Sunday, May 10, 2009

Star Trek: The Return of the Theater-Going Experience?

I've seen the new Star Trek twice already: the first was an advanced preview screening with a limited audience (friend in radio hooked me up), and the second was opening weekend with a large crowd. After the end credits began rolling on the second screening, I saw a father and his son - must've been 3 0r 4 years old - walking out of the theater. The father asked what the boy thought, and the boy absolutely loved it; but he was in too much shock and awe over the visuals he'd just witnessed to really elaborate further.

This triggered a flashback for me: I was about that boy's age when I saw Return of the Jedi in the theater, and I remember feeling the exact same way. And scattered memories of watching Jedi on the big screen during its original run still stay with me to this day: Ewoks, Yoda's death, Lando blowing up the Death my young impressionable mind, it was absolute magic.

I like to think - and I hope - that the new Star Trek may become sort of what the original Star Wars trilogy was to this new generation. I think our culture desperately needs that right now. Sure, Pirates of the Caribbean and Iron Man and even Transformers were imaginative visual romps, but I feel Star Trek is something more (before I go into this, keep in mind I knew NOTHING about Star Trek before seeing it): the film is a near-perfect blend of action, comedy, drama and sci-fi. The pacing is wonderful, the cast is likable, and Michael Giacchino's score is epic. From a marketing perspective, I'm inspired how they were able to package a product for everyone from ages 3-103. From a screenwriting perspective, I'm blown away by how one movie is a sequel, prequel, and reboot all in one.

I don't really do movie reviews on here (maybe I should?), but the whole point of this entry's headline is about the experience of seeing this on the big screen. Yes, theater ticket prices go up while DVD prices go down. The gap between national screenings and home video release is getting smaller and smaller. And we can all agree Hollywood has been putting out a lot of crap lately. The big question has become: what will become of the theater going experience as time marches forward? The threat of losing it all together is depressing for a guy like me. Not only do I love movies, but I dream the big dream that one day I'll see my own flick projected up there.

But Star Trek revived my hope, if only for a couple of hours. Needless to say, I enjoyed my second viewing more: an audience of all ages experienced a full range of emotions together, and applauded in the end not out of courtesy, but because they had experienced a type of movie magic that reminds me why people like me got into film in the first place.

If I can ever capture a fraction of that audience response in a screening, I'll feel accomplished. While I work on that, you see Star Trek. It's not the perfect movie across the board, but it's the exact kind of movie I think we need right now.

Three and a half stars ***1/2

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