Leonard Nimoy

Star Trek

Year: 2009
Directed By: J.J. Abrams
Written By: Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman. Gene Roddenberry(Star Trek)

RYAN’S REVIEW

Everything has to get a reboot these days, and typically I spend a lot of time hating on them but I consider this an exception. This is just such a cool movie. Believe me, I’ve watched all ten movies that came before it and while two of them were really good none of them were cool. J.J. Abrams really turned up the volume.

In his debut film Chris Hemsworth gets me every time. The intro to this movie is absolutely incredible. It starts with a bang and then hits you right in the heart. Thrust into action, the future Thor is inspiring with his bravery. Hemsworth delivers on this scene when he’s naming his son as he is sacrificing his life to save everyone. The sparks are flying in the background of this emotional scene and it’s just beautiful. Star Trek doesn’t usually start like this, and it makes a difference.

The following scenes featuring young Kirk and Spock are awesome and deepen characters we already know and love. Despite how crappy most of the movies have been they are still legendary. Captain Kirk and Spock are icons. It’s no easy task to recreate them but J. J. Abrams made it look easy, this time around anyway. He took two characters that people know, and not just know but know really well and taught us something new about both of them.

Abrams did so many things right early on. Showing the conflict Spock has being half Human and half Vulcan. The first meeting of Kirk and Dr. McCoy, with Karl Urban doing a terrific Deforrest Kelley impression. He shows us Kirk cheating the freaking Kobiyashi Maru test! These things were all really well done. I think it’s blasphemous to say it because it’s a reboot, but having just watched all the Star Trek movies I have to admit that this is better. It’s more engaging, it’s more entertaining.

The cast is fantastic. Chris Pine was a relative nobody when this movie came out and he became an instant star with his portrayal of a young Captain Kirk. He has swagger and he looks the part of a young William Shatner but still manages to make his own stamp on the part. Zachery Quinto too looks the part yet manages to make it his own. Quintos Spock won’t just Vulcan death grip you, he’ll karate chop you and outsmart you because he’s been doing so his whole life. I don’t usually like Karl Urban, but he is fantastic in this part. I like that Harold (John Cho) from Harold and Kumar is playing Sulu. Anton Yelchin, may he rest in peace, is a cool Chekov. Zoe Saldana continued making her rounds in Sci-Fi franchises and looks great as usual. Simon Pegg is awesome in everything he is a part of and he is no different as Scotty, frankly his presence just makes this movie that much better.

The movie already had us with great action in the intro but the space jump is just amazing. Ha ha the thrill seeking “other guy” eats it on the dive. In true Star Trek fashion that no name along for the ride with Kirk and Sulu is expendable and dies. Oh damn, Sulu has a future sword and starts flipping around like a ninja. Again another character is redefined and cooler than he was before. Who knew Harold had it in him. Kirk Point Break’s Sulu when he’s falling without a shute, and Chekov gets a moment to shine. This scene is hands down a step ahead of the rest of Star Trek, it’s so cool.

I had a big problem when I saw this for the first time because they destroyed Vulcan. I just felt like this was a blasphemous thing to do. It was like killing Cyclops in that awful third X-Men movie. You can’t destroy Vulcan, it’s too important. However, it is a defining moment in the story that drives the rest of the film. I have come along since that first viewing, especially after watching all the Star Trek movies in a row. This one is just better, I’ll forgive it its misgivings.

I don’t think there is anything about Eric Bana as the villain, or the whole Nero story line, that’s really significant. Although he does break out those bugs that make you susceptible to suggestion from The Wrath of Khan. That is cool, but beyond that, and destroying Vulcan, he is just a guy for the good guys to fight. This movie is all about the good guys and they needed a villain when they weren’t fighting each other.

Ha! Kirk is climbing again! It’s been established before, the man likes to climb. Spock maroons him on a desolate planet because he’s too brash. Kirk has to climb out of his landing spot deep in the ice. Then Leonard Nimoy shows up, somewhere William Shatner was outraged, and he’s just a sight for sore eyes. In this long and monotonous journey that included two movies I couldn’t even finish the original Spock is just great to see again.

By establishing a new timeline they establish a new universe for themselves. It was a brilliant idea that should have been great going forward. I’ve only seen the sequel once and we never owned it until I started watching all the Star Trek movies, oh the hours I’ll never get back. After this movie I’m actually looking forward to seeing the next one again but I won’t be reviewing the third film because I have had enough of Star Trek. We watch Star Trek Beyond recently and weren’t impressed.

This movie has a great climax following the awesome fight, or ass kicking I should say, between Kirk and Spock. Spock beats the shit out of Kirk, but Kirk gets what he wants so it’s all good. Kirk has no qualms with taking an ass whooping in this movie, but he keeps fighting anyway. Spock and Kirk of course come to an understanding and then ride into battle together. Beaming aboard the enemy vessel, phasers in hand. They save the day and fly off into the starset as a couple of joes that might still become the friends in this new time line.

