Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hit It & Quit It: Movie Week: Star Trek, Up

Star Trek
Can’t rave enough about the new Star Trek. I’ve always been a fan of the original series, but have had only passing interests in any of the franchise’s other incarnations. This movie has been talked about to death, so I won’t say much other than I was truly blown away. I’ve been watching the original series with my son over the past month, so I was up on my Star Trek lore. One thing I loved about the film was that the filmmakers clearly have a tremendous reverence for the original series, but managed to not become a slave to the past. The opening sound you hear in the film is a classic ping, so familiar from the bridge of the original Enterprise. But that ping quickly fades into a thoroughly modern score and sound design. The character traits that we know so well of Kirk, Spock, Bones, Uhura and Scotty are clearly at the heart of the film, but by delving into these characters’ formative years and their maiden voyage, the filmmakers manage to imbue each character with fresh traits. The movie is an amazing achievement of taking something classic and energizing it with an absolutely fresh and modern sensibility. And it’s non-stop action, action, action!

Several weeks back I saw Wall-E producer Lindsey Collins speak. In discussing Up, she promised a return to a more classically kid friendly universe after the rather sophisticated Wall-E. I got to say, I really loved Up, but was surprised by the film’s melancholy tone. The first 20 minutes are full of loss, longing and sadness. Heady stuff for a kids’ movie. The movie gets more conventional as it progresses, but there’s some emotional weight to it throughout. There’s a sequence early on, where we see the lead character, Karl, age from a young boy to an old man. It’s one of those sublime sequences that set Pixar beyond all other animation studios. It’s a moment where you forget your watching a kid’s movie and realize your watching a classic movie. Another thing that I love about the more recent Pixar offerings is their clear love of classic cinema. Up pays homage to the Lost World from 1925. I only know this having recently saw the Lost World (with live musical accompaniment by Dengue Fever at the SF International Film Fest last month). Rather than situate themselves in any pop culture trend, Pixar orients itself around more classic points of reference, which I think is going to give many of their films a much greater shelf life in the long run.

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