By Shlomo Porath
I would have loved to write a decent sized piece on ‘Star Trek’, a movie that I had a great time with both times I saw it in the theater. Unfortunately, I’m pretty much with the critical and popular majority on it, not just in liking it, but also in a lot of my specific reasons for liking it. Thus, I won’t offer more than the main and overriding reason the movie resonated with me: Shared Excitement.
I got the sense that director J.J. Abrams, his cast and his crew, came to the project with an uncommonly generous spirit, a love for their audience. The film is not particularly deep, not is it particularly mindful of its audience’s intelligence. However, as opposed to being pandering or cynical about what it audience wants to see, it takes a very different track: the goofy but sincere optimism that is the core of the universe they were taking on. I think the best filmmakers impart the feeling of wanting to share an image or a moment with an audience, and in doing so form a very humble, sincere and human connection with the audience. It’s true of all sorts of filmmakers. It’s what connects Spielberg’s sentimentality, the Coen Brothers’ cerebral and sometimes mocking wit, and Altman’s rambling sensibility: humanity expressed in their love for sharing a thought or a feeling with an audience. Not merely presenting an image, but a sense of a director saying “Let’s see what happens if we put this and this together in one scene…wouldn’t that be great?”
This is not to say that Abrams’ film comes near the above directors’ better films. He is so far lacking the formal skill and the control. This film often feels rushed, and many of the scenes are shot and edited in an effective, yet rather random fashion, lacking a strong and focused point of view (or at least the talent to convincingly pull off an arbitrarily chosen one). But it is leaps and bounds better than Abrams first film, ‘Mission: Impossible III’. It is closer to his excellent pop-culture saturated work on the pilot of ‘Lost’. What he lacks in skill he makes up for in the giddy generosity of inventive imagery in the film. Beautiful design work is all over this film- he may not know how to best move a camera or edit a scene, but he sure does know how to find images worth capturing. I can’t think of many other films that, with such unmotivated camera work, still manage to be so wonderful to look at. Even if it has more hearts than brains, it’s an exhilarating bit of pop-culture, and one that I would recommend to just about everyone.
P.S. I’m in no way trying to discount the superb work done by the actors, or the screenplay which taps so deeply into nostalgia while doing its own thing, or the music, the sound (it’s a great aural experience), or any of the other critical factors in making thing this film so uncommonly entertaining. But I did not want to devolve into adding a ‘Great!’, ‘Loved it!’, ‘Fantastic!’ next to a long checklist.