Monday, October 20, 2008
I know, it's been awhile since my last post. Sorry, but it couldn't be helped. I had been fiercely ill all week, trying to prevent passing it on to my pregnant wife and our 2-year-old. Posts might start getting spotty from this point until the end of the year, because our baby is due within the next two weeks. But I'll post here as often as I can with some pretty interesting stuff. First up, J.J. Abrams' Star Trek, due out May 8, 2009. There are some spoilers ahead, so be forewarned. Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek was sci-fi's hopeful beacon during its three season run in the turbulent late sixties. In the Watergate-era it became a hit in syndication, always hinging on the dynamic between the hotheaded maverick, Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy (DeForest Kelley), and the cool, cerebral, Spock (Leonard Nimoy), both tempered and moderated by the thoughtful but decisive Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner). As someone who has been a Trekkie since close to the day he was born, I am happy that Abrams, the writer-producer behind Felicity, Alias, Lost, and now Fringe, is the producer and director behind the new Star Trek film. He did a somewhat credible and underrated job bringing Mission: Impossible III (2006) to the screen, steering it back to the grittier, duplicitous espionage tales of the original series, and away from the over-the-top action stylings of John Woo's M: I-2 (2000). With his TV writer's penchant for strong character moments, and his producer's knack for honing in on the spirit of whatever show he is working on, director Abrams might be the strong managerial hand needed to revitalize the long stagnating Trek franchise. The emergence of George Lucas' Star Wars, in the late seventies, transformed what we expected out of a science fiction epic from visionary to fantastic. No longer could Trek's morality tales hold the interest of young viewers, or even old. Trek would need to spice it up with modern visual effects, and more action to compete with Star Wars. While it managed to do that to some degree in the continuing movie adventures of Kirk and his crew, subsequent spinoffs (four of them) never quite captured the first one's rhythm, with each growing stiffer and more stately than its predecessor (Deep Space Nine is the exception, and probably the closest to the original Trek in spirit and tone). Even Abrams has admitted more of an affinity for Star Wars than Star Trek. But he brought in his M: I-3 writers, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, both well-versed in Trek lore, to reinvigorate the moribund franchise. Orci and Kurtzman also know how to renew excitement in sci-fi stories once thought to only appeal to only their cultish fans, as demonstrated in their script for the hit film Transformers (2007). In Trek's case, it means retaining its action-adventure spirit and its optimistic philosophy of our future, casting young actors that evoke the spirit of its original cast, and starting with their never-before-seen first adventure, thus giving a new audience a fresh look at a story that has always been saddled with an intimidating amount of continuity without jettisoning it completely. Like politicians eager to win new voters, but unwilling to scare off their base, there is enough here to have this flick fit in with the original's continuity, for long-time fans like myself. The film begins with this man, a Romulan named Nero (Eric Bana), who lives in the Next Generation era where, last we left it, the Romulan Star Empire had started making peace offerings to our heroes' Federation. This rapprochement was, in no small part, due to Vulcan Ambassador Spock (still Nimoy), now in his hundreds, and his efforts to unite the two factions. Nero, presumably angry at the weakening of the usually hardline Romulans' lust for power, decides that the root of his empire's misfortune lies in the first human to ever defeat them, Captain Kirk. He decides the answer is to go back in time to destroy Kirk before he ever becomes the hero he is destined to be. While the famous Enterprise's appearance has yet to be revealed, one can see in the picture above that Abrams is following on his impulse to amp up the visual effects, with a look at the U.S.S. Kelvin, helmed by Captain Robau (Faran Tahir), where Kirk's father, George (Chris Hemsworth), supposedly serves. Here it is in battle, maybe trying to stave off one of Nero's attempts to eliminate James Kirk... before he is born? Once the elder Spock gets wind of Nero's plan, the only person he can look to for help, and trust to keep the timeline safe, is... young Spock (Zachary Quinto). But young Spock hasn't yet learned to control his emotional human half, as seen above in his violent outburst towards Cadet James T. Kirk. On an icy planet, Cadet Kirk (Chris Pine) bails out from a pod with the Enterprise's call letters emblazoned across it. Is this part of a training exercise? Reportedly, Spock and Kirk are brought into conflict because of Kirk's infamous resolution to the "Kobayashi Maru" exercise that measures a cadet's strength of character in a no-win situation. Kirk famously cheated his way to being the only cadet to ever win that situation, a decision that he would pay the price for many years later. Is Nero the unwitting catalyst that, paradoxically, may have initially brought the famous Enterprise crew together in the first place? Cadet Kirk with the rest of his future crew on the U.S.S. Enterprise. From left, Chekov (Anton Yelchin), Kirk, Scotty (Simon Pegg), Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban), Sulu (John Cho) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana). Kirk taking his familiar seat on the bridge of the Enterprise, with "Bones" at his side, Spock at his post, and Sulu at the helm. Notice the female officer wearing the familiar miniskirt of old. There will be cameos by some prominent actors as famous Trek characters. Spock's father, Ambassador Sarek is played by Ben Cross (Chariots of Fire), with Winona Ryder (Girl, Interrupted) playing his mother, Amanda Grayson. Kirk's mother, Winona, is played by Jennifer Morrison (House). The Chief of Starfleet Academy is played by Tyler Perry (The Family That Preys), and the Enterprise's previous captain, the doomed Christopher Pike, is played by Bruce Greenwood (I'm Not There). Abrams' film seems to look promising to the top brass at Paramount Pictures. The film was due out this Christmas, but was pushed back to the lucrative summer season where they expect it to bring in even more money at the box office, even against the Hugh Jackman X-Men spinoff, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which opens the same weekend. With the bleak economic and political landscape we currently face, and the dawning of perhaps a new era in political leadership, the visionary and hopeful future presented by Star Trek may just be timely enough to soar to new heights. More Star Trek coverage: First Look: J.J. Abrams' Star Trek Star Trek Week Begins Blu-ray Review: Star Trek: The Original Series - Season 1 (1966-67) Movie Review: Star Trek (2009) Star Trek Podcast, Part 1 Star Trek Podcast, Part 2 I'd like to thank some of the sites that served as sources for this post, primarily TrekMovie.com, Ain't it Cool News, IGN.com, UGO, JoBlo.com, and MTV.com. Stills courtesy of Paramount Pictures.