Sunday, May 17, 2009


Two “origin” flicks. One the story of how Kirk met Spock et. al. and became Captain of The Enterprise, the other how Wolverine became Wolverine and the whole X-men concept began. The former a TV series I wasn’t that much interested in, the latter a comic book I never read. But I enjoyed both flicks, for different reasons.

I’ve read objections to the new STAR TREK film based on politically correct perspectives, but after all, it’s a science fiction fantasy. And though there are aspects of almost every creative act and the work that results that can be criticized from some political perspective (and I often do), movies like STAR TREK and X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, are meant almost solely as entertainment.

Yes, there’s often a “message” in sci fi and super hero comics, but ultimately, and especially once Hollywood gets hold of them, that’s entertainment! And as such, both these movies are fun.

The best thing about STAR TREK for me was how well they nailed the personalities of the main characters on the TV show as their younger selves. Except for Uhura—played by Zoe Saldana—the only African-American main character in the original show and the movie. While most of the other actors playing the main characters’ younger selves, (Bones, Scotty, Sulu, et. al.) pretty well matched the originals, Saldana is first of all much more of a fox than the TV version ever was (apologies to Nichelle Nichols but her younger self and Saldana are from entirely different universes physically, which may indicate some racial insensitivity on the part of the filmmakers since all the non-“black” characters pretty much nailed the physical aspects of the characters), but she’s also just an entirely different personality.

But Bones and the rest, and especially Spock and Kirk, were perfectly rendered younger versions. In fact you can actually watch Chris Pine as Kirk develop the traits that became so familiar from William Shatner’s original TV role.

The special effects were pretty fun. The main defect was the Romulans as the enemy aliens. Their leader Nero, played by Eric Bana, was about as hammy as an old Buck Rogers movie serial alien enemy. But the interaction of Pine as the young Kirk and Zachary Quinto as the young Spock, as well as the other main characters, especially Simon Pegg as Scotty, is worth watching the movie for.

As for Wolverine. My eleven-year-old and I were sitting behind three teenage girls who seemed obviously there to see Hugh Jackman, or at least their response to the first shot of him without a shirt would indicate. But then, when Taylor Kitsch appeared as Gambit, they seemed as much surprised as me and Flynn at their uncontrollable outburst of giggles and sighs and excited whispers.

Both movies had the usual quotient of impossible plot twists that made no sense if you took the time to stop and think about them. But they also both fulfilled the comic and sci fi genres black and white us vs. them contrast that makes for a satisfying resolution in most movies like this (where it belongs, rather than in real life politics, though there’s a nod to the Bush junior “us vs. them” and “preemptive war” attitude and policy in WOLVERINE).

But in the end STAR TREK was the more satisfying to me. It was just a fun movie experience. And the message about the future, even where politically incorrect, was still light and positive and left the audience, or at least me and my little guy feeling very optimistic.

Whereas X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE had elements in it of the cynicism that so ruined the last Batman movie, THE DARK KNIGHT. Like the relationship between Jackman’s Wolverine and his supposed brother (the first scenes of this movie are so muddled it’s impossible to know for sure what just happened) Victor played by Liev Schreiber. Schreiber’s Victor is so heartlessly evil, as are several other villains in WOLVERINE, it’s as though we’re being forced to watch a film about psychopaths who run in packs and expected to enjoy such a dark and pessimistic perspective.

Fortunately, there’s a few touches of humor and even feeling in the relationship to save a scene here and there. But overall, the film is so dark it becomes even more unbelievable than sci fi usually is anyway. And add that to some miscasting (Will-i-Am as John Wraith is just one example, nice try but no cigar, and maybe another case of white filmmakers needing the one African-American among the main characters and not being very selective about making the role work, just making it black, not that Will-i-Am didn't try and sometimes achieve some emotional accuracy, but not enough) which for my taste includes Schreiber as the consummately evil Victor, I just don’t buy a lot of his in between action scenes emoting, or lack of emotion acting.

But Jackman’s screen charisma I have to admit holds the movie together, along with the equally charismatic Taylor Kitsch (who strikes me as a young Johnny Depp type, another actor who started out in TV) and Lynn Collins as the love interest Kayla Silverfox and a few other supporting actors.

But whereas STAR TREK left me feeling satisfied, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE left me dissatisfied with the dystopian vision of the film and the downbeat ending. But, it was kind of fun while it lasted, despite the caveats above, so all in all, for a few hours diversion, both flicks have some worthwhile entertainment value.

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