I haven’t mentioned it but the score for this film was terrific. I love that weird sound they chime all throughout the movie. It just sounds like Star Trek and really sets the tone.

I can’t believe I’m saying this but this movie nearly saves the name of Star Trek for me. I have made it plain how this journey through Star Trek has been for me. It’s all in print now and I was ready to swear off the whole thing for good. All of it, Kirk, Spock, Data, Worf, my personal favorite Captain Picard, every single person who ever wore one of those stupid uniforms. Nevertheless, this movie has me wanting more and I didn’t think that was possible at this point. I think I’m going to watch the sequel tomorrow night and see where it takes me. I didn’t like the sequel as much but hopefully that changes this time around. Or maybe it won’t. Star Trek has had just enough good movies to keep me going so by the laws of probability there won’t be another good one till this version hits its fifth or sixth movie, if we’re being optimistic.

This is the coolest of the cool, a complete retelling of something that at least had the potential to be cool at times. If you haven’t seen this movie you should check it out. Just don’t go calling yourself a Trekkie until you’ve paid your dues. You don’t have to wear Vulcan ears or anything but you have to know. You have to understand what came before and have some appreciation for it. It’s questionable if any of the movies that came before are actually worth your time but this one definitely is.

Disclaimer: Please excuse me real Star Trek fans. I don’t claim to be one of you but I am like a close outsider. I know things, but I would never beat you in a trivia match up. If I’m way off base here then by all means present your arguments and I would love to discuss it.

NEXT MOVIE: Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

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Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Year: 1982
Directed By: Nicholas Meyer
Written By: Harve Bennett and Jack B Sowards, Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek)

RYAN’S REVIEW

It’s always been said that the even numbered Star Trek films are the good ones while the odd numbered films are not. I don’t think this is true but these first two films certainly hold up the theory. The first film wasn’t very well received and it was impossibly boring. Then this even numbered sequel came along and blew everybody away. This one had excitement, revenge, and tragedy all rolled into one. It’s the foundation of the entire series because another slow moving Star Trek movie would have effectively killed the franchise.

Gene Roddenberry immediately started work on the sequel following the release of the first film. It turned out that the studio had a different idea in mind as they blamed Roddenberry for the failure of the first film. Not only was the first film poorly received but it went way over budget too. Roddenberry’s idea was scrapped along with Roddenberry himself who was relegated to the role of “Executive Consultant” for the film. With Roddenberry out of the way the film was put in the hands of a producer who had never seen the show before, Harve Bennett. He proceeded to watch all Star Trek episodes and centered on the episode featuring Khan as a the direction for the next film.

I have never seen the original episode that featured Khan but I think it was one of the best ideas that any of the films have had for a story. Most of the films are independent stories with no connection to the television series they are based on beyond the characters. I think the best films in the entire series are the ones that tie to the show. Those movies of course being this one and the eighth installment featuring the Borg. I didn’t really care for the reboot sequel going back to this story line instead of coming up with something new but I’ll get to that in time.

I’m always a sucker for a good bad guy and Khan really fits the bill. He’s intelligent, powerful, and really pissed off. He has languished away in a wasteland for decades with nothing but misfortune to spurn him on. He is so full of anger and out for revenge. In all his bare chested prowess Ricardo Montalban gave an incredible performance. I love how he is always quoting Moby Dick as it is one of the most famous revenge stories in literature, and in this case it makes sense. I am unfamiliar with any of Montalban’s other work but this performance alone has always left an impression on me. I love how intimidating he is as an opponent to Captain Kirk. There is no single villain throughout this entire series that can even come close to Khan, and he’s one of the biggest reasons this movie is such a fan favorite.

This movie is also a fan favorite because it features some of the best space battles of any of the films. When Khan initially ambushes the Enterprise he delivers such a crippling blow. It puts Kirk in the very situation he was overseeing with Saavik in the beginning of the film. When she was in the Kobayashi Maru training protocol facing a no win scenario. One of my favorite lines comes after this first attack when Khan makes demands to Kirk. Captain Kirk asks how he knows Khan will keep his word to which he replies, “Oh, I’ve given you no word to keep, Admiral. In my judgment, you simply have no alternative.” Such a great bad guy. The second battle between Kirk and Khan was even better but came at the greatest of costs.

Much like the first film it was difficult to get Leonard Nimoy on board for a second film. He agreed to the part after being promised he would be killed off in a blaze of glory. What a glorious death it was too. Spock’s selfless sacrifice saved everyone else and made for a very emotionally compelling scene. Spock and Kirk’s final conversation as Spock dies is some of the finest dialogue written in the entire series. It was a bold move to kill off the most popular character. They didn’t just kill him off either but they did so in such dramatic fashion. Nimoy was so impressed with the final product that he didn’t just agree to return but wanted to get behind camera himself and direct it.

