Sunday, November 15, 2009

For Your Consideration: "Star Trek"

The plot is rubbish, and seems strangely incomplete, as if certain problems couldn't be fixed because of the writers strike. Some of the jokes just plain don't work. The villain is woefully underdeveloped, and the actor playing him seems to be giving at least three different performances. And those lens flares, while cool-looking, do get to be a bit much.

But despite all that, "Star Trek" is one of the year's best movies.

It arrives on Blu-ray and DVD this week, and I plan on watching it approximately 11 billion times in the next few weeks. And mind you, this is a film I've already seen seven times in the theater and once through ... alternative channels. My initial review was very positive, but not over the moon.

Well, I'm over the moon now.

So much of "Star Trek" works so well that you can forgive its shortcomings, even if those include the plot itself. It seems like so few entertainments this year have actually entertained -- "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" left me numb, "Up" and "Where the Wild Things Are" were surprisingly melancholy, and "Terminator: Salvation" was depressing in so many ways. But "Star Trek" just puts a big damn smile on my face.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about "Star Trek" is that no one came out of it talking about the visual effects -- they talked about how much they liked the characters and, by association, the actors. They talked about how funny it was. They talked about how much fun they had while watching it.

Those actors were perfectly chosen by director J.J. Abrams and pals. Even Karl Urban and Anton Yelchin, whose takes on Bones and Chekhov seemed too jokey and imitative the first time around, won me over on subsequent viewing.

But Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto so perfectly embody their characters that one is inclined to say they are better than the originals. Pine's Capt. Kirk is far more playful than William Shatner's incarnation, and Quinto's Spock brings a brooding danger that Leonard Nimoy never had. Part of this can be obviously attributed to the fact that Pine and Quinto are playing younger versions of these icons than Shatner and Nimoy did, but these new versions seem so much fuller, and more real.

The whole world created in Abrams' "Trek" feels real, so real that seeing the actors break character on the gag reel that's been making the rounds online is truly jarring. "Star Trek" draws you in completely -- you do not see actors on a set, you see Starfleet officers on a starship.

So perhaps people not talking about the visual effects is the highest compliment that could ever be paid to the film's VFX team; they are so seamless that you never bother to look for the strings, in a manner of speaking. Even the falling effects in the space jump sequence -- the hardest thing to fake, if you ask me -- look great.

And then there's the music. Regular readers must be tired of me gabbing on and on about Michael Giacchino, so all I'll say is this: listen to the cues called "Enterprising Young Men" and "Labor of Love".

With ten best picture nominees on Oscar's slate this year, there is a real chance "Star Trek" could sneak in. Can it beat "The Hurt Locker," "Invictus" or "Up in the Air"? Um, no. But a film this universally loved deserves a spot on the not-so-short list.

So, though no one who actually votes for the Oscars is reading this, I submit "Star Trek" for your consideration in the following categories:

Best Picture
Best Original Score
Best Actor (Zachary Quinto)
Best Visual Effects
Best Sound
Best Sound Effects Editing
Best Happy Fun Time At The Theater
Best Green-Skinned Babe
Best First Ten Minutes of Any Movie, Ever

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