Sunday, May 17, 2009

Angels vs. Demons vs. Romulans vs. Federation

I caught two hot action flicks this week: the Ron Howard/Tom Hanks one, "Angels vs. Demons" (or "DaVinci Code 2") and "Star Trek" ( #11?--I lost count somewhere in the later Picard films).
I haven't caught the new "Terminator" one--the only real appeal for me to see that would be the shots they took near the Gorge Bridge outside of town.

I am not one of those who got sucked into "DaVinci Code", either the book or the film. I'll admit I went largely because it was my son's choice for his birthday party group to see, and they needed a chaperon (whether they knew it or not). I found it fast-paced and compelling as action drama, interesting in many parts, and about half an hour too long.

The best thing about the movie was its setting in Rome (the second and third best were probably the scenes at nuclear lab CERN, and the Italian physicist lead, Vittoria). If you know Roma at all, you'll understand why. I am assuming they got no cooperation from the Vatican itself, which means they did a great job with sets and editing, with so much of the movie's action there. Lots of good flavor and genuine shots in the true Roman (non-Vatican) locales. I have to check if the secret tunnel from Castel Sant'Angelo to the Pope's offices is real, or plausible.

The ending certainly was not. Seeing that the movie is so new, I should probably avoid spoilers for now. It was book-thriller confusing, without the visual clarity and simplification which often results from translation to film.

Trek Fatigue

On the other hand, I am a longtime Trekkie--not to the point of going to conventions or anything, but one who's seen all the original show episodes (I'm pretty sure of this; last time I saw a new one in reruns was probably the early 80's), and one who more-or-less followed the various other incarnations (jealous of "New Generation", bored with "Deep Space 9", liked "Voyager" until it petered out, never found a reason to see "Enterprise", hated the cartoon show--though I loved that it was made, and followed the general crowd preferences for numbers 2, 4, 6 and 8 of the movies--especially 4, the "one with the whale"). No, not the books.

I was favorably disposed toward this one. I liked the general notion of exploring Kirk's early days at Starfleet Academy, and the early plot exposition worked well for me. The Young Spock was a dead ringer for a guy 10 years younger than the Spock of the first series; while the actors playing the younger Kirk, Bones, Scotty, Sulu, and Chekhov all had the mannerisms if not exactly the right look. Kirk's actor had a great wild look in the eyes that we might have expected from Young Kirk.

For me, the young Uhura--though comparably attractive to the original series' Uhura--didn't look like her younger version at all, and the (slight spoiler) romance with Spock neither made sense, added to the story, nor fit with what we saw later (ahem, earlier, in our time frame).

There are big issues with "11" (name provisional). The first is the "Gee, It's a Small Universe" notion that these guys all met up so young, and stayed together so long (much longer than their original "five year mission"), the improbable staffing history which led to them all being together, on the Enterprise, with everyone in their appointed positions by the end of the movie. How about this one: Why would a Romulan mining vessel have such advanced weaponry and Doomsday Machine size and shields?

Profound issues were raised by changes caused by time travel in this "episode". If "Star Trek 11" is true, there might not be a "Next Generation" at all! This is seriously concerning and raises major problems with any potential sequel to this one. On the one hand, I expect this one was a big enough success there would be Hollywood money for it; on the other, there's hardly any way to take up where this one left off--probably the only route is an "alternate universe" approach where the outcomes of "11" are somehow cancelled out by the plot of "12". Which means that "11" is a big fat dead end, creatively speaking.

A good ride, though, and I liked the superimposition of enormous space launching platforms on the Iowa landscape, as well as the dramatic events occurring near San Francisco (shouldn't there be something Federational in Moscow, or Scotland, or somewhere on Earth besides the USA, though?)

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