What movie was that...?

16 January 2010

Star Trek

directed by J. J. Abrams

I might as well get this over with, as I cannot just put my feelings out there concerning James Cameron’s Avatar without weighing in on another recent science fiction giant, the newest addition to the Star Trek canon, stylishly realized by J. J. Abrams. The film has plot holes of epic proportions to be sure (the red matter garbage, and how if Nero traveled back in time, why not just go back to Romulus to save it?), but where the two films diverge is that element of style lacking in Cameron’s film. Nerds made much of Abrams’ lens flares and screen smut on so many shots, not to mention the shaky camera moves, but what they fail to consider is what that same film would have been like without all that. It is choices like this that separate the jeans and t-shirt ridiculousness of Live Free or Die Hard from the designer suit class of The Bourne Ultimatum (we all remember that summer, none of us could help but notice the glaring differences), and the same formula applies here. Avatar was entertaining, and the special effects were good (I stress the word good), but Abrams brought a technical element to the technical elements of his film to make it seem more tangible, however annoying some may have found it. The plot? It’s a prequel to the original Star Trek series, a jumpstart to a dead battery franchise that desperately needed the juice. Think of it as the Mark McGwire of Star Trek films, sans the social stigma. The entire cast does a good job (unlike Avatar’s cast of duds, including usually stellar actors like Sigourney Weaver and Giovanni Ribisi blustering like caricatures), and the Trek script is fun, which makes the absurd plot points easier to palette (see Daybreakers for a fine example of the same premise). The overt preachiness of Cameron’s film made it hard to reconcile the extreme violence (while the Na’vi preached peace and harmony) and the nonsensical elements of the film. When you take yourself too seriously, it becomes difficult to have some fun. Abrams knows how to have fun (see my review of Armageddon for another Abrams treasure), and for that reason he emerges as the victor. Ben Burtt uses his nearly magical abilities to recreate and compose the music of Star Trek's sound design, which puts Star Trek another point ahead of Cameron's sketchy foley (Christopher Boyes, I see you jacking those J. P. sound effects).

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