My job places me in a weird position. I write daily news updates into which I inject my own opinion. I share with you my thoughts about movies as they’re going through the development process – from the script to casting to the shooting to trailers to the finished product. But the fact that I share my opinions throughout the process can make it seem like I’m walking into a movie with my opinion set; because I ragged on a film during production, some readers reason, I have a vested interest in having my final opinion match those initial thoughts.
Fuck those people. They’re dumb. But because of them, I am coming out right now, just hours after having seen JJ Abrams’ Star Trek reboot – a film about which I have been loudly skeptical from the start – to say that I was wrong about it. Or at least some of it.
I’ll be writing a real review which will include some of my gripes about the film (a terrible, horrible, dumb script), but here, in easy list form, are some things about which I was wrong:
- JJ Abrams. I’m not a fan of Abrams, and Star Trek didn’t really change that. But I now have more respect for the guy. I found his feature debut, Mission: Impossible III, to be not just poor but also shot like a TV show. It didn’t feel like a movie. Star Trek feels like a movie. A big movie. There’s a lot of scope. There’s a lot of interesting, dynamic camerawork. And there’s a lot of lens flares (cut that shit out, JJ. What is the purpose of having every light source in a film create a flare, anyway?). I still think that Abrams is a fairly empty Hollywood cog with nothing to say, but I can never again criticize the man for not being a filmmaker.
- The comedy. When Paramount showed 20 minutes of footage last year, I was unmoved by what I saw, and much of what bugged me was the comedy. It seemed forced and out of place. In the film itself the comedy actually works. It works really well due to the fact that it all comes from the characters, and the characters are handled particularly well. I may have some Trekkie quibbles (there’s a romance I really hate), but otherwise they all work, and the humor flows from them naturally.
- Zachary Quinto. This was a real surprise. I’m not going to go nuts and tell you that Quinto is great – his Spock is a little femme in a way that I couldn’t quite pin down, for one thing – but he’s much better than expected. And having Old Spock in the picture actually helped me get into Quinto’s Spock; it’s like the movie is saying ‘Yeah, it’s not the same, but imagine he grows into this guy! Just imagine!’ I can almost imagine, which is much better than I would have thought before seeing the movie.
- The action. This may have been where I was most wrong. All the footage I saw of the film made me think that Abrams had created a world where the action would be whiz bang dogfighting, with lots of Star Wars-esque space battles, as opposed to the slow, naval-type battles from the original show and movies. Not the case at all. The Enterprise is treated as a big ship that doesn’t manuever like an airplane. The ship may be a little more lithe than it ever has been in the past, but it doesn’t really strain credulity. And the film itself isn’t a series of mindless action scenes; while there’s plenty of running and jumping and hitting and shooting, it always feels ike it’s organic to what’s happening, like a good adventure story. It never feels shoehorned in.
- The continuity. With one major, glaring exception (it seems like nobody is surprised that the Romulans and the Vulcans share a common ancestry; in fact, Spock treats it like it’s old news. That’s knowledge no one should have for another ten years), the continuity in Abrams’ Trek is right on. Or as right on as it should be in a film that, in the opening scene, sets itself in an alternate reality outside of the original canon. Even beyond the obvious shout outs – the lines delivered that will appeal to the casual Trek fans – this movie feels like it takes place in the Star Trek universe. Despite all of my misgivings, Abrams and screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman truly get what the Star Trek universe is all about.
Have you heard the good news? — By Al Schwartz