Monday, 25 May 2009

Star Trek: a franchise beginneth againeth

N.B. In a high concept movie FRENZY, I happen to be writing this AND trying to watch Snakes on a Plane simultaneously. It must be all that crazy-jazz pic-n-mix sugar and chemicals I had at the cinema this morning. CHECK IT!

Firstly - context: as much as I am a major sci-fi fan, I have never been able to get through an episode of Star Trek without a) switching channels half-way through or b) falling asleep. I may possibly have sat through Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but I can only remember the title. And as for anything featuring Picard... yAAwwwwwn. Basically, Star Trek to date (or Star Trek: Previous as I'm going to call it for now) had little love from me.

[SOAP update - amazing b-movie shamelessly basil exposition opening. Watch out - Samuel L Jackson... guns! more exposition! You have responsibility! More exposition!]

But the first Star Trek trailer I saw really whet my appetite. Maybe it was the fact that it focused on the ship, rather than any of the crew. And it looked really BIG. And then more trailers; where it looked really FAST. Basically, it looked like it might have addressed some of my issues with previous incarnations.


And it was big, and loud and fast, with a whole bunch of genuine GASP moments. But it was also very funny and beautifully played.

[really disappointing CG snakes]

What surprised me most was how witty and charming it was. It had none of the immense pomposity that seemed to be a tonal touchstone for Star Trek: Previous. Nor did it ever seem like a piss-take (even though I felt the urge to growl 'Niiiimoyyyy', every time Leonard Nimoy came on screen.) Even when the script required the delivery of A-Star Science-Fiction hokum, the world of the film was never broken.

[there hasn't been nearly enough Samuel L. to carry the film. It's like they made two films. One with the semblance of a story; and one with the snakes, the 2-D schleps and no Samuel L. Jackson.]

And I was impressed by the writing - Transformers, this was not ("Sam - don't lose The Cube. etc"). No, in Star Trek, the characters had much more individual voice than I expected. It was very much a back story piece - it's biggest flaw was perhaps that it was so unashamedly the foundation for a new franchise (and the laying of those foundations sometimes made the pace a bit clumpy for me) - but even so, the major underlying story was character-driven, focusing on the solidifying of the relationship between Kirk and Spock.

[And here we have not Richard Dreyfuss from Jaws as the snake specialist with the countdown to disaster and the made up science exposition. "His name is Doctor Price." Also we have Samuel L. reminding us that he (Samuel L.) is "not a zoologist".]

One of the great things about Star Trek was that, as a prequel to Star Trek:Previous, it didn't just sit back and rely on previous knowledge. There was no complacency in those characters. There were points were you felt like Captain Kirk genuinely feared for his life. Everything was a discovery - to those characters, as well as to us. So it was perfect for a non-Trekkie like me. But it also seemed to me to be pretty reverential to the ST:P mythos - at least with the major stuff that has become ingrained into the wider cultural consciousness.

So in a nutshell - rip-roaring action; characters with something to say and somewhere to go; funny; witty; Nimoy (no Shatner); and a great cast - I hear the principal cast are signed up to at least two sequels... hopefully the writing will keep up its quality too.

[There aren't all that many people left to kill. But don't worry folks, they've just worked out that only one person - in Texas - could have access to that many specifically exotic snakes. Who'd've thunk it? HOLD UP - someone has a gun in the plane! Do you think it's going to go off at an inopportune moment?]

I'm not sure the mechanics of the plot would quite stand up to proper scientific scrutiny, but I majorly enjoyed Star Trek and I'm looking forward to the next film in the series.

[Bored of SOAP now. Might have to get back to The Wire].