Star Trek is a franchise many wrote off as dead years ago. The recent TV series have been lackluster and the movies even worse. But I am still a fan of the original series, “The Next Generation,” and about half of “Deep Space 9,” so when I heard that the original series was getting a reboot movie with Lost executive producer J.J. Abrams at its helm, my expectations rose higher then “Star Trek” has brought them in years.
The reboot doesn’t disappoint. You’ll want to go back and see it again.
As Abrams has showed us with “Alias,” “Lost” and “Fringe,” he has a talent for making what would normally seem boring or clichƒ© into something riveting. Not an exception, this film pulls no punches, and starts out lightning fast. It refuses to give up this pace even in its quieter scenes.
Written by: Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman
Starring: Chris Pine, Bruce Greenwood, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Zachary Quinto, Winona Ryder, Eric Bana, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin, Leonard Nimoy
Running Time: 126 minutes
Seen at: Regal Fenway 13
While other recent science fiction films suffer from a lack of tension in their expository scenes, “Star Trek” excels. Due to the speed and flow of the movie, I found myself wanting more when the lights turned on. I wanted to know where the Enterprise would go to next. I wanted to know how this collection of crewmates goes on with their lives. I wanted more and, before long, I realized that this was not just a good “Star Trek” movie, or a good science fiction movie, but a good movie.
Like “Iron Man” did last year, this film burst out of its genre while still defining it. It has time travel, phasers, space ships and aliens, but the movie isn’t about those things. Its genre is simply a setting to tell the stories of these people, not to characterize them. Kirk and the bunch would work as well as a group of cowboys, or a small town police force. They are good characters that just happen to exist in the time of space exploration.
The plot is a bit more complex than the normal sci-fi fare, but nothing too puzzling. To make a long story short, it’s a basic tale about how the crew of the Enterprise forms to save the Federation from an outside threat. It’s fairly basic, and a bit overdone, but it’s done very well here.
There is another aspect of the plot involving time travel (Losties will recognize this theme as a current Abrams favorite), that fuels the main one and also explains why this version is different the original series.
It’s very clear that Abrams is a fan of “The Wrath of Khan.” From the villain’s motives to the overall plot, to some of the references and subtitles, this movie clearly pays respect to the best “Star Trek” movie to proceed it.
The new cast gives a reboot to beloved original series characters, choosing to embrace some different aspects of the characters fans know and love. We are reminded that this isn’t going to be a homage to the original series when we see Kirk for the first time. Channeling more Cruise then Shatner, Chris Pine gives us more of the daredevil thrill junky aspect of James T. Kirk, than the slapstick playboy that Shatner was.
Zachary Quinto ended up bearing more than a physical resemblance to Spock as he filled out all aspects of a deceptively deep character. Rather than stay stoic like Leonard Nimoy, Quinto chose to visibly suppress emotion.
These two might take the top billing, but this is certainly an ensemble movie. Karl Urban doesn’t get the screen time he deserves but he nailed the role of Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy,by bringing a legitimate aspect of friendship to Kirk. Simon Pegg interjects some comedy as Scotty while fleshing out the character’s background and mannerisms. Sulu and Chekov, portrayed by John Cho and Anton Yelchin respectively, had minor but very important roles. Both actors gave great performances and each had a signature scene that makes the character stand out.
Zoe Saldana portrayed Uhura, but didn’t bring as much to the role as other cast mates did to theirs. That being said — and once again referring back to the original series — Uhura got a lot more facetime than her earlier counterpart.
Outside of the Enterprise crew, Eric Bana plays the main villain, a romulan named Nero. Nero fills the role of a man scorned, using his strength and feral cunning to get his revenge. Much like Khan so many years ago, Nero owes a lot of his characterization to Captain Ahab from “Moby Dick.” I guess some classics never grow old, and that is a fact that this new “Star Trek” is relying on.
“Star Trek” has a built in audience and that is both a blessing and a curse. While it guarantees filled seats, they might not be filled with happy people. Abrams clearly knows this, and puts in enough original series shout-outs and references to tame even then most rage filled nerd. The movie has the Kobayashi Maru, a green-skinned companion, a Red Shirt and I think I even saw a Tribble in the background.
Sure, those things are put in there for old fans to reacquaint themselves into this new universe, but what’s better is they didn’t hurt the movie at all. From years of watching “Lost,” “Alias,” and now “Fringe,” I have learned that is Abrams can do one thing right, its attention to detail. When Kirk pulls up to the Starfleet recruiting station, his bike looks like nothing we have ever seen, yet is instantly recognizable as the evolution of the motorcycle. The rust on the side, and the chipped paint tell us that this isn’t the pinnacle of technology, even though its completely new to us. Without saying a word, the environment has told us about the world, technology and about Kirk’s personality. This is just one of hundreds of examples littered throughout the movie, making it more than just the standard space flick. The action is amazing and alone is worth the price of admission, but Abrams certainly separated “Star Trek” from just being an overly shiny popcorn flick, while still remaining accessible.
“Star Trek” has turned out to be not only a great addition to the “Star Trek” series, but a great movie for new comers as well. Abrams has a true understanding of this franchise, and I am already looking forward to 2011 for the next installment. The acting was top notch, the effects were astounding and the attention to detail was the highest I have seen in a while. Overall, I expect this to be the top grossing movie this year, and it deserves every penny.
But I am just a reviewer and I merely critique films, not determine their popular standing. To let the fans speak for themselves, I waited until after the theater lights had turned out, until the sound of hundreds of Star Trek fans — some even in costume — clapping and cheering, subsided, to listen in on the conversations they were having.
Not one of them said a negative word about what was done to their favorite characters. Not one of them complained that the film had disgraced the old series. Not one of them said they were bored. Not one of them wanted anything any different. Not one of them disappointed.
I couldn’t write a better review than that.