Nobody really has to die when science fiction is involved, you just have to be clever about it. Spock didn’t stay dead for long with the studio announcing before this movie was even released that he would be back. This film marks the beginning of a three film story line and the next film picks up directly where this one left off. Even beginning with footage of the ending of this film.

There aren’t many Star Trek films you can point to and say “that’s what it’s all about.” Not many glowing examples that can explain the more than fifty year fascination with Star Trek. This movie is one of the few you can have someone watch and maybe they’ll understand. It’s the undisputed best movie featuring the original cast. I think this movie is worth the time of not only Trekkies but the wider audience out there. This isn’t just a cool Star Trek movie, this is a cool movie plain and simple.

NEXT MOVIE: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

 

 

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Year: 1979
Directed By: Robert Wise
Written By: Harold Livingston (screenplay) Alan Dean Foster (story) Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek)

RYAN’S REVIEW

It’s time to admit it and own up to the truth. There’s no denying it now as we’ve reached this point in the collection. I’ve been a closet Trekkie for my entire life and own twelve of these movies. It’s not my fault. I was born into a Star Trek family and grew up watching these movies and the television show. I don’t know any Klingon or anything like that but I have a greater knowledge than the average person. I tell people all the time that Amber is the one who loves Star Trek but that’s not true. It’s me, and I have dragged her along this journey before.

It was about eight years ago when Amber and I were really young parents. We had some kind of petty argument that all young couples have but in this one I managed to win and she wanted to make it up to me. She had always refused to watch Star Trek and with this newfound marital leverage I insisted she watch the entire series with me. I’ll never forget because it was around Christmas time when I went to a Best Buy and bought a box set of the first eight movies. I stood in line holding this box set of Star Trek movies literally trying to hide it as people walked by. Like I said, I’m totally a fan but I don’t just admit that to people. I keep it in the closet as a guilty pleasure and deny knowing anything about it when it comes up. I stood in that line for what felt like forever, switching that box set from arm to arm in an effort to hide it from people. When I finally got to the register I laid it down in front of the lady and said “my Christmas shopping is done.”  Eight movies later and Amber still hated Star Trek, but I like to think I enriched her life in an interesting way.

I grew up watching the Next Generation series of Star Trek and it’s those characters I have always been a real fan of. I still appreciate the original crew and like these movies but some of the excitement in this first film has always been lost on me because of it. Half of the fun in this movie for Star Trek fans must have been seeing the gang get back together for a film. The show had finished its three year run in 1969 and ten years had passed by the time this movie came out. Star Trek had proved to be very popular airing in syndication and the movie spent a long time in production. Eventually it was scrapped in favor of doing a new television show before again minds were changed and the movie was back on the docket. This film was adapted from the pilot episode of what would have been the new television show.

The return of Spock is probably the coolest part of this movie, which doesn’t have all that many cool parts to begin with. It’s cooler because there was a big chance Spock didn’t appear in the movie at all. Leonard Nimoy had become angry over his image as Spock being used without him receiving any royalties and was initially not going to reprise his role for the film. He agreed to appear in the film only after he was paid before hand for the use of his image. It’s hard to imagine what would have happened to this franchise and Star Trek in general had they not been able to persuade Nimoy to take the role.

This movie reminds me of 2001: A Space Odessey in that everything moves really slowly. 2001 was a great movie that is incredibly influential in the movie business but I’d hardly call it watchable. I own the movie and have tried to watch it at least five times but have somehow still never seen the end. This movie too feels unwatchable at times as it takes forever for anything to happen. It’s like they figured out these new special effects and had to draw them out as long as possible.

This is a long and slow moving movie that I have never really been a fan of. I found myself sucked in more than I ever have before with this viewing but still, it is what it is. It’s impressive that the franchise was even able to continue after this film, given it wasn’t really well received. William Shatner has even been reported to have walked out of the screening and thought that Star Trek was officially over, and he wasn’t the only one. Gene Roddenberry was blamed for the failure of the film and was forced out for the sequel. That’s a cold way to treat the creator but it worked as the sequel was, for a long time, the franchise’s crowning achievement.

I think there was a time and place for this movie and that was 1979. Watching it now comes without all the anticipation that fans felt back then. It was probably really cool to see the band get back together for the big screen after ten years but that does little to satisfy a viewer today. I think this movie is for the die hard Star Trek fans out there. While I may have outed myself as a fan in this post it is still something I intend to keep quiet and I don’t qualify. I don’t think this movie is worth your time but may it live long and prosper with the true Trekkies out there.

NEXT MOVIE: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)