Daily Archives: December 23, 2022

Star Trek (2009)

Just seven years after Star Trek: Nemesis and the demise of the TNG end of the Trek film franchise a new contender entered the ring.  J.J. Abrams, whose only previous experience directing a film was Mission Impossible III, was coming aboard to take the helm in order to reboot Star Trek for the next a new another generation.  Was he going to be able to breath life back into the franchise?  I was dubious at the time.

Star Trek 2009

I have problems with this film right up front.  For example, it kicks off as an origin story and I am so tired of origin stories.  So we have to sit and watch the Joker shoot James T. Kirk’s parents as they exit the theater… wait… no… that can’t be right.

No, Chris Hemsworth is his dad, which is really strange in retrospect, though I am not sure I can explain why.  Anyway, we have to go through the story of Kirk getting into Star Fleet which involves wrecking a Corvette and getting into a bar fight… not the traditional path into space as I understand it.

We also have to be reminded of Spock’s origin story too, though more briefly.  But that is also a much more tired tale, and if it doesn’t involve him seeing the Joker murder his parents outside of a theater, it is still an episode that has been recounted too many times, Vulcan dad, human mother, something about love and logic and getting teased at school, where learning is done in giant salad bowls.

Then there is the need to stick in just a few more origin moments for McCoy and Uhura and Scotty, which felt as unnecessary as the scene where we learned where Han Solo got his name in Solo.  It was a question nobody asked and they still felt they had to answer it.

And it is another time travel story.  Oh my God, can we just once not go that route?

Then there is the lens flare… how can the bridge crew see with that lighting?  I mean, I remember the jokes about it back when the movie came out, but I had forgotten how completely over the top the use of that one effect was.  Knock it off already!

Finally, there is the story itself, which isn’t that great.  Pissed Romulan named Nero… what did I say in my Star Trek: Nemesis post about them stealing Roman culture wholesale… travels back in time to avenge himself on the Federation because of the wrongs he feels they inflicted on his life.

But he screws up and gets the calculation wrong and drops early and then has to wait around for 25 years for his cue in his advanced mining ship from the future that I guess has enough supplies stored away to last that long… we don’t spend any time covering that.

I know, I am 400 words into this and it is nothing but more bitching and moaning.  Hasn’t that been my theme for at least eight of the last ten films?  So let me change gears a bit.

For all the problems, there is one Star Trek avoids; it doesn’t feel like a padded out episode.

I cannot put my finger on what the difference is, because the script could legitimately be a one hour episode quality entry in the canon.  Pull out the origin story openings, ignore the academy stuff, tighten up the main story a bit, and you could have shaved it down to 42 minutes plus commercials.  It is only has a two hour run time.  It wouldn’t be like trying to chop down Titanic or Spartacus.

Somehow though, it felt like a movie.  When I asked my wife for her impressions after we watched it, her first statement was that it felt like a movie, and she has not been reading my posts so hasn’t seen how often I’ve gone to that particular well for this series of reviews.

How did it achieve this?  Well, there is the casting, which was near perfection.  Chris Pine… we could have swapped him for Hemsworth I think and still gone pretty well… but Zachary Quinto as Spock, Karl Urban as McCoy, John Cho as Sulu, and Zoe Saldana as Uhura, that was like five casting home runs in an industry where three is considered a minor miracle.  I’m not saying Pine wasn’t great in his role.  He sold it.  But the other four, I couldn’t imagine anybody else in their places now.  They seemed to both evoke the original cast and yet create their own presence on screen.

And the strength of the cast just goes on.  I’m a little iffy on Simon Pegg as Scotty and Anton Yelchin as Checkov, but can live with them.  Meanwhile, Bruce Greenwood as Captain Pike, he feels like he stepped off the original series set and straight into this movie.  He has the look and the vibe and is so good.

Ben Cross was able to channel enough Mark Lenard to be Sarek, and Winona Ryder as Spock’s mother… brilliant.  Also, at one point she has that open mouth shocked look that we all saw in Stranger Things.

I guess when you are free to pick actors and have the budget to get quality, as opposed to having to run with the cast that your modest budget TV series could attract (OMFG TNG getting Patrick Stewart must have been a miracle), maybe that makes a difference.  Not that I didn’t love those casts on the TV, but the transition to the big screen… didn’t seem to suit them all equally.

And the movie… lens flare aside… looks awesome.  Ships, effects, uniforms, space, explosions, you name it, it looked damn good.  It is all in on visuals at all times with no letup, no cheesy sets in quick, transitional scenes.  A continuous and consistent level of quality throughout.

Through all of that I almost forgot to mention the sound track.  You take a risk when you go a different direction, but Michael Giacchino hit the mark.  It is one of those sound tracks that just elevates the film, like Where Eagles Dare or Intersteller or Tron: Legacy

So the question is, can you throw enough talent and effects and excellent scoring and editing effort at a mediocre story and elevate it into a good movie?

I think every good Bond fill will testify to that.

As dumb as some of the story is, as contrived as aspects of it are, as inevitable as outcomes seem… all complaints I could level at most of this set of films… the finer aspects of it pull you past it, keep you from being distracted by logic.  Spock would be appalled and delighted I think.

Then we end up finding out this is not a reboot, but an alternate timeline caused by the initial time travel incident, something the characters discuss openly mid-film… well, it is quite a thing.  Actually reflecting on the impact of time travel on your own time space continuum.  Give me more of that please!

I am not going to say it was Oscar worthy or anything crazy.  It is still escapist fluff.  But it felt like more of a movie than at least eight of the ten previous Star Trek films we’ve watched, and I’m in a mood to say it is probably better than seven of the twelve Star Wars films.

Magic happened and the end result was greater than the sum of its parts.  I liked it and would watch it again, which is a pretty solid endorsement.  But can they keep it up?  There are two more films to go.  Is this the peak, or is the best yet to come?

The Steam Winter Sale 2022 Has Begun

The annual holiday tradition of video game discounts has arrive at Steam as they unleash the 2022 version of their Winter Sale.

Once more into the retail breach

There was a time when this was a huge big deal rather than being just a normal part of the turn of the seasons at summer and winter.  It has gotten so normal that even the first hour foibles… the site being down or something being hilariously mis-priced… have faded into memory.

But make no mistake about the influence that the sale has.  Steam is still the big dog.

Some companies, like Epic, have a sale at the same time because they see Steam as their rival and feel the need to compete. (And perhaps distract from their own woes.)  Not that having a winter or holiday sale was some huge discovery by Steam, but when the competitors line their dates up to match, you wonder at who is following.

And then there are the companies that depend heavily on Steam, like Paradox, which coordinate their sales and promotions with Steam because that is where their customer base is.

Winter Sale for Strategy Games

So it goes.

And then there are the Steam Awards, which benefit greatly from not being The Game Awards.  We get to vote for those.

Voting begins now

While I have heard of quite a few of the titles up for awards this year, I only own two of them… and haven’t even played one of them.  A pretty common Steam story in that I suppose.

Still, I do have a couple of titles on my wish list that I will probably grab, and some others I might be interested in.  Do I buy Forza Horizon 5 on Steam at a discount after having played it last year on the Microsoft XBox Game Pass?  Does that constitute crossing the streams?  Do I have the wherewithal to get into Dwarf Fortress?  I’ve read good things about the Atari 50th Anniversary Collection, but do I need to buy most of those titles for maybe the fourth or fifth time?

We will see what the sale brings.  It is only the first day