May 15, 2009
By J.D. Cook
Over the past two weekends I have found myself watching two prequels. X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which premiered the weekend of May 1st, describes the character Wolverine’s rise from troubled killer to a… troubled killer. Star Trek, which opened the weekend of May 8th, weaves the tale of how Kirk became Captain Kirk and Spock became Mr. Spock. Both movies showed great promise in the previews and so I anticipated seeing both, yet only one of these films would take the title of “Must See”.
As a dedicated X-Men fan, I was overjoyed to see the Gambit character finally get some screen time; Emma Frost and Cyclops were simply bonuses that sealed the deal. Any fan of the X-Men comic books knows that Cyclops power is a concussive force beam that continually issues from his eyes due to a child hood decision not to control it. Unfortunately, the writers and director of X-Men Origins didn’t seem to know this. Each time Cyclops let fly his red force things would melt or turn orange. His power does not produce heat! It’s called a concussive blast because it knocks you out! It doesn’t melt you!
Yet this may have been overlooked if Gambit had been in the movie for more then three scenes, but instead of using him for an epic fight scene they relegated him to something less then a secondary character. Gambit, who also has percussive powers, had one good scene in which he “charged the card and let it fly”. Then of course there was Deadpool, or the, “Merc with the Mouth”. Deadpool is a fairly entertaining and popular character in the Marvel universe. In X-Men Origins, however, he is mishandled and combined with other X-Men characters such as Garrison Kain.
All of this might have been overlooked if Wolverine’s character had been done correctly. This was not to be. Instead of coming off like a ferocious wild man that is tamed through his love and then sent back into a fury as a result of its loss, he is more like a hamster that grows into a house cat. Hugh Jackman’s performance contains none of the carnal fury that the character needed to show. This was the most disappointing aspect of the film. On the flip side, the villains were just plain stupid. Striker was little more then a weasel and Sabertooth looked unconvincing without his signature, un-kept hair and beyond-vicious nature. Overall, the first prequel of the season was a huge let down and is certainly a “Wait for Video” type of movie. Luckily, there was another prequel with a chance to boldly go where no prequel had gone before.
Star Trek’s young and talented cast drew me in to the second film, which was essentially everything you could want from a prequel detailing the early days of the U.S.S. Enterprise’s legendary crew. For the big time fans of the original series there was Kirk’s third Kobyashi Maru test and Spock’s troubled Vulcan childhood. For the newbies there was plenty of action, a compelling plot, and even green women.
For me there was Simon Pegg playing the fan favorite, Mr. Scott. Pegg not only brings his own acting game up a notch in this film, but he manages to nearly steal the show. His lines easily received the most laughs and proves that Mr. Pegg has merely scratched the surface of what he can achieve as an actor. It can only be hoped that he branches into more complex roles in the future, but for now he is great in his comedic role.
The new Kirk brings a different light to the character which is both refreshing and new. William Shatner’s Kirk was always a bit of a wild card, but he was never quite as rebellious or funny as Chris Pine’s character in this new movie. This is, in no way, claiming that this new actor was better then Shatner, who established the character and is a historic figure, he was simply different. Pine’s film rival Zachary Quinto also pulled off a fine performance as Mr. Spock that was different. He was certainly a more agile and emotional Vulcan then Leonard Nimoy was in the series and films past.
What made these new character perspectives work was that my personal favorite character, Dr. “Bones” McCoy was done exactly as DeForest Kelly did the character years earlier on the television show. Karl Urban made him just as cynical and dry as he was meant to be in his spot-on performance. Further, the supporting roles of Uhura, Checkov, and Sulu all turned in good performances, each getting a moment to shine (fans of the show will enjoy Sulu’s solo moment). It was with a happy heart that I give this film my highest rating of “Must See”. Seek out this new film, and live long and prosper!