Theatrical Review: Star Trek

We’ll keep this pretty basic: A hell-bent on revenge Romulan named Nero has set his target on the Federation of Planets and in particular the planet Vulcan and through this, we see how the most familiar crew of the Starship Enterprise gets together in order to stop him…

… oh yeah, it’s also the re-vamp of a very tired franchise from one of the hottest creative forces in Hollywood today…

… and yes, it’s very good, really very good, I’m talking Wrath of Khan good…

Star Trek from director J.J. Abrams has been much anticipated by yours truly since he first heard that Abrams was involved with it. And the ideas that Abrams had about using a very young cast, re-casting the roles of the original series was to me anyway, the shot in the arm that this venerable franchise really needed. I originally wanted him to go further and pretty much ignore everything but the basics and just put his stamp on it. But Abrams and his writing team of Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (his co-conspirators on Fringe) decided to tie it in with original continuity as well, and though I thought it might hurt it to saddle it with that, I’ve got to say that I thought the end result was very satisfying- they’ve essentially found a way to do a new version and still keep the continuity of the old intact.

This is a packed movie- there’s a lot that’s happening here and to Abrams’ credit, I’m amazed at how much he does pack into this slightly over two hour long film. Every one of the main characters gets their shot on the screen with obviously Kirk and Spock getting the most time, but still no one else is left wanting. On top of that, the ideas of the future that Gene Roddenberry had are still very much intact, but this is paced in such a way, that at least in my eyes, it becomes a Star Trek that’s made more for an audience that’s more weened on and accepting of the Star Wars movies more.

The look of the movie is very fresh for the franchise, it’s bright and colorful and goes for shots that you haven’t necessarily seen before in the series. It retains some familiarity with the basic shape of the Enterprise, the structure of such things as the bridge of the ship and the transporter room, but allows itself to get a little more industrial with the engineering section. My favorite salute to the original series though is retaining the look of the classic series uniforms, though there are differences there too, but here, they look fresher than they ever have before.

High marks also for frequent Abrams co-conspirator Michael Giacchino’s music score, who keeps things sounding majestic and exciting and waiting until the exact right moments before some familiar sounds come to the forefront.

But where I give this real high marks is in this great cast that Abrams has assembled to reprise some classic roles- Chris Pine, who plays James T. Kirk has said that he hadn’t seen any of what William Shatner had done on the series prior to this, and he offers up something fresh, but thanks to the script and the direction, he has moments that feel you’re seeing that character start out in some familiar ways. Zachary Quinto, who we better know as Sylar from the Heroes TV series is Spock and he’s just dead on, and yet some new elements have been introduced for him that again makes this both familiar and fresh at the same time. Karl Urban plays Dr. Leonard McCoy and next to Simon Pegg playing Scotty, both look like they’re having the most fun in the world with their parts. Zoe Saldana plays Lt. Uhura, and her part is probably the one that gets the most expanded and updated from any of the main cast of the original series- she’s smart and sexy, and obviously gets to do a whole lot more than just open hailing frequencies. John Cho plays Sulu, and though probably the most quiet of the original crew re-vamps still has a strong inner confidence thanks to Cho. My one problem with the movie, and it’s a moot one, is with Anton Yelchin and his dialogue as Pavel Chekov- and it’s probably not so much with Yelchin in the part, but the fact that they insisted on really going overboard with Chekov’s mangling of “v’s” with “w’s” in his dialogue, and I’m just hoping they’ve gotten that out of their systems with this movie, and hopefully moving forward might temper this a bit more- like I said my only problem with the film, but still this is a very satisfying experience.

That’s just the main crew though, and it’s nice to see that Abrams decided to populate the rest of the film with some more familiar faces. Bruce Greenwood is always a rock in whatever he does and he’s no different as Captain Christopher Pike here. Ben Cross and Winona Ryder are quite solid as Spock’s parents, Sarek and Amanda, so no complaints there. but finally though, we have Leonard Nimoy as Spock and Eric Bana as Nero, and I have to say they’re both terrific, though one might’ve wanted one more scene for Bana. His Nero character is adequately explained here, but one more scene to punctuate that wouldn’t have hurt- and Nimoy reprising Spock in the context of this script is just fantastic, his final line… a great passing of the torch moment.

I was a huge Star Trek fan back when I was a younger, not during the original series run, but more discovering it when it ran in syndication and for years it was a huge influence on me. I loved the original crew movies (though will admit that The Final Frontier was the weakest of the bunch) and The Wrath of Khan was at the time a near-religious experience when I first saw it. I liked the Next Generation stuff when it started, more I think just for the excitement of having a new Star Trek again, though there was certainly a lot of good stuff over it’s run, but I thought that Rick Berman eventually drove this franchise into the ground, and it got more tired and antiseptic as other things like Babylon 5, Farscape, Firefly and Battlestar Galactica showed you could be more fresh and exciting with set-ups that owed to what Star Trek originally established. As the Next Generation movies came out, this got more staid and it was sad to see (at least in my eyes).

Well, no more… J.J. Abrams has truly delivered with Star Trek with an exciting story, incredible visual effects and most importantly a fantastic new cast in the parts of the very classic of all of the characters. This is the movie that I’ve been wanting to see for this franchise and it’s just terrific fun and the promise is there again. The only shame is that it will probably be another three years before we see another one, and this cast is so good that I just want to see another one with them a lot sooner than later…

Star Trek is back! And I for one couldn’t be more excited… if you can’t guess, this gets my highest recommendation- don’t miss it!

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

10. May 2009 by Darren Goodhart
Categories: Text Reviews, Theatrical Review | Leave a comment

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