe.
And now one of the more in-depth looks at the film, which will wrap up this update. More to come as the Australian screening wraps up, I'm sure!
Folks, everything just works. The set, the story, the acting-- this is everything a Star Trek movie needs to have. You can tell that Abrams and Co. had a lot of freedom to break the mold. A freedom here that was never in the other ten movies or any of the series, one that allows you to see the fast moving, exciting battles from all angles (man, following the plasma torpedoes to their targets is a nice touch), to hear the word "bullshit" come from the type of guy that would call bullshit, and a freedom that, gosh, would put that golden oldie "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys in a frickin' Star Trek film! Paramount made a great decision here, taking this valuable (but, admittedly, dying) property and throwing a Hail Mary. I hope, I really hope, that this appeals to a wide audience. It can, it SHOULD-- there's spaceship battles, giant monsters, laser gun battles, hot women, funny dialogue, everything that you can hope for in a summer movie. It just happens to be called Star Trek. At its' core, the film is a meditation on destiny. Things are different now, the timestream has been altered-- heck, there's even a conversation in the movie that ends with the phrase "an alternate reality!" But it's fate, it's destiny that these people should wind up together, that this group is truly greater than the sum of its' parts. All your major characters are given something to do. This is the Kirk and Spock show, to be sure, but Uhura, Bones, Sulu, Chekov and Scotty are all instrumental to the plot and have wonderful moments. Fundamentally, however, it is destiny. That Kirk should be the Captain of the Enterprise. That Spock should embrace his inner humanity while continuing to struggle with his Vulcan traditions. That he and Kirk are and always shall be friends. POSITIVES: The destruction of the USS Kelvin and the final moments of its' Captain. Spock as a youngster exhibiting his rage (and demonstrating that he's a Momma's boy at heart). Kirk stealing a car. Kirk in a barfight. His talk with Captain Pike. Our introduction to Bones aboard the shuttlecraft. Uhura's comforting of a crewmember who just lost a family member. The s The first redshirt death. The destruction of... well, you'll see. Chekov the transporter vhiz. Spock spazzing out. Nero using a familiar tool to pry some information. Spock-Nimoy's conversations with Kirk. Spock-Nimoy's conversation with Spock-Quinto (and his joke there at the end). Scotty... well, every moment with Scotty. NEGATIVES: * I read the Star Trek: Countdown comic book miniseries that acts as a prelude to this movie, so I knew what Nero's motives were going in. I'm not so certain it would be clear to general audiences, especially the reasons why Nero blames Spock for the future destruction of Romulus. * The hoops that had to be jumped through to make Kirk, still a cadet in Starfleet, the acting Captain of a starship were a bit much, but pretty minor overall. * I wish we could have spent more time with Mr. Nimoy. His meet-cute with Kirk was fun, but pretty random. * In general, I don't know if an audience unfamiliar with Star Trek will be able to follow EVERYTHING, but I do think they'll get the gist. * You know, we get cameos from a ton of aliens, but I'm not sure I saw a single Klingon. I guess they're saving that reinvention for the sequel. Some thoughts on the cast members. * Chris Pine as Kirk. Highly impressed. He doesn't have the faux-gravitas like Shatner, obviously, but that's a good thing. He comes off as precisely what the character should be-- an arrogant hotshot genius who's not afraid of anything, knows what he thinks is the right thing to do, and is typically right on. * Zachary Quinto as Spock. There's one problem with Quinto, and it's not his fault-- the voice. Nimoy's voice is so distinctive and so very much Spock, and even though Quinto is able to match the pacing and cadences, he's just genetically incapable of fully realizing the character. That said, he does as good a job anyone other than Leonard Nimoy can be expected to do. The script plays a great deal with Spock's duality and Quinto really nails it, especially the part where he rages out. * Zoe Saldana as Uhura. Man, they did a great job in writing this character and really gave her something to do other than answer distress calls. There's a scene, and I mentioned it above, where she's comforting someone who just lost someone very close to them, and it's really tender and genuine. * Bruce Greenwood as Pike. The father figure Kirk never had-- if that guy told me I needed to get my shit together, I'd sure listen to him. * Simon Pegg as Scotty. Goddamn, I wanted to retroactively place Scotty in every scene. Pegg's scene on the