Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Star Trek (2009) Review

Star Trek (2009)
Your ancestors continued a franchise for ten movies; they lost the interest of their audience over the years; I dare you to make the audience give a damn

I am now officially a fan of Star Trek. It took me a few episodes of the show, one revered sequel, and one reboot to get to this point, but now I finally have an interest in the Trek universe. But how can this be? A longstanding Star Wars fan that is now also a fan of Star Trek? Highly illogical, yet actually this makes sense in retrospect. If Trek was character driven science fiction, then Wars was the action packed counter to Trek’s slower pacing. While Star Wars was a much more mainstream series, Star Trek was driven by its cult following of dedicated fans. What director J.J. Abrams has done with this reboot is bring in the crowd pleasing spectacle of Star Wars, yet still keep the same sense of character development and discovery that marked old school Trek. Lets see what the results are.

Plot Synopsis: While traveling through space, the USS Kelvin is suddenly ambushed by ship run by a rogue Romulan named Nero. When the Kelvin's captain leaves to negotiate a truce, he leaves George Kirk as the new captain. The negotiations fail and the Kelvin is destroyed when Kirk sacrifices himself, but not before saving the other 800 crewmembers which include his wife and newborn son James. Flash forward years later, and James is now in his 20s living as a rough and tumble thrill seeker. He is found by Captain Pike, who was one of the crewmembers that George saved on the Kelvin and he wants James to enlist in Star Fleet, to which he reluctantly agrees. When Nero makes another appearance and the newly built starship USS Enterprise is set to take off, Kirk hops aboard the ship, despite his suspension for cheating on the Kobayashi Maru test. Along the way, he meets the likes of Spock, Leonard “Bones” McCoy, Uhura, Chekhov, and Sulu, who’ll have to put their differences aside and work together in order to defeat Nero. But wait, where is Scotty?! Don’t worry, Scotty does show up, but not until past the one hour mark.

One of the most impressive aspects of this prequel/reboot is its uniformly excellent cast. Every one of the actors, including Chris Pine (Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Zoe Saldana (Uhura), Karl Urban (Bones), Anton Yelchin (Chekhov), John Cho (Sulu) and Simon Pegg (Scotty), successfully channel the qualities of these decades old characters while not coming off as cheap imitations. Pine, even with his ‘pretty boy’ looks, makes for an engaging Kirk, showcasing Kirk’s bravado and cocky attitude while still keeping him a likable character. Pegg was a great choice to take over Scotty from the late James Doohan. But it is Quinto that steals the show from the rest. Although Spock has always been half Vulcan and half human, the original show never really probed the possibilities of this characterization. Quinto’s Spock is a man that wants to be like every other Vulcan, but underneath his cold, logical exterior there is a hot, emotional fire waiting to release itself when his human side comes into play. Kirk and Spock’s different natures are at odds with each other most of the time, but over the course of the story they believably grow to understand and respect one another just as they did in the original series.

Another strong point is Eric Bana as the revenge minded Nero. While Bana doesn’t quite reach the heights of Ricardo Montalban from The Wrath of Khan, Nero is still a very menacing villain who also has a pretty awesome spaceship to back that up. Making a surprise appearance is Leonard Nimoy, the original Spock himself. While it is great to see that Nimoy can slip right back into those Vulcan ears like he wore them yesterday, the real thrill is how he is written into the plot. He and Nero were both accidentally sent back in time through a black hole for reasons I leave for you to find out, therefore altering the path of time. Basically what director Abrams and his writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman have done is find a way to allow this timeline to veer off into its own directions without negating the events of the original timeline. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the film can’t make several nods to some of the more memorable parts of the original. But rather than having the entire movie be filled with nods, these moments arrive at exactly the right moments and feel genuine, rather than forced. Many of the characters get to recite their classic catchphrases, while hardcore fans will spot some moments that evoke The Wrath of Khan and various other references.


I’ve mentioned J.J. Abrams several times during this review, but I haven’t really talked about why he is so noteworthy. Simply put, he makes Star Trek actually feel fresh and new, despite having to navigate a universe that had been reheated and overexposed so many times that it became a joke. One reason for this freshness is the films faster pacing and concentration on wowing the audience. I’m sure many fans will think that Star Trek has been dumbed down in order to satisfy the masses, but this is not the case, as this action-oriented mindset is precisely why the movie is so damn entertaining while still keeping with the spirit and atmosphere of classic Trek. Michael Giacchino’s epic music score is excellent, and Abrams’ nimble camera sweeps across massive space battles and close quarters shootouts, increasing the excitement of the moment as we watch the impeccably rendered special effects (finally!!!) work their magic. Yes, Star Trek actually has believable special effects. Praise be to God.

There are a couple of nit picks that I have with the film though. Anton Yelchin could’ve toned down Chekhov’s Russian accent just a little bit, and the way Kirk’s birth is handled is kind of heavy handed. Also, Scotty now has an alien friend that, although he isn’t particularly annoying in any way, has no purpose at all. And speaking of Scotty, the way he becomes the Enterprise’s technician is pretty hard to swallow. Still, these are just minor issues that don’t ruin the movie and how it works. Star Trek is grand, operatic science fiction that boldly goes where it has already gone before, and yet still comes out as an immensely entertaining movie in its own right.


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