Friday, May 8, 2009

Does this mean that the even-numbered sequels are going to be the shitty ones now?

One of the very few positive things about being unemployed is that you don't have a set time to go to bed or get up. It also means that if you find out at the last minute that there is a 3:30 am showing of Star Trek playing 20 minutes away from you in motherfucking IMAX, you don't go "Oh damn, too bad I have to go to work in a few hours", but rather go "Fuck yeah dude, I am fucking THERE!". And there I was.

Every time I've gone to this particular IMAX, the lines would stretch out all over the place, but for this early morning screening there wasn't anyone around to queue up. The only other time I've ever witnessed something like this was when I went to see Speed Racer IMAX on a Saturday night and I was literally the only person in attendance. When you add up the fact that Speed Racer had only come out a week earlier and was playing in the popular IMAX format with the fact that I was alone in an IMAX movie theater on a Saturday night, you have yourself an incredibly sad equation, my friend. But whereas that auditorium was empty because nobody gave a shit about computed animated car racing, this one was nearly empty because most people are asleep and have work the next morning. I counted about 30 heads in the huge auditorium, and it was kinda cool to be able to watch a big summer movie on opening night -- one that I'm pretty positive is going to do very well this weekend -- and not have to deal with the large crowds and all that other bullshit. Usually you have to take one with the other. Anyway, I just got back about an hour ago and I'm getting tired, so let's move on to the movie itself.

Star Trek is neither a remake, a reboot or a prequel to the original series. Instead, it's set in an alternate timeline, Back to the Future style. It acknowledges all the Star Trek stuff we've seen before in the old reruns and the movies while still managing to be its own thing. It's a pretty nifty approach, I think. It's the filmmakers' way of telling the hardcore Trekkies that if they think the movie is shit and hate what was done to their beloved characters, they can just shrug it off as some non-canonical bullshit. For example, in this movie Spock and Uhura have a thing going on behind closed doors, which I'm sure would drive many a Trek nerd mad since in the series those two never went further than casual flirting. But if they take a deep breath and remember that this is just an alternate timeline caused by some crazy shit that happened in space 25 years ago, and that the "prime" versions of Spock and Uhura are not at all knockin' da boots, then all should be fine.

This movie is about the beginning of the U.S.S. Enterprise's adventures, the crew fresh out of Starfleet Academy and still wet behind the ears. They find themselves in a situation involving some Romulans who are out blowing up other Federation starships for reasons that become clear later in the film. The Romulan leader is played by Eric Bana and he's a little disappointing, unfortunately. He's certainly no Khan Noonien Singh as far as Star Trek villainy is involved, which is kinda odd since Bana's character does something here that's pretty fuckin' harsh, probably more fucked up than what Khan did and yet he and the filmmakers failed to make me feel much of anything toward him for doing it. Dude, it's fuckin' Chopper! You have Chopper playing the bad guy in a Star Trek movie and he still comes off bland? How can you fuck that up? The good news is that that's pretty much the only thing this movie fucks up.

Early on in the flick, we also get to see Kirk and Spock as kids, and I was happy to find out that it didn't annoy the shit out of me at all, as I feared was going to happen. I don't know how director J.J. Abrams managed to pull that off, but he even managed to use "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys during one Lil' Kirk scene without me screaming out "What the fuck is THIS bullshit?!". No, I was too busy tripping out on the cool car chase and the cool combo of production design and visual f/x (the farmland of Iowa with huge distant futuristic buildings in the background, barely visible through smog and haze). Also I think it works because you totally get that this isn't about how cute to see that troublesome tyke steal a car, it's about how this little dude has daddy issues (his died on the day he was born) and he's acting out in the most dangerous and destructive way possible -- stealing his asshole stepdad's prized classic ride and taking it for a one-way ride. I'm sure if the stepdad wasn't such an asshole and gave the little kid a ride in it every once in a while, he wouldn't have to worry about the tiny motherfucker driving that shit off a fuckin' cliff. You don't even see the stepdad, you just hear his voice, but that voice tells you everything. And you just know this isn't Kirk's first stepdad either, he's probably had his fair share of poor father figures. I'm sure he's had his face shoved into a mustard jar a couple times in his life.

So you have Kirk with the daddy issues, and then you have Lil' Spock with his mommy issues. His mom's a human and his dad's a Vulcan, making him a half-breed mutt in the eyes of his green-blooded peers. It also means that despite how hard he tries, he's still capable of having emotions, and the other Vulcan kids know that, so they keep taunting him about his mom and about being half-human. Eventually he's had enough of their shit, so he turns around and beats the fuck out of them. It's like they might not know how to feel emotional pain, but Spock is sure going to teach these little bastards how to feel some fuckin' physical pain, and that's nice to see -- harsh physical violence towards children. Warms the cockles of my heart, it does.

Spock's mom is played by Winona Ryder, and for some reason I was saddened by seeing her here. I don't know, maybe it's the whole nostalgia thing working against me once again. This chick used to be THE girl, back in the 90's. I've always been a fan; maybe it's the combo of her looks along with the fact that she's an honest-to-God geek. But not in a Kristen Bell finding-the-geek-angle-and-working-it-to-gather-more-fans sorta way. No, Ryder was a genuine nerd who happened to be pretty cute. Then she went nuts and started shoplifting and the fun ended. I'm sure she took the part just because she loved the idea of being involved in Star Trek, the same way that she did Alien Resurrection because she just wanted to be in an Alien movie. You know what, thinking about it a couple of hours after having seen the movie, I was probably just bummed out because she's only in a couple of scenes and then to add insult to injury, they gave her gray hair and wrinkles like this was fuckin' storytelling time in Edward Scissorhands or some shit.

Come on, man -- it's 2009, the 21st century, and Winona Ryder is in a movie that isn't going straight-to-video for a change, she's in a huge blockbuster summer movie and she didn't even have to co-star with that fuckin' Adam Sandler to do it, yet they couldn't just have her show up looking like Winona Ryder? You mean these motherfuckers couldn't just let her be and explain away her youthful appearance to something as vague as "Hey man, it's the future"? You know what, fuck you J.J. Abrams. Alias and Lost can suck my fuckin' tiny flaccid sad excuse for a penis, those shows are prime fucking Bage of the Gar variety. I've never seen those programs, but I don't care, they suck anyway. It's a good thing I like the rest of this movie, Abrams. Otherwise, oooh. Consider yourself lucky, punk.

Back to the movie. Even though this is trying to be its own thing, it's still very respectful and reverential to the original series. I know Abrams has said that he's not a Star Trek fan at all and that he's making this primarily for non-fans, but there's definitely a lot of stuff in here that fans or even those fairly familiar with Trek would get. They throw in classic lines like McCoy saying "Damn it Jim, I'm a doctor not a..." or Scotty doing his "I'm giving her all she's got Captain!" but there's also stuff like old sound effects and music themes put in there, if you can find them. They even managed to get Kirk to go to bed with a sexy green-skinned woman. My favorite reference would have to be this one, though: Kirk, Sulu and a crewman have to go to the planet Vulcan to stop some bad shit from happening, so they get their gear and put on their jumpsuits -- Kirk in blue, Sulu in green, and the crewman in red. If you're familiar enough with the whole "red shirt" deal in the series, you fuckin' KNOW where this is going, and sure enough it goes there.

One big difference between this movie and the original Star Trek movies; the other members of the crew have a lot more to do in this one flick than they did in all six movies. Scotty and Chekov have their moments to shine, Uhura has her thing going on with Spock (while fighting off Kirk's advances) and motherfuckin' Sulu gets to go on an adventure with Kirk that begins with skydiving (spacediving?) to planet Vulcan and culminates with him getting into some swordplay. Shit man, Sulu didn't get to do anything in the movies until part 6, when he became Captain of his own ship and even then he was only in the beginning and end of that shit. The movies and even the series were pretty much The Kirk/Spock/McCoy Show, but I have a feeling that if this version of Star Trek gets its own cycle of sequels, we'll get a lot more equal treatment going on. Between this movie, Mission: Impossible 3, and those fuckin' television shows of his, it looks like J.J. Abrams seems to dig on the whole teamwork theme and that's a good thing.

Aside from the lack of a strong villain and a poor use of Winona Ryder, I really enjoyed Star Trek. It's a very good example of the best kind of summer movie: fast, fun, and none of it requires you to turn your brain off to enjoy it. I hate having to use the "turn your brain off" excuse, and thankfully this movie doesn't require me to go that way. I hope there are more 3:30 am showings of summer movies close to my hood, it's certainly easier to get a seat this way and you have a cooler group of people to deal with, but most of all, it's just nice to be able to go into a movie when it's pitch black outside and come out just as the sun is starting to rise. Because I like watching sunrises as well as sunsets. Because I'm a girl.