ice planet where he's been exiled and his desire for food was hilarious-- they'll have to throw some paunch on him for the sequels. * Karl Urban as Bones. Man, of all the actors, he really nailed the voice. He doesn't look much like Deforest Kelley, but he really pulls off the cantankerous mutter. I really hope that in the next one he gets just a little more to do-- the ideal Star Trek movie features Kirk, Spock and Bones as each others' equals, with different but vital roles. * John Cho as Hikaru Sulu. He doesn't get a tremendous amount of screen time (and as far as the recasting goes, looks and sounds least like his counterpart), but Sulu's got some good moments, especially in one particular action sequence. Never thought I'd see swordfighting and martial arts in a Star Trek movie, but it fits. * Anton Yelchin as Pavel Chekov. I don't recall much about Chekov's role in the original series, but they seem to have cast him in somewhat of a Wesley Crusher-esque wunderkind here. I suppose you'd have to be a pretty smart kid if you're 17 and on the bridge. * Eric Bana as Nero. Not a Khan level baddie, but pretty damn good. As I mentioned above, I'm not sure if his reasoning for blaming Spock is clearly explained, but regardless-- his contempt is palpable. Far better than a random Klingon passing through, an evil Federation Admiral, or, gag me, somebody's evil clone. In conclusion, people are going to really dig this movie. If you're a hardcore Trekkie you should dig the freshening up (but not disregard, understand) of the classic continuity. If you're a casual fan like myself then you'll be drawn in deeper and excited to see what's next. And if you're new to the concept or have generally not been interested in Star Trek... well, give it a shot. This is the rare example of a studio acting both in self-interest and in the interest of the fans-- they finally gave this property some respect and handed it to some of the best and brightest people in the industry who've knocked it out of the park. Give it a try, you won't be disappointed. If nothing else, know that it is certainly the best Star Trek film since First Contact, and definitely ranks up there with Khan. I'm really excited to see where the sequels will take us, and hopeful that this iteration of the series will, ahem, live long and prosper.
Harry here with our only negative review we've received which came to my direct email box, but didn't catch till just a bit ago. I couldn't disagree stronger...
Heya Harry- The Human Burrito chiming in from just after tonight's sorta surprise screening of Star Trek here in Austin. Sorta surprise? Well, when you show up to see The Wrath of Khan and the place is crawling with Paramount suits, metal detector wands are being waved around, and you spot one of the writers....bull SHIT you're "only" seeing 10 minutes of the new Trek movie! This thing is going to SPLIT the fanbase. Or for fans like myself, it will be another beating of a long dead horse. Plenty of kids who eschew Trek are finding themselves curious about the hip, young, sexy, CG, ADHD Trek trailers, and they're going to gobble up this film aimed squarely at their demographic. Gotta have a juvenile product to get the kids, and that is sadly the world to describe it:juvenile. Sure, there's tons of little nods in there for Trek fans-why, there's even a Star Trek 5 reference, if you just didn't get enough warning signs about low hanging objects-but I think it's there more to twist the knife. AHEAD, SPOILER FACTOR 9! The general plot has been pretty well known-Romulans, time travel, etc. Turns out popular rumor was close but a bit off-no TOS reference in the time travel, no plot to kill Kirk, no Spock coming back to save Kirk. Instead we discover that in the late 24th century a sun suddenly goes supernova (science, what's that?) and is going to destroy THE ENTIRE GALAXY (science huhwhat?). In the most logical conclusion, Ambassador Spock and ONLY Spock can save the galaxy by....shooting a miniature black hole (triggered by red matter, whatever the hell that is) into the supernova. In the time between developing this black hole weapon and it's deployment, Romulus is destroyed, making villain Nero (Eric Bana) angry, and Spock wouldn't like him when he's angry. Spock, Nero, and Nero's mining ship (remember how stupid the endless elevator shaft with the bridge right through the middle of it was in Nemesis? wait until you get a load of this video game abortion) get sucked into the black hole and flung through time. Nero's grand scheme in the 23rd century is to prevent the destruction of Romulus by destroying Vulcan, Earth, and who knows what else with his own black hole gun and presumably ignoring the fact that a sun will still go supernova and destroy the entire galaxy. Naturally the only hope of saving the galaxy is in the hands of the new flagship of the Federation, the Enterprise and her intrepid crew: James T Kirk, perhaps the most scrutinized young cast member and the one with the heaviest weight on his shoulders. Trailers haven't given us much of young Kirk to go by, and here's why:Kirk is no where to be found. Sure, there's a brash bold cadet by the same name, but here he's written and played like Van Wilder or any other comedy film frat boy. Bumbling, goofy, inept with women, and willing to jam out to The Beastie Boys. No, that's not a joke. I hope you don't mind the Beastie Boys, since we hear the ENTIRETY of "Sabotage" during one scene. Also responsible for the vast majority of product placement tie ins. The man loves his name brand cellphone service providers, whiskey, and beer. Spock, already well received by fans when cast, does a great job. Our young Spock has some mommy issues, which we're introduced to early on when he's picked on by (Vulcan) bullies at (Vulcan) school who he ends up brawling with. Fanfic writers rejoice, though-there's plenty of Spock/Uhura action to be seen! Not that it's ever acknowledged in any way until we need a shot of them making out. Uhura, might as well write about her since I just mentioned her, is pretty much the same as always....minus updating her for the times! Gotta be sassy, complete with head bob! I'm sure if she weren't the only female star on the bridge, we might have gotten a "You go girl!" out of her. Bones, another instant hit among fans before shooting even commenced. I really have nothing to say here, perfect casting and writing. Scotty, yet another fanbase favored casting, makes the most of his limited screentime with his usual quips and odd midget sidekick. Yes. He has a "comical" sidekick now. I really have nothing negative to say about Scotty, either, though continuity nerds will have a shitfit with transwarp drive being perfected already. Sulu does not find any White Castles in space, stop making that reference already, it was not and remains not funny. Able to sword fight while doing backflips over the head of a Romulan. Chekov, the 17 year old video game ace who's joystick skills save the day when he has to manually lock on to moving objects for beaming. Wessel! Old Spock, what can you's Leonard Nimoy. I don't blame him for delivering exposition like he's talking to a toddler-that's the writers' fault for all the hand holding and dumbing down of dialog. And of course, the real star of the show, The Enterprise. Did you think the new bridge was ugly? Did you notice the lack of any engineering photos? Well, you'll understand why. There isn't so much an engineering set as there is a chemical plant somewhere that got borrowed for a weekend. No big beautiful glowing warp core, nothin like that-it looks more like the interior of a Naval battleship. Sick bay looks like it was sponsored by Apple. The exterior design looks a little better in motion, but I still think it's a hideously misbalanced result of someone sniffing glue before using glue to assemble their own Enterprise model. Sadly, it's the best looking of this movie's Federation "stick a random number parts together in random places and call it a ship " design philosophy. I do appreciate that the effects have put some of the weight back into the starships, they'd gotten far too nimble later in Trek and it killed the nautical feel of those massive ships. It's undeniably a summer flick-big, loud, senseless, and ending with a sequel setup. If you're a continuity nerd, this movie basically erases all of Star Trek history....or makes a new "alternate reality" (a phrase used in the film) if you go by Back To The Future time travel rules. Much like Star Wars and Doctor Who, this long dormant property has been revived as an easy to digest, no gray area, spectacle fueled kids' program. With all the bad teen angst and focus on 80s style "kids know better" set up to get the grownups out of the picture and these cadets in charge of their own starship, I kept waiting for the movie to scream "You just don't understand!" at me. Ultimately I was bored-it's very cliche, and the writers talked a good game about wanting to make their own Wrath of Khan with a great villain who is motivated by revenge....but it takes a little more than wanting revenge to make a great villain, just as making a Star Trek movie takes more than writing a different scifi movie and slapping the Star Trek title on it. It's an odd numbered Star Trek movie, undeniably, and there are some slick nods in there, but I would advise anyone who is cautious to remain so. The Trek we knew and loved, the Trek we knew and were indifferent to, it's all gone now. It's in the hands of a man who lets us know just how much he doesn't like Star Trek and would rather make Star Wars. Bring your kids, they'll LOVE it.

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