Monday, May 11, 2009

Lost Opportunites

Most of the people I've seen get all orgasmic over the new Star Trek movie (2009, no subtitle on this one) are mainly the same people that got all orgasmic over director J. J. Abrams's last movie, Mission Impossible III. Well, I detested Mission Impossible III, so I expected to be irritated with the new Trek. And for the most part, I wasn't, really, but I was never really sucked into it, either. I must be getting old. I'm getting tired of special effects movies. Of what use are really cool special effects when EVERY film has really cool special effects. I saw a film last year made by a friend of mine on her computer and the effects were almost as jaw-dropping as what I saw here (though, I should note, that she's a computer animator by trade). I shouldn't grouse, though. Special effects were always a part of movie-making dominated by people that first took it up as a hobby. Harryhausen worked in his garage for a while. I get more out of looking at the art on these days than I do looking at the results on a movie screen.

Look at that! I haven't even started to deal with the movie itself and I'm already off on a wild digression. Ah, well.

So. Star Trek. Rebooted with new actors as the characters from the original series. Things change in the history of these characters. This departs from the canonical history of Star Trek, though that's not a bad thing, and the various series themselves often did the same things. We have a parallel universe Trek here, which is a convenient excuse to rampage off into a different idiom, even though the familiarity of the concept remains. For the most part, I like the new actors, Karl Urban(!?!?) and Simon Pegg, in particular. Zoe Saldana's character, Uhura, gets more character development in the span of 20 minutes than she got in the entirety of the original series and six feature films. Good for her. There are some nice set-pieces: the poor slob sucked into the vacuum, where the sound vanishes from the soundtrack and the skydiving scene with Sulu being a badass are fun to watch, and the Enterprise emerging from the atmosphere of Titan with the rings of Saturn behind it is a cool, possibly iconic shot. But I found myself having to turn off my brain for this movie. This is, bar none, the SLOPPIEST screenplay this series has ever produced, one that would have been laughed out of the story meetings even on ST: Voyager (which had some doozies). Once the film relocates to the planet Delta Vega, hereafter known as Planet Coincidence, where Kirk just happens to run into the Old Spock (hereafter known as Mr. Exposition), the movie jumps the rails.


I think the worst thing about this movie is that it's not really about anything except sound and fury. Even the most ridiculous of the Star Trek films and series intended to say something, even when they fell flat on their faces. This film, on the other hand, is about sensation, and while there's nothing wrong with that if it's done well, it's an approach that feels completely wrong for Star Trek.


The Lost (2006, directed by Chris Sivertson), is another harsh film based on a novel by Jack Ketcham. I wonder what it is about Ketcham that compels filmmakers to make such unlikeable movies. They would seem to be a hard sell. Mind you, I love Ketcham to pieces. He writes spare, diamond hard horror stories that are untouched by either sentimentality or reticence in the face of the worst of human beings. These are aspects that usually frighten away producers and film studios. And yet, here's the first of several films based on Ketcham. Director Chris Siverston is clearly in awe of the book, and says so in the end credits. He translates it more or less intact. The Lost is a portrait of a sociopath. We get a front row seat as murderous douchebag Ray Pye flies off the hinges after his tidy little world comes apart. And it couldn't happen to a nicer guy. The film opens with a shocking crime, and ends with a shocking rampage. In between, we get the sordid lives of Pye and everyone he knows, and it's plain that he's a cancer on society. The film has a more arresting visual style than one usually sees in character studies, but it fits the jittery, coked up center of the film. Did I like this movie? Well, no. Not really. It doesn't want to be liked and it succeeds in not being likable. Am I impressed by it? Yeah. I kinda am.

1 comment:

Lori D said...

Yeah, watching a jettisoned Kirk meet up with OLD Spock was laughable. It was good summer movie fun, I'll give it that.