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Friday, May 8, 2009

Star Trek

Kissing Spock is Unacceptable

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Call me old school, but Uhura has no business kissing Mr. Spock and Spock has no business enjoying her affection. True, sharp observers spotted her giving Spock the eye in the original Star Trek TV series, but a full-on eruption of desire-and in the heat of battle to save Earth from being melted into a computer-generated cinderblock? That's just wrong.

And that's not all that's off base with the new Star Trek movie. How can Vulcan disintegrate in this prequel when Spock's home world was the setting for several episodes of the '60s series? Unacceptable! Director J.J. Abrams' reboot of a franchise that has already been through 10 movies, five TV shows and numerous novelizations is probably intended for people like himself who never paid much attention to the original. Considered a wunderkind for his work in television ("Alias," "Lost"), Abrams surely knew he was crossing into a dangerous quadrant of space in revisiting a concept not his own, supported by notoriously fanatical fans and already strip-mined to exhaustion by ill-conceived efforts to milk the Star Trek name. But armored by his Hollywood cool, Abrams probably doesn't care. His Star Trek seems pitched at the audience for last year's crummy iteration of Indiana Jones.

Speaking of diminished franchises, Chris Pine plays young James T. Kirk, a space cadet who rises rapidly to the command deck of the Enterprise, as a callow hot dog, like Shia LaBeouf in his gee-whiz role from Kingdom of theCrystal Skull. Although Zachary Quinto is less annoying as young Spock, his character is weakly written with an all-too-human chip on his shoulder and his Vulcan logic easily giving way under pressure. In the new film, Kirk and Spock can't stand each other but join together when pitted against a world destroying Romulan renegade, Nero (Eric Bana), who resembles a Mad Max character with Mike Tyson facial tattoos. Leonard Nimoy reprises his old part as an elderly Spock, coexisting with his young self in an overlapping dimension of space-time continuum mumbo jumbo.

Some of the acting is good, especially from the supporting cast, and particularly Karl Urban as the grumpy, decidedly unPC Dr. McCoy (he calls Spock "a green-blooded hobgoblin"). The best action scenes capture the chaos of battle with metal shredding and flames spewing too fast for the eye to focus on; the worst lurch from one ledge to the next with Kirk always hanging on for life.

The film's visuals and design are a strength. Nero's grungy craft is monstrously alive with alien technology and owes some of its dinginess to the example of Alien. Great care was taken to enhance the Enterprise of the TV show without losing sight of the original model. The starship's layout will be familiar to fans but its sliding doors and banks of computer lights are given a sleeker, more polished work. And yes, the women of the crew are still going about in their improbable uniform of miniskirts and go-go boots. Some things never change.