Pick of the Week – January 11-17, 2016

Happy New Year!

Yes, it’s been 2016 for over a week now, but I didn’t get a chance to say that last Monday due to a complete and total lack of Pickage.  Sorry about that.  I took an unannounced weekend off.  I’m sure you all were devastated when you checked vampirenomad.com last Monday and found no new Pick of the Week waiting for you.

You can stop laughing now.

Anyway, this week’s Pick is a follow-up to yesterday’s post about Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  For this film, Director JJ Abrams was charged with revitalizing a much-loved franchise, the last film of which had left audiences less than pleased.  He needed to please existing fans, but, more importantly as far as the studio was concerned, attract new audiences.  Based on the box office, he’s been wildly successful.

But this isn’t the first time that JJ Abrams has faced this exact task.  He did the same thing back in 2009, and his Star Trek film is my Pick of the Week.

Viewed through the lens of TFA, Abrams’ Star Trek is almost an audition reel for the Star Wars job, showing that he can handle special effects, spaceships, and revisiting beloved characters while also updating them for modern viewers.

The plot of this Star Trek barely matters, and even at the time it was criticized for the villain’s lack of heft.  This movie is far more concerned with introducing Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the others and letting them bounce off of each other.  And I have to say that, based on the results, it is absolutely the right movie.  Going into the film, Chris Pine, who plays Jim Kirk, was the unknown quantity for me.  I was familiar with most of the rest of the cast from other projects, but who was this guy trying to fill William Shatner’s boots?  I needn’t have worried.  Pine is great in the part and creates a very entertaining Kirk.  As Abrams proved again with TFA, he knows how to put a great cast together.

On the downside as far as Star Trek is concerned, Abrams also has a tendency to go for what looks cool above anything resembling scientific accuracy.  Why does Iowa now have a giant canyon in it?  How can Spock possibly see that explosion? 

This aspect of Abrams’ filmmaking is even more evident in the sequel, 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness, which throws most of the established rules about warp speed and transporters (Yes, I’m arguing the rules of fictional technology) out the airlock.  It may also be the clear progenitor of The Force Awakens, considering both films basically retell prior movies in their respective series.

Still, Abrams’ first Star Trek is the better film to watch both as a fun movie and as one of the reasons he was handed the keys to the Millennium Falcon.

Additionally, 2016 marks the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek.  In honor of that, this column will be morphing into the Weekly Trek, in which I and other Vampirenomad denizens will be recommending not just episodes and movies, but books, games, and other assorted tie-ins from across the half-century history of the franchise.

- Alan Decker

@CmdrAJD on Twitter