[The following is a review/analysis of the 20 minutes of new 'Star Trek' movie footage previewed for the press on the Paramount lot in Los Angeles. It was attended by new Screen Rant contributor Brian Kettler - unfortunately I was not able to make it out to LA to render my own opinion on the footage. - Vic Holtreman]
Space… The Final Frontier. These are the words preceding many of my favorite works of fiction. From the weekly adventures of Captain Picard and his Next Generation crew, to the grand & epic storyline of Captain Benjamin Sisko and his allies on Deep Space Nine , I’ve considered myself a Star Trek fan for many years. While their successors, Voyager and Enterprise, left me cold and led me to stray to find solace in other fictional universes, there was one Trek that has always held pleasant memories for me: The Original Series. Also known as “Classic” Trek (or “TOS”) for good reason, the initial voyages starring Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Doctor McCoy, and the rest of the cast are arguably the most popular among Trek enthusiasts.
I was one of a lucky few invited to Paramount Studios in Hollywood to watch 20 minutes of footage from the upcoming new Star Trek movie. Unlike the New York presentation earlier this week, there were several of the actors in attendance for this viewing. Present were director J.J. Abrams and actors John Cho, Ben Cross, Bruce Greenwood, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pine, and Zachary Quinto.
The footage was presented by J.J. Abrams, who spoke before each of the four different scenes that were presented. Abrams states:
“My dream in life is to make movies. My father was a producer on this lot, and so I saw the first screening of ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’ on this lot. This film was a joy to do for so many reasons. I wasn’t yet a fan, but the script was so good. It was an adventure, it was funny, romantic, sexy, scary, epic. I’m grateful I didn’t pass it up!”
So I guess what J.J. was trying to say is that he does have some prior Trek cred, and he is now a fan.
In regards to casting, Kirk: “Couldn’t fall back on the pointy ears like the other guy”, but he was very happy with Chris Pine’s performance. The audience was thrilled with it, myself included.
On Spock: “casting Spock was going to be impossible”, but Zach was the first person they cast. After viewing the footage, it was most definitely the logical decision. I’m eager to see more. I believed he was Spock, and hope to see how he grows the character. This was the younger, slightly less reserved Vulcan than Nimoy presented. Of what was shown, I think his performance ties very well into what Nimoy had established.
Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine in the new Star Trek movie
SPOILER ALERT: I’m going to focus on my feelings about the footage, so while I’ll attempt to keep the spoilers to a minimum, there are going to be a few. Okay, you’ve been warned. From here on out, There Be Spoilers Here!!!! (BTW, the most uber-detailed description of the footage online can be found here at Coming Soon.)
Overall the footage had a very J.J. Abrams signature style to it. The tight focus on the faces during emotional scenes gives the relationships a very real feeling to them. There’s tension, there’s real drama there. There is some fast-paced cutting during the hand-to-hand fights, which flowed very quickly. This is certainly more of a hip, sexy Star Trek than what we’re used to with these classic characters. I really enjoyed the musical score, it had me on the edge of my seat in a few places. The technobabble, ever-present in all of the modern Star Trek‘s, was kept to a minimum here. There is a real dichotomy between the sterile Starship sets and the large-scale industrial locations. The Earth-based shipyards had a very blue-collar feel to them. There were few exterior shots of the Enterprise in space, but the few brief angles shown worked very well for me. Many, many nods to the fans were noted, and all of them worked without requiring a 40-plus year familiarity with Trek lore. Everyone can understand the concept of the planet Vulcan, but hard-core Trekkies can enjoy seeing the CGI-enhanced Vasquez Rocks (The location where Arena was filmed, along with many other Trek episodes). The communicator “chirp” had a nice touch to it. And the new Transporter effect was…different. I liked what I saw, it just had this kind of splatter-effect to it at the end that I think I need another viewing to let it sink in.
The new Transporter effect
The first scene takes place in a bar in Iowa. Kirk shows off his prowess as a ladies’ man (Wow, they really have that character down!). This scene had a lot of well played humor along with a brutal fight scene (by Trek standards). Bruce Greenwood brings real gravitas to the role of Captain Pike, a real father-figure for the aimless, drifter-like Kirk.
Karl Urban as Dr. “Bones” McCoy
The second scene featured Karl Urban as Dr McCoy as he manages to get Cadet Kirk onboard the Enterprise. Urban really embodies the soul of Deforest Kelly, a very inspired casting choice! Like his predecessor, his nurses all wear short skirts. Unlike in classic Trek however, the nurses all wear white. Anton Yelchin is perfect as Chekov. He’s given a great bit of material to work with and performs admirably. More on him later. Urban does a great rendition of “Good God man!” The humor does seem a little forced with the “numb tongue” bit falling a little flat, but overall it’s still solid work. And for the detail oriented nitpickers, the black shirt Cadet Kirk is wearing seems to be the same type everyone else wears under their colored tunics. He’s not an actual member of the crew at this point, so no yellow tunic for him.
I was not too impressed with the designs of the Romulans however. They seemed like gothic, pointy-eared pirates here. They were all bald, to differentiate them from the Vulcans, which worked for me. But their dress and facial hair just kept screaming vampire-pirates to me. I guess I just miss the Nosferatu style brows featured in the modern TV shows. The few lines shown by Eric Bana worked for me, I just wish his minions had a different feel to them. As Abrams states about Bana, his character is “so relatably mostly evil”, so I can’t wait to see what he means.
Simon Pegg as the new “Scotty”
The third scene, as set up by Abrams, features an acting-Captain Spock “trying to get Kirk the f**k off his ship” (Abrams’ quote). It also features the return of Leonard Nimoy to the role he made famous. On directing Nimoy, Abrams said “what do I say to HIM on how to play Spock?” Indeed. The scene shown did not show how Spock first appears on screen, but rather after his reveal. It was rather jarring to miss that introduction, and that is the part I most anticipate next year. That being said, Simon Pegg as Scotty completely steals every scene he has with Nimoy! Pegg was the cast member I was the most worried about, simply due to my baggage of thinking of him as Shaun from Shaun of the Dead. But he was so incredible in his scenes, that to even take focus away from Nimoy was impressive. Pegg won me over as Scotty! Nimoy of course had some very wonderful, touching lines that are sure to please the fans. I won’t spoil them here, but he does consistently refer to Kirk as “Jim”. Very nice!