Eric Bana

Star Trek (2009, J.J. Abrams)

There really isn’t anything to dislike about Star Trek. Well, maybe the music, which isn’t bad, just isn’t as good the rest of the music in the series. There’s a lot to like–Chris Pine (though the wife disagrees), J.J. Abrams’s direction is outstanding, there’s some nice little stuff (Zoe Saldana’s Uhura and her romance, Leonard Nimoy’s reaction to Pine, Karl Urban’s woefully underused McCoy). Oh, wait. What’s his name… Eric Bana? Was it Eric Bana? He was awful. Oh, and Ben Cross. He was lousy too.

The problem with the film is its uselessness. I saw it in a theater packed with college students who hooted and hollered during the Transformers sequel–Abrams isn’t exactly going for a high brow audience. The script, from Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (who often really stink), isn’t bad. There are some lame moments, but the dialogue’s solid–Pine delivers it with an unbelievable swagger, playing Kirk as a superhero, something Shatner never really recognized in his essaying of the role–and there are some neat developments. But it’s really all about Abrams’s direction. Whether it’s the–as far as I know, I haven’t seen the more recent Star Trek films–outstanding CG space shots (Abrams’s composition of these scenes is utterly unlike any other Star Trek direction I’ve seen, much more visceral… in fact, it sort of resembles the new shots from Bob Wise’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture director’s cut), amazing action scenes. Abrams, on his second film, does a fantastic job.

So Pine’s excellent, something he establishes from his first scene. Saldana’s good, playing well off Pine and Zachary Quinto. Quinto’s okay… adequate. The problem is how good Nimoy is in his scenes. His link to the original incarnation, not to mention his lovely (there really isn’t any other word for it) scenes with Pine… Quinto can’t really compete. Maybe in the next one (in this one, there’s a hint at a solid chemistry between Pine and Quinto). And, really, all Star Trek is about is waiting for the next one.

Because Karl Urban? He’s really not in this one enough. He probably gives the best performance and, even without a lot of back story, has the most interesting character.

Bruce Greenwood’s kind of useless. Abrams should have tried harder to get Tom Cruise.

Simon Pegg’s hilarious as Scotty. John Cho and Anton Yelchin are kind of useless too. They’re both all right, but there’s no part for them in the film.

The script’s got a bunch of logic holes and probably many more if one were to think about them, but one isn’t supposed to think about Star Trek. One’s supposed to enjoy the action, laugh at the jokes, get the references. And it works.

For an absolutely pointless two hour franchise “relaunch,” it’s about as good as it could be and it’s pretty good.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by J.J. Abrams; screenplay by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, based on the television series created by Gene Roddenberry; director of photography, Daniel Mindel; edited by Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey; music by Michael Giacchino; production designer, Scott Chambliss; produced by Abrams and Damon Lindelof; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Chris Pine (James T. Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Leonard Nimoy (Spock Prime), Eric Bana (Nero), Bruce Greenwood (Capt. Christopher Pike), Karl Urban (Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy), Zoe Saldana (Nyota Uhura), Simon Pegg (Scotty), John Cho (Hikaru Sulu), Anton Yelchin (Pavel Chekov), Ben Cross (Sarek), Winona Ryder (Amanda Grayson) and Chris Hemsworth (George Kirk).


Hulk (2003, Ang Lee)

Hulk had a huge box office drop-off after its opening weekend–wow, almost seventy percent. It’s actually somewhat lucky, because I’d have thought people would have gotten up and walked out of the theater. The Hulk doesn’t show up until about an hour into the movie and doesn’t do anything interesting for another half hour after the first appearance. There’s a lot of angst in the first couple Hulk appearances, before it finally gets to him fighting tanks and such. The tank fights and the helicopter fights and the Hulk jumping all over the place–those scenes Ang Lee does all right with. The Hulk doesn’t look “real” in any of the close-ups, but given how unbelievable the acting is from the principals… ILM’s Hulk by far gives the film’s best performance.

The worst performance is–just because it’s so absurdly easy–Josh Lucas. I don’t remember him from anything else, but his big business scientist seems to be an homage to… Himmler, maybe. The actor is bad, nothing else. For all the pseudo-angst Lee and James Schamus drown Hulk in, they don’t mind one of their principal characters being shallower than a piece of newsprint. I think they even gave Lucas extra blue eyes, though I’m not sure why… It’s a horrific performance, but the terrible writing contributes.

The other two–primary–terrible performances are Jennifer Connelly and Eric Bana. Bana hurts the most, since he’s the ostensible lead (it’s really Nick Nolte). Either Bana was on tranquilizers the whole time or mastering getting rid of his Australian accent also removed all animation. Connelly–for the first half–acts with her hair. Once they change the style, though, look out. She’s incapable of doing anything realistically. A big problem with Hulk seems to be casting actors who think the project is crap. Both Bana and Connelly are abjectly disinterested in their performances.

Sam Elliot’s also bad, but that one’s not particularly surprising.

Once again, Nick Nolte shows off just what he can do with a wacky, crazed role and turns in the film’s most sympathetic character.

Lee’s stylistic choices are car wreck interesting. For example, what were the producers thinking trusting Lee with a $140 million budget (glib answer, they weren’t). Lee can’t handle the money, but the other choices he makes–the split screens meant to imitate comic book panels (doesn’t work) or using comic sans as the movie’s font (that one should get one ejected from the DGA, if not incarcerated). But at the beginning, when Lee’s zooming in on all sorts of molecules and lab animals and doing all sorts of dumb fades, Hulk actually works as a super-budget b-movie from the 1950s (the dangers of nuclear power and all). It’s interesting to look at, interesting to experience. Of course, once the Hulk shows up, Lee flushes all that stylization (but sticks to his multi-screen thing, which seems more inspired by security cameras than comic books).

Hulk is a disaster, as the lack of a definite article should suggest, but it’s a disaster caused by incompetence. How hard is it to mess up a big green guy breaking stuff? Very easy, apparently.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Ang Lee; written by John Turman, Michael France and James Schamus, based on a story by Schamus and the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby; director of photography, Frederick Elmes; edited by Tim Squyres; music by Danny Elfman; production designer, Rick Heinrichs; produced by Gale Anne Hurd, Avi Arad, Schamus and Larry J. Franco; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Eric Bana (Bruce Banner), Jennifer Connelly (Betty Ross), Sam Elliott (Ross), Josh Lucas (Talbot) and Nick Nolte (Father).


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