This is one of the harder reviews for a movie I’ve written to date. It’s hard not because I’m a Star Wars fan and I liked Star Trek, or because I’m a Star Wars fan and I didn’t like Star Trek, or because I think I’m eating a big ole steaming pile of crow, or for any reason that has to do with all of my jokes about Trekkies. It’s a hard review to write because, quite frankly, I was prepared to write a glowing review of a Star Trek movie. I was ready to completely gush over what J.J. Abrams brought to the big screen and the final frontier. I was ready to enthusiastically call for sequel upon sequel. I was beefing up on all my Star Wars defenses getting ready to have to more strenuously defend my Star Franchise of choice. However, This is just a regular movie review. Why? This movie was good my friends, but it was no Star Wars.
When I first heard that J.J. Abrams was relaunching the Star Trek franchise I was intrigued and kind of excited. I felt like Star Trek didn’t get the send off theatrically that it deserved. Regardless of what you may think about Nemesis, the Next Gen crew deserved a better, more epic end to their tales on the big screen. As different Star Trek alum have passed over the recent years, the idea of seeing Kirk, Spock, Bones, Scotty, and the crew on the big screen ever again was relegated to special screenings of the original movies. Now, someone was actually putting it all out there. Someone was doing the unthinkable…recasting these roles. Trek fans everywhere stood back aghast at the thought. The questions of William Shatner showing up began to be asked. Leonard Nimoy was suddenly on board, and people scratched their heads. Pictures leaked. Stills were realeased. People debated, bemoaned, and some were excited at the prospect.
Then, that teaser hit with Cloverfield almost a year and a half ago. As Nimoy uttered those iconic words, the debate stopped, the moaning and whining stopped, if only for a bit, because regardless of a person’s opinion of what was happening to Trek, that teaser got us all excited.
In the months leading up to it’s release, I truly thought Star Trek was gonna steal the Summer show. I thought it was gonna be THE picture of 2009. I was sure that when it hit theaters, the Summer would just be a downhill ride from there.
Don’t get me wrong, Star Trek was good. But it wasn’t “end all, be all” good.
From the outset, let me say again that J.J. Abrams and crew have done the unthinkable and pulled it off. Like Scotty pulling nearly warp 10 out of a Klingon Bird of Prey, J.J. Abrams coaxed everything he could out of Star Trek and put it all on the screen in a way no one has ever seen Star Trek before.
There’s so much good about this movie, that it’s hard to know where to begin.
I really like the introduction to Kirk and Spock. The idea that these two characters are rebels in their own way on their respective planets show us how it is that they can become such good friends years down the road. They have an understanding of one another before they ever truly meet. These two are, understandably, the focal points in terms of the cast throughout much of the movie. It’s Kirk and Spock, and if these characters aren’t done right, then the movie fails.
Chris Pine is my new James T. Kirk. I completely believed him in the role. I loved that he had all of the swagger that everyone has always told me Kirk had. You see, I have never seen Kirk as the cool ladies man that everyone says he is. So to see Chris Pine try to pick up Uhura at a bar and fail, but not be daunted by it, and later hooking up with a green chick (Original series joke in and of itself), and throughout all of his tests, trials, and troubles still maintain a wit and charm not seen since Han Solo makes me like Kirk more than I ever have.
Zachary Quinto was an inspired choice to cast as Spock. He brings to the table all of the necessary elements to play the Vulcan Science Officer, and in this new version of the character is allowed a little more emotional room to work with. He does this excellently. He gets emotional without getting emotional and when he DOES finally explode, it’s scary and we are reminded that Spock is not one to be trifled with.
Zoe Saldana portrays the Uhura that Trekkies have always loved, with some 21st century sensibilities that weren’t there when the character was originally conceived. Things have changed a bit since the original series aired and the presence of a strong female character on screen isn’t as revolutionary as it once was. However, because we are willing to accept more from our female characters, Saldana is able to take the character of Uhura to places we’ve never seen the character go before. We get to see more passion than I recall in the character and it only serves to make Uhura more interesting than she’s ever been to me.
John Cho’s Sulu is probably the most problematic of the crew for me. Mainly because I can’t help but see Harold from the Harold and Kumar movies. Also, one of the coolest things about Sulu to me was his voice. Unfortunately, Harold doesn’t have the weight and deep timbre of voice that George Takai has and it causes his character to not stand out for me. However, Sulu was given more to do in this movie than he was in any of the previous movies. Harold was great in his action sequence with Kirk.
I’m not familiar with Anton Yelchin outside of this movie, but I like what he did with Chekov. Having said that though, do we really need Chekov?
Simon Pegg was great as Scotty. He brings the fun and the wonder to the character that we all expect from Scotty.
Karl Urban, however, stole the show from everyone for me. My favorite moments were when Dr. Leonard McCoy was on screen. Urban captured the voice of McCoy perfectly, both literally and figuratively. From his introduction (“All I got left is m’bones.”) to the “I’m a doctor” line, he was perfect as Bones, and the fact that he and Kirk strike up a friendship from their first meeting is so fitting. I can’t think of anyone more suited to step into the role after seeing what Urban did with the character. As I walked out of the theater, it was with Urban that I was most pleased.
Then there’s the story.
I liked the way that each member of the classic Enterprise crew came into their positions. I liked that Kirk basically forced his way onto the ship. I liked that Kirk and Spock are initially at odds with each other. I liked that the crew of the Enterprise came together to overcome overwhelming odds and save Earth and the Federation.
I don’t know how I feel about the time travel aspect. Honestly, going in I knew that Spock would be traveling back in time, but I didn’t expect it to be such a major portion of the story. I didn’t expect the entire story to revolve around time travel, and I didn’t expect all of Trek history to be altered by this one story.
I think that’s the catching point for me. While it took guts for J.J. Abrams and crew to do a full on reboot of the Star Trek franchise, it feels a bit contrived and scared of Trekkies to say, “Well, we may be doing something new, but it doesn’t in any way undo what you have come to know and love.” I just don’t like the idea of throwing in time travel to explain away every discrepancy in the new franchise and the old. How about this…How about it’s A NEW FRANCHISE! THINGS ARE GONNA BE DIFFERENT!
The villain of Nero had his moments, but in the end, it was a character anyone could have played. Eric Bana is too good of an actor to throw into a role that could have been given to anyone wiling to wear the makeup. In fact, Nero had the same problems that most Trek villains have. There is an attempt at some emotional depth and dynamic characterization, but it falls flat in light of the big scheme to take down the Federation. Hopefully, we’ll see more compelling villains in the future.
There are other points I could nitpick. The Kobiyashi Maru (I have no idea if that’s spelled right) Test was something that I loved hearing about Kirk beating in Star Trek 2, but I imagined differently. I always imagined Kirk ripping off a computer panel in the middle of the test and reprogramming it while the simulator was blowing up around him. While it is understood that the green chick fixed things for him, it is never clearly explained. So a scene that should have been great fell a bit flat for me.
Kirk on an ice planet has been done before. A drop of the lava lamp liquid causes a black hole that consumes a planet, but the Enterprise can escape the effects of an exercise ball sized amount of the stuff? The creatures on teh ice planet reminded me of Star Wars moments. (Always a bigger fish.) Spock and Uhura having a relationship added nothing to the movie. And, I’m sorry…but did I see HYPERSPACE LINES starting to form as the Enterprise was about to jump to warp speed for the first time. Go check it out…you’ll see what I’m talking about.
As I sat and watched this film, there was so much that reminded me of so much else. That is a problem. Star Trek shouldn’t be inspired by other franchises. (Even Star Wars) Star Trek should be setting the standard. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened in this movie.
Overall, however, Star Trek is an awesome movie. It is a great start to what is hopefully a new series of films for the franchise. The cast is so strong that I want to see these characters on screen again for anything.
Michael Giacchino’s score is definitely worth picking up and adds a lot to the movie. I like the fact that he avoided the temptation of using variations of the classic Star Trek theme throughout and waited til the ending credits to give us classic Star Trek music. His score works so well for the moments. It feels epic and adventurous. It’s powerful and moving. It works. It just works so well.
ILM’s effect work was…well, it’s ILM…they cut their teeth on space movies. (STAR WARS)
In the end, I give Star Trek a 4 out of 5. While 4 seems better than what I think, 3 seems too low, so I’ll go with the more positive review of 4 out of 5.
Yes, friends, Star Trek was good…but it was no Star Wars.