Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Live long and prosper.

Great fun, eye candy and an intelligent story…

No, not “Peter Grimes” again, but the new “Star Trek” film, which I went to last night (using up a free Cineworld voucher I got for eating too much chocolate a couple of months ago). It’s cracking good stuff! If you are feeling blue, I cannot recommend it too highly – provided, of course, you are SF-tolerant, which I do realise not everyone is. I certainly am; I’m almost tempted to go again tonight.

It looks fantastic, and has a good, strong, enjoyably convoluted but intelligent and (bless us!) logical storyline. Before the film started I sat through a series of trailers for films whose sole raison-d’être appeared to be Have As Many Explosions As Possible – but as for a plot, well, what’s that, then? What a relief then to see that I had chosen a movie that did have a plot, and a heart, as well as a good script and decent characterisation. With a set of established characters like these it would have been perilously easy for the screenwriters to have cantered through on catchphrases and stock clichés, but they had the good sense and the strong nerves to write the characters for real instead; and the story is actually rather interesting, riffing on time travel and its paradoxes. An embittered Romulan seeks revenge, ostensibly for the destruction of his home, but really as payback for his own sufferings; by travelling back in time he will in all likelihood have prevented the event in question ever taking place. Only he isn’t clever enough to see this…

The casting of the principals is extraordinary. I’m a trekkie, I confess it, though I’ve always been baffled by William Shatner. I was prepared to be at least a trifle disappointed, but no such sorrow. The new Captain Kirk, a guy called Chris Pine who I haven’t heard of before, plays the man as handsome, immature and full of himself, which is entirely correct, but also as intelligent and capable and brave. I had always suspected the original Kirk’s bravery was of the “I’m not bright enough to have realised this is dangerous” variety; Mr Pine manages to give us the real thing. The new “Bones”, Karl Urban, is so uncannily spot-on it is slightly weird, and the same (to my surprise, I’m afraid) goes for Simon Pegg’s Mr Scott. The new Lt Uhura, Zoe Saldana, is just as stunningly beautiful as Nichelle Nicholls, and has as lovely a voice; and is just as sadly underused. The new Chekov and Sulu are both fine. The “Enterprise” looks just right and yet totally new, subtly different without losing anything of the right essence. And Zachary Quinto’s Spock is not only absolutely perfect but also (forgive me) REALLY HOT. Although I was a bit startled when Lt Uhura threw herself at him so shamelessly, I didn’t blame her in the least, as in her shoes (well, boots) I’d have done the same thing.

Of course, the big theme besides the actual plot is the beginning of the friendship between Kirk and Spock; and this, again, is so well handled it just made me want to curl up and grin. Although we have a time-travel-and-altered-history story, and the characters do not have exactly the same development as in the original as a result of this, they are shown growing into the same kind of men (& half-man half-vulcan), with the same qualities drawing them together and the same qualities irritating each about the other. It is all, again, absolutely spot-on, and curiously touching to boot.

And, the final pleasure, the whole thing is played straight, rather than with tongue-in-cheek as the old cast had begun to do in their movie outings. There is humour, but it springs from character and situation and plot, not from recycling wisecracks and catchphrases we’ve heard before.

Quibbles? A couple of tiny ones. Even made-up to look ancient, Winona Ryder doesn’t look old enough to be Spock’s mother. She looks rather unwell, true, but not old. And Ben Cross as Sarek simply isn’t quite right, and his Vulcan make-up makes him look like Rupert Everett, which is oddly creepy. But for Spock’s parents to be the only weak link in the casting is quite something, really.

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