REVIEW: Star Trek [2009]

“You can whistle real loud”

Time-traveling Romulans? Why has no one thought of that yet? Leave it to the crew behind the hit series “Lost” and its time-traveling physics in season five to breathe some fresh air into a franchise that has been out of theatres for seven years. Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman showed they could do serious action with Mission: Impossible III, but the campiness of Transformers gave me trepidation that their reboot/prequel Star Trek might lose its way. However, with a guy like J.J. Abrams at the helm to steer the ship, I never should have lost faith. The origin story for all your favorites like Kirk and Spock is everything you’d hope it could be. The humor is great, the effects spectacular, the acting really good, (thank you for not making Chris Pine do a William Shatner caricature), and the story intricate in its own rite, being deeper than just a throwaway film to introduce people and set up a sequel. And who would have thought Karl Urban and Simon Pegg shouting out fan favorite lines as Bones and Scotty respectively could actually fit in and not seem forced or cheesy. Star Trek is back and better than ever; good job Paramount for giving the con to an admitted Trekkie novice who’s outside perspective was just what the series needed.

In any lesser hands, Star Trek could have fallen prey to the origin story syndrome of so many, spending too much time on characters that most know a lot about, leaving the plot and ultimate climax to suffer. How many times do you get a great story full of exposition only to see a beloved villain get wasted in the first film, with an epic battle becoming little more than a whimper? Orci and Kurtzman seem to understand this fact and therefore create a whole new creature to act as antagonist. Captain Nero is a Romulan who has accidentally been sent from the future through a black hole, looking for revenge on the man he holds responsible for the annihilation of his home world. He is a wild card unknown to the Federation, someone with a superior ship and weapons, a force for which no plans exist to confront him. He is the perfect adversary to help vault James Tiberius Kirk into the Captain’s chair on the Starship Enterprise. Nero can’t be reasoned with, he must be reacted to in kind, with as much improvisation as possible. No one is better at going into a fight undermanned and underpowered, yet still feeling as though he has the advantage, than Kirk.

But even though