Review – Star Trek

Star Trek [2009]

Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, Eric Bana
Director: J.J. Abrams
Screenwriter: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci

Rarely do I look forward with anticipation to a movie as I did for this one. But despite my anticipation, I also had doubts. As to its rebooting the franchise with new stars, and a tagline saying, “it’s not your father’s Star Trek,” among other things. I am an unabashed lover of Star Trek, through all of the series. As a result, my expectations were high. If the movie was a success, Star Trek would live on for a new generation. If it wasn’t, the franchise could be given a potentially fatal blow. It was with a wide smile on my face leaving the theater that I thought, Star Trek lives on anew.

The film follows the characters we know and love from The Original Series as they get into Starfleet Academy, and in their first flight on board the Enterprise. As the movie opens, the U.S.S. Kelvin is under attack by a behemoth of a ship, which we learn is manned by a bunch of Romulans, lead by Nero (Eric Bana), who has a curious obsession with “Ambassador Spock.” The U.S.S. Kelvin is destroyed, but not before James Kirk’s father, George Kirk, sacrifices himself and saves the people on board. Years later, James (Chris Pine), at the suggestion and influence of Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood), joins Starfleet. He’s a trouble maker; he’s rash, arrogant, gets into fights, cheats on the Kobayashi Maru (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you will when you see it, and if you do, it’s a delicious homage to The Original Series and its movies, only one of many). In other words, he’s James T. Kirk. The planet Vulcan has sent out a distress call, and because most of the fleet is in another system further away, the cadets are called into active duty to ship out to Vulcan.

What happens at Vulcan and beyond I’ll not divulge. But it’s one of the most exciting sequences in the movie, where Kirk and Sulu (John Cho) land on a giant drill by ‘space jumping’. The story is more action-oriented than previous Star Trek movies have been, though not to the extreme. It is definitely not as cerebral as most of the series was. Yet I didn’t find this to be a detriment. The movie serves as a reboot to the franchise. The idea was to allow previous fans of the series to enjoy it while inviting new ones into the fold. In that regard, I think it couldn’t be anything except a resounding success. I wasn’t bothered by its focus more on the surface, than the thought-provoking metaphors and allegories fans know so well. But I did not find that it was devoid of such things.

The movie does explore (very well, I might add) Spock’s (Zachary Quinto) Human/Vulcan heritage (scenes of Spock’s childhood will bring back memories of anyone familiar with The Animated Series). But that’s not all; it has an emotional impact, especially later in the film as a result of events I can’t disclose. That was a pleasant surprise. But what was most surprising to me was how much the characters felt their parts. It was, in my opinion, perfectly cast. Not once do any of these new actors not feel like the characters we know so well. Yet at the same time, they make each character their own, which makes perfect sense not only in the context of the purpose of the film (to be for fans and newbies of Star Trek), but also in the universe of the film itself. Bones McCoy (Karl Urban) feels like Bones, Uhura (Zoe Saldana) feels like Uhura, Scotty (Simon Pegg) feels like Scotty (as different as he may be; the same goes for Chekov (Anton Yelchin)), etc. I didn’t once question who they were. That’s a testament to the script, which is smart and funny, and filled with homages and easter eggs for fans, but also to the actors. The chemistry between them is witty and fun to watch.

If there’s a fault with the movie, it’s the camera work and lighting, which just tends to frustrate at times. The lens flares go over the top, for example. It doesn’t detract from the overall experience, but I would definitely recommend the follow-up include a different lighting director. It goes without saying that the special effects are spectacular. It was pretty obvious that modern technology has finally caught up to being able to realize the idea of Star Trek and of its giant space ships and vision of space exploration. I can only hope the follow-up to this movie takes advantage of such things, and puts them to use not simply for big explosions, phasers and quantum torpedoes, but also of strange new worlds and distant parts of the galaxy.

In anticipation of the movie, I decided to watch as many of the other movies as I could get my hands on, and watch and re-watch episodes of The Original Series. By re-familiarizing myself with the universe and the characters, I believe I was able to better appreciate the way in which the actors inhabit their characters. I was certainly better able to appreciate the numerous… And by numerous, I truly mean numerous, easter eggs in the movie. I doubt I’ve caught them all, but all the ones I did put a smile on my face. That includes a cameo by a very familiar face in a twist that not only stays in continuity with the series as it’s come before, but also stands alone as a reboot. I saw the movie in theaters when it first came out, and recently re-watched it on DVD. I was curious as to whether the movie held up beyond a first showing, and was pleased that it did. I had a blast with the movie, and not just because I love the series. I hope that the movie’s success is really taken advantage of, so that Star Trek truly can live long and prosper. …Sorry, I just had to do it.


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