Sunday, August 7, 2011

Diversion 2.0 Thirty Day Movie Challenge -- Day 20

Day 20 – A Worthy Sequel/Remake/Reboot

I’m not sure if I can think of a time in Hollywood where there have been so many sequels to already-existing properties. Yeah, they definitely did crank out those Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street follow-ups in the 80’s, and MGM saw no harm in making six The Thin Man movies, but a casual glance at this year’s major tentpoles reveals a huge number of pre-existing IPs, ranging from fifth-iteration horror flicks to spin-offs based on an already-big series. One curious offshoot from the usual numbered sequel is the remake or reboot, a film that’s supposed to stand beside the previous entries in its franchise, but charting a new direction for the series. They can even stand alone sometimes; I enjoy today’s entry a good deal, despite having never seen its previous iterations.

Star Trek (2009)

Unless your parents were in on the franchise, the 90’s were a pretty middling time if you wanted to become a Star Trek fan. The Next Generation went off the air in ’94, and so my first introduction to the franchise came in the form of Deep Space 9. Not, as I understand, wholly representative of the best the franchise has to offer. Additionally, I was more of a Star Wars fan, pouring over my mom’s VHS collection of the trilogy since I was about seven or eight; compared to Star Trek’s decidedly more straight-up take on science fiction, Star Wars’s adventure and fantasy elements were much more appealing to my pre-pubescent self. The bottom line is that I never really got into Star Trek as a franchise at all, which is part of why I’m surprised how much I like this movie.

Star Trek takes place in the 23rd Century, and follows a younger version of the cast from the original series: James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), a Iowa-raised Starfleet cadet with a cocky attitude and impeccable leadership skills; Spock (Zachary Quinto), a half-human, half-Vulcan who opts to join Starfleet after a slight about his human mother being a “disadvantage” to him; Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban), a doctor with a fear of space travel; Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana), a bookish, confident expert in alien languages; Hikaru Sulu (John Cho), navigation officer who happens to be good with a sword; and Pavel Chekov (Anton Yelchin), a young, but enthusiastic, engineer.

Perhaps not the truest to the more philosophical nature of the original series, but I like it anyway.

The film’s plot follows the crew as they receive their first mission: provide assistance to the planet Vulcan, which has come under attack from an unknown vessel. Through trials, tribulations, and a good deal of Phaser-fire, Kirk and the others come to trust each other, setting up their next adventure of exploration, and (say it with me) to boldly go where no man has gone before.

From what I read, Star Trek is a much more space opera-y take on what is otherwise a more serious, realistic series. Fantastic. Perhaps I’ll revisit the classic series one day, with its touted sense of discovery and its memorable characters and performances, but Star Trek plays pretty well for my money. The movie walks a near-perfect balance between action, character development, and humor, and was probably one of my favorite popcorn flicks from 2009.

I think my affection for Star Trek, in addition to the aforementioned emphasis on things that go pew-pew, comes from the film’s rebooted “origin story” take on the characters. It’s the sort of thing that works for everyone: fans will see the clear parallels to the old series, while still following the characters into new territory, and Trek neophytes can basically start from square one. Origin stories can sometimes be pretty clunky, but the pacing, character moments, and generally light-hearted tone made Star Trek a breeze, and a great casual flick.

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