Sci-Fi Film Reviews 2009

Star Trek 11 
Reviewed by Richard Snow. This review will appear in Edition 142 of Ethel the Aardvark, the Journal of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club. Copyright 2009.

Director J.J. Abrams has created a visually stunning, well acted masterpiece which will give new life to the Star Trek series. The film strikes a fine balance between non-stop action, stunning special effects and believable characters with real emotions. Fortunately, the special effects and computer graphics do not dominate the film at the expense of the characters and plot.

Star Trek is a prequel which tells of the first meeting of the young Captain Kirk (Chris Pine, of Bottle Shock and Smokin’ Aces), Mr Spock (Zachary Quinto of the TV series Heroes) and the rest of the original Star Trek characters. They come together for the maiden voyage of the space ship Enterprise.

What the characters don’t know is that 120 years into the future, a supernova has swallowed the planet Romulus, and destroyed it. An elderly version of Spock tried to rescue the planet, by creating a black hole to swallow the supernova, but failed.  The black hole, however, has made time travel possible.

As the Enterprise prepares to take off, the Romulan Captain Nero (Eric Bana) has travelled back 120 years in time through the black hole , intending to force the younger Spock and Kirk to watch the destruction of their own planets, as a pay-back. The elderly Spock is sucked back in time through the same black hole.  The older Spock is played by Leonard Nimoy, the original Mr Spock from the 1966 television series and later films.

Like every film or book involving time travel, the plot becomes complicated as the time-travellers change the course of history. This is perhaps the one defect of the film, as viewers may need a second sitting to appreciate all the twists and turns that time travel creates.

Quinto plays the half human – half Vulcan aspect of the younger Spock well. The young Lieutenant Uhura has an attraction to Spock, which he ignores. Spock tries to live a life of pure logic, but the young Kirk dislikes Spock intensely, and provokes him into mental breakdown after the death Spock’s mother (Winona Ryder).

The film lacks any of the “geeky” feel that Star Trek films and fans have been labelled with. The musical score, and has a grand, majestic feel to it and complements the film well. The actors are contracted for another two films. Provided the special effects don’t take over from the actors, as happened in the third instalment of the Matrix films, this film should give the Star Trek franchise a new, younger fan-base. May it live long and prosper.

Review of The day the Earth Stood Still

Reviewed by Richard Snow. This article appeared in Ethyl the Aardvark, the Journal of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club in January 2009

I have some simple advice on this movie: save your $16. If you really want to see it, stop reading now, because I’m about to give away the plot.

 A giant spherical spaceship lands in what looks like central park, and is immediately surrounded by the US military. Klaatu the alien (Keanu Reeves) steps out, only to be shot, whereupon Klaatu’s giant alien robot buddy, who looks a couple of hundred feet tall, destroys the military’s equipment. From this point on the giant robot space buddy doesn’t do much at all, except stand idly by while the military assemble a big box around him and cart him off see what he’s made of.

 This is not the escape-and-evade behaviour I expect of a sophisticated alien robot.

 Keanu Reeves, meanwhile, is evacuated to a military hospital, and Helen Benson (Jenifer Connelly) a biologist, is brought in to study him.

Keanu escapes,  teams up with Jenifer Connelly and her son (played by Jaden Smith) and goes on the run.

 Eventually he discloses that he’s not here to save mankind, he’s here to save the earth from mankind. How? By killing all those planet-abusing human beings. I guess they should have voted for Al Gore in 2000.

The problem with all of this is that since his character does not have human emotions Keanu Reeves is called upon to do no real acting. He looks like a poker player who just won the “expressionless man of the year” award.

Eventually he decides, on the basis of virtually no evidence, except the word of Jenifer Connelly, that humans are capable of changing, and he should go back home. I can imagine Judge Judy choking on her cornflakes at a verdict made on that evidence.

 Although Connelly and Smith act well, you can’t make a silk purse of a movie out of a pig’s ear of a plot.


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