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  • Feature: Star Trek Preview

    Tue, 16 Dec 2008 15:03:35

    Feature: Star Trek Preview - Step aboard the Enterprise as interpreted by J.J. Abrams. ARTISTdirect brings Trekkies a preview of next summer's surefire blockbuster.

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    • PERIODS.

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    “If you have cell phones,” he shouts, “please turn them in at the desk!” His earpiece, snaking down his back, implies his power. Guys like him are everywhere and I wonder if maybe I’ve somehow wandered into an Obama press conference. Cautiously, I approach the shouter.

    “I’ve gotta Blackberry. It, uh, doesn’t have a camera, though. So, can I keep it?” I ask him, my heart racing after appreciating just how big he is.

    “No, you can’t,” the man replies with a masculine confidence that I surmise to be correlated to his growing realization of how poorly his suit is tailored as compared to the important-looking people lurking and deal-making at unnecessary volumes. Reluctantly, I turn over the phone and think I should have worn something nicer. This place is serious. There are secrets inside. Welcome, anxiety, to the J.J. Abrams Star Trek preview.

    I’m herded in and timidly take a seat next to a somebody. That big-moment energy is palpable and uncomfortable. Paramount’s theatre is reminiscent of a planetarium, I think—it is massive and beautiful. It is imposing, like the men in suits, the security outside, the flat screens displaying the U.S.S. Enterprise and outrageously detailed concept drawings. Important, famous faces are spattered throughout the crowd. I feel as if too poor a review might cause the building to lurch up into my dreams and completely obliterate me. And then, he speaks—the man who has, as the announcer told the crowd, “gifted us with” this new entry in a vastly cherished canon. This, I think, is the voice of blessed divinity.

    J.J. Abrams speaks as though he’s just gone into Warp Five. There is no slow stretch of space-time with him, and within milliseconds he has demonstrated why he’s so good at what he does. This guy could sell a gross of ShamWows to Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross. However, his talent is not just the cold sell. As is apparent with his successes with Lost, Cloverfield, and Armageddon, Abrams knows the expectations and needs of his audience. Star Trek, from the few moments I saw, is likely to continue his winning streak.

    It will not be your parents’ Star Trek, though. At the same time, it does not aim to revise the past. Judging from the preview, there will be plenty of insider knowledge only serious Trekkers would comprehend, and it more or less resides within the expanded Trek universe. The goal of the film, according to Abrams, is to “reinvigorate” the series—to be “epic but intimate.” In other words, being a prequel it will illuminate many details of how the original crew comes together but it will rely—moreso than other films in the series—on expanded, intense action sequences.

    In one such scene, without giving away too much, Kirk and Sulu freefall through space, enter Vulcan’s atmosphere, and parachute into close quarters battle with Romulan thugs on a tiny, suspended platform. To top it off, Sulu provides a demonstration of his fencing and martial arts skills. While it may sound over the top, the sequence is well paced and the visuals (by Industrial Light and Magic) are rendered beautifully. It is apparent that Abrams intends on this film being much more commercially viable than its predecessors have been. The director’s casting, as well as the action scenes, will likely ensure this.

    The crew of the Enterprise is young and sexy. Chris Pine, as Kirk, is less Shatner and more Harrison Ford. Spock (Zachary Quinto) on the other hand, remains uptight and brainy. However, when Leonard Nimoy shows up and lisps his way through lines in a sort of dentured-geriatric manner, the new Spock transmutes into the object of every school-girl’s classroom obsession. While this is all well and good, it is with Uhura (Zoe Saldana) that the revamped Star Trek finally succeeds in making sexual tension between the crew less nauseating than in prior films. Be honest, Jonathan Frakes (as grizzly and manly as he is) exchanging innuendo and locking lips with Marina Sirtis throughout The Next Generation movies is almost as exhilarating as watching Roger Moore in the final scene of Moonraker.

    From what little I saw at the screening, the new Star Trek is all but guaranteed to be a hit. It seems rooted enough in reality and, in its balance between solid acting and blockbuster fishing, to be a thoroughly enjoyable piece of cinema. What is more, and perhaps most important, it may very well spark a new and revived interest in a franchise which has died out in recent years. If that is the case, I wonder if next time I will have to turn in my official Star Trek Communicator Series Blackberry.

    —Alex Cripe

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    Tags: Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Winona Ryder, Simon Pegg, J.J. Abrams, Star Trek

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