By now, you’ve come to expect theatre reviews in this space, especially when you see a graphic. But we do occasionally set aside the live theatre for the big screen. Today was one of those exceptions, when we trotted down to a local cineplex to see the new Star Trek movie, which was meant for the big screen.
I’m not going to rehash the plot for you. There are plenty of summaries of the movie, and I figure that by now you either have seen it, have had the plot spoiled, or are not bothering to read this because you’re afraid I will spoil something. Fear not, for I’m going to put my plot specific comments behind a cut. I’ll divide my comments on the experience into three areas, and you should be able to safely read the first two.
Comment Area the First: Wherein Pacific Theatres Is Taken To Task
We don’t see films that frequently. When we go, we expect certain things: a clean theatre, a clean print, and a clean experience. We really only got the first. The movie has been in release for three weeks, and we already had the occasional line in the print. More significantly, we had numerous sound drops, as one gets from the satellite system occasionally. This shouldn’t be the case in the theatre, and indicates poor equipment maintenance and monitoring. As for the overall experience, we had the projectionist playing with the focus during the previews, and (until the volume was turned too loud), we had bleed-through bass from the adjacent theatre (Dance Flick). Pacific needs to do better.
Comment Area the Second: The Theatre Experience vs. The Cinematic Experience
As we go to movies infrequently, I was much more aware of the differences between live theatre and the movies. In this, I mean much more than the fact that the live experience is different every time, whereas everyone sees the same movie. There’s much more than that.
First, there’s the volume. The cinema booms at you, and blasts your eardrums, especially with the score. The theatre is softer — more natural voice — and you thus don’t find yourself wincing (except, perhaps, for loud shows like Rent). But even more is the difference in how you watch. In theatre, you are choosing where you are watching on the stage. Stage effects can try to distract you, but you can watch that extra upstage, or focus on a particular actor. In cinema, I’ve become much more aware of the role of the cinematographer and the editor. The cinematographer (and the director) composes the shot for you to see, and permits you to watch and focus on the nuances of the face and the movement. The editor builds the pace and the mood through the cuts and the tightness of the pacing. Combine this with the loud score, and you get much more of an experience. It is extremely different than the stage, and it makes me appreciate much more the actors who are skilled in their particular area, and those that can move effortlessly between the two.
There’s also a large difference in the credits. In the theatre, you have the time to read the program. In the cinema, the names just scroll by, and you have no idea what the people are. I imagine that in the early days of movies, there were programs. Nowadays, the cast and crew are so large that you are lucky to recognize a few names and roles. Still, I respect them for all the work that goes into a production. [However, I really didn’t like the style of the Star Trek closing credits.]
Comment Area the Third: The Film Itself
Now, with the generalities out of the way, let’s turn to Star Trek itself:
- First, there are numerous science problems in the movie. I won’t detail them; others already have. Suffice it say (as someone reminded me) that the science isn’t important in the Star Trek universe… except, of course, when it is.
- I like how they rebooted the franchise. Yup, it is a different universe from the one we know. It blows many TNG and DS9 episodes out of the water. On the plus side, it means that Tuvok likely doesn’t exist. I’m still unsure if this means we have three different alternate universes: the universe of TOS, TNG, DS9, and presumably VOY; the universe of ENT post Xindi (because didn’t Florida exist in the TOSverse?), and the universe of whatever acronym we are calling this movie?
- I find it comforting that Star Fleet academy/headquarters is just a mile away, here in Northridge? What, you say, it is in San Francisco? Nonsense, unless they moved the Oviatt Library to San Francisco… or by then we’ve had enough earthquakes that Los Angeles is part of San Francisco.
- Why is it that all fight scenes must take place on a narrow bridge over a deep drop. You would think they would have learned from Galaxy Quest.
- Chekov must be another Eugene Volokh, who was at UCLA when he was 13. An academy graduate, and only 17? Wesley would be proud.
- They had enough catchphrases to make you think it was the original crew. I particularly admired the characterizations of Dr. McCoy and Mr. Scott.
- They handled Spock well, both the old model and the new improved model. nsshere is lusting after Zachary Quinto. Personally, I just expected him to get fed up enough that he would just cut open someone’s head. [Did anyone note that Greg Grunberg, also on Heroes, played Kirk’s stepfather.]
- Why, or why, of all the things to ressurrect from the Trek canon, did one have to bring back the brain-eating scorpion of Trek II? That creeped me out then, and it creeped me out now.
- What was that little green thing playing with Mr. Scott, and why must we always have cute adorable aliens. Well, I can tolerate with the green lady, although she sure looked weird in uniform.
- Uhura. Why, oh why. You know he isn’t your type… and just wait until his nurse finds out.
- Some continuity questions: Was the timeline changed enough that Number One (think the pilot episode) didn’t exist, or was she just on a different ship under Pike’s command? Did I hear correctly, and there was a Cardassian cocktail? Did they know the Cardassians yet? I also distinctly recall a reference to something named after Archer.
- There are things that can’t really be explained by this alternate universe. However, perhaps Capt. Archer also created an alternate universe that explains why the ship had such different construction.
- That was a waste of a good Corvette.
So, what did I think of the movie overall? I thought it was good and exciting. I thought it rebooted the franchise well. Yes, the purists will find things to pick apart, but the purists are aging, and this is Trek For A New GenerationTM, which comes after the Next Generation. I think, even if you are unfamiliar with Trek, you’ll have a good time.
The Upcoming Features
There were loads of non-movie ads—although for the first time, we didn’t have an ad for the Los Angeles Times. I was expecting a Harry Potter trailer (as the audiences overlap), but there wasn’t one. The upcoming movies based on toys (Transformers (opens 6/24), GI Joe (opens 8/7)) don’t interest me one bit. The first will likely be a financial success; the second should fail. Night at the Museum 2 (opened 5/22) is, at best, a Starz-level diversion. Up (opens 5/29) looks interesting, and we might go see that. Year One (opens 6/19) just looks stupid, so it will probably be a success.
We go to movies very rarely. Still, there are some that are of interest. As I previously mentioned, we may go see Up (opens 5/29), as Pixar has good quality. The new Harry Potter movie (opens 7/15) is (of course) a given. There’s a new biopic out on “The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story” (opened 5/22) (Disney’s well-known composer lyricists) that looks interesting. There are also two musicals of interest: the musical remake of Nine (opens 11/25), and the remaking of Fame (opens 9/25). Although I expect “The Princess and the Frog” (opens 12/11) to be good, I doubt we’ll see it in theatres unless it is our Christmas Day movie.