Monday, November 17, 2008

Imagining the Cosmos-Star Trek: The Movie trailer

I'm a big fan of hammering the nails into my own coffin. I started with obsessive movie fan-dom, moved quickly onto uber comic book geek and political snob to now the revelation that I am half-Trekkie. Essentially I'm half Klingon but without the ridges (don't bother trying to understand, if you do, well, I feel your pain). Notice that I draw the distinction between half and full-fledged Trekkie; I've never been to a convention and I'm not familiar enough with the show to start waxing eloquent on the nature of the universe via the life lessons I've learned from Captains Kirk , Picard, Sisko, Janeway and Archer (alas, that list was from memory). Needless to say, half is more than enough to get psyched over the new trailer for J.J. Abrams' Star Trek, due in theaters May, 2009.

Let's face it, Abrams set an extremely high bar with the original promo which was quite possibly the best teaser I've ever seen, getting the audience excited about a movie they knew absolutely nothing about. When it came for a second run at prepping viewers for adventure amongst the stars, the man who brought us Lost, Mission Impossible III and Cloverfield didn't disappoint. The new view of Star Trek: The Movie that accompanied the opening of Quantum of Solace has everything a growing Trekkie needs, action, the fantasy of trekking through the cosmos, duking it out with crazy alien baddies and of course the interpersonal relationships that always made Trek so much more than an excursion amongst the space lanes.

Let's face it, we've always wondered what the cowboy of space was like when he beat the unbeatable simulation (Wrath of Khan) and now we know. James Tiberius Kirk was even more reckless as a youth, driving cars off cliffs and picking fights with the enigmatic Spock. The action is palpable, the adventure looks endless and the fun seems unbound. It's a completely new look at one of the most beloved science fiction universe's of all time with what promises to be the most visually compelling story modern CGI allows and a completely fresh take on the series. Of course, fresh doesn't always translate to good and there will always be the rough translation from the original cast to the new one.

It's been more than forty years since William Shatner brought the cavalier ladies man who always found a way around impossible odds into our hearts and minds, exploring the galaxy amidst bombshells of all species and fighting against oppression and tyranny wherever he went, all to the tune of endless Vulcan logic by Spock (Leonard Nimoy), accented quips about how engineering will save the galaxy by Scotty (James Doohan), barely discernible Captain, My Captain's by Chekov (Walter Koenig) and of course bitter soliloquies about why the universe sucks by Bones (DeForest Kelley).

Now its time for the new kids in town, with Chris Pine as Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, Simon Pegg as Scotty, Anton Yelchin as Chekov and Karl Urban as Bones, a.k.a. Dr. McCoy. A solid casting without question, they are nevertheless not to be confused with their predecessors slash/older selves/slash original versions/slash a whole space-time conundrum of comparisons. Whatever they may be, the attitudes and screen presence is distinctly new and decidedly not the originals. Simon Pegg's Scotty is one who at least in the trailer seems like a dedicated comedic relief without any of the lovable wisps of warp drive fume induced wisdom that we found in James Doohan's version.

Zachary Quinto's stoicism seems forced in a way Leonard Nimoy never was when he portrayed the implacable and emotionless Vulcan without a shred of human irrationality. Perhaps it's intended and maybe even needed for the actually half-Vulcan, half-Human Spock, but Quinto seems more like a human pretending to be a Vulcan than Nimoy's Vulcan living amongst humans. Needless to say, this is only a trailer of a prequel we're talking about, but Karl Urban's Bones seems like the most displaced of all the new characterizations. I can almost imagine a younger DeForest Kelley saying "space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence," but only almost. And more importantly Kelley said it like he meant it, a little depressed and yet contented that he knows how bad the world is with the advantage of telling everyone else 'I told you so.' I like Karl Urban, I really do, but his Bones seems too excited, too animated in his assertions, a Greek chorus keeping the audience appraised instead of the miserable yet brilliant old oracle in the corner.

I'm looking forward to Star Trek. I really am expecting explosions, fights with fist and lasers and maybe even a few photon torpedoes and a new breed of high tech adventure. But I'm also realistic about the limitations and expectations of a 2008 prequel to a series and its characters who were brought to life in 1966. I have faith in J.J. Abrams and Hollywood for revitalizing the fun, fantasy and eternal optimism of Star Trek, but it's tempered by the realization that the world has changed quite a bit in the 42 years since those elements became iconic.

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