Monday, May 11, 2009

Star Trek: They're Giving It All She's Got, Captain!

So how do you make a Star Trek film that both appeals to die-hard Star Trek fans, and to the general public who, by and large, think die-hard Star Trek fans are the biggest losers in the galaxy?

Sounds like an impossible task to me; the motion picture industry's version of the Kobayashi Maru.

JJ Abrams, though, is a director who doesn't believe in a no-win situation. And by tackling this problem head-on with a solid and universally satisfying screenplay, he fed the hungry Trekkies the story they've always wanted to see. But he also managed to inject universal appeal into a series that had become so solid a niche' that you were almost afraid to go see any of these films without dressing like a Klingon anymore.

AND- more importantly, he left the door wide open for endless sequels, without having to comb through the hundreds of books and scripts that preceded him over the past 40 years to make sure it complies with the overly-convoluted storylines.

In other words, JJ Abrams is a frickin' genius. And Star Trek is one of the best pieces of entertaining movie-making made in the last 5 years.

I really have only one complaint. Kirk didn't act like Kirk. I mean, half the fun of this movie for a Star Trek fan is to watch your favorite characters make their debut on screen, and meet each other for the first time. When McCoy comes on screen for the first time, the actor portrayed him so accurately that you knew who it was as soon as you heard his voice, before you even saw him. Same for Scotty, and for Spock, and Sulu-- but Kirk? This guy didn't act one bit like Kirk. In fact, in interviews before the film came out, he said that he used Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones character as his inspiration. Which would have been great if this were a movie about the young Indiana Jones. But it's not. Was it too much to ask for a good Kirk portrayal?

I guess so.

But it doesn't ruin the film. And if you pay close attention to the movie, you can find a logical reason for Kirk to not act like the old Kirk we all knew and loved. But I won't give away any plot elements. Just go see it.

I give this an enthusiastic 8 out of 10 and recommend to everyone out there.

Wolverine: Eh, Good Enough....

As I sat through Wolverine, a line from another movie came to mind. Not a line from "X-Men," though, as you might expect. Not even a line from another Superhero movie, nor even one from a blockbuster summer hit.

No, it was a line from "Sideways," spoken by Paul Giamatti to describe a rather bland wine at an all-too-corporate winery: "Quaffable, but far from transcendant."

Some movies are made because they have a good story to tell, and they want to tell it well.

Others are made because they know they can still milk the public, after having given them a few good offerings in the past.

This movie falls into the latter category.

I mean, it was OKAY, I guess. They blew crap up and they had fist and blade fights, and that's always cool. I like flashes of light and loud noises and wisecracking superheroes, and they sure gave me a lot of that.

I like Marvel, too, and up until now I have always enjoyed their approach to movie making. I mean, this is truly the era for comic book movies, with the advances in CGI animation and special effects. Gone are the hokey man-flying-on-a-fishline special effects of the past. Now you can count on everything looking realistic enough for the movie-goer to almost forget you're even using any special effects.

Which is probably part of the problem. You can't just wow me with cool looking stuff anymore. You have to give me a good story.

This was an adequate story. I mean, it gave me Wolverine's background, which in the end was about all it promised, right? He's apparently like 170 years old or something, and got himself a super-alloy-coated skeleton (complete with Edward Scissorhands) in a fit of revenge. And he got duped by his own brother, and then caused the Three-Mile-Island meltdown in the 70's. Hey, who knew?

But it left me feeling a little duped. As if they figured, "Well, just write something, throw it out there, count the money, and hurry up and cash in on whatever characters worked before people realize we're just cranking out crap."

If you have any doubt about this, just look at the plans Marvel cranked out immediately following "Wolverine's" huge $85 million weekend: another Wolverine sequel, as well as a spin-off featuring Deadpool, known in this film as Weapon 11, and also a Magneto sequel, plus another X-Men featuring younger mutants-- are you feeling a little sick of X-Men already? Yeah, me too- and that's just READING about these films.

Well, movie-making is a business, after all, and I guess I can't gripe about that. Like any business venture, they look at what makes them millions and they run with it.

And like I said, it was pretty good. I got a couple of hours off from thinking about unemployment or woman troubles.

I give it a 6 and a half. Good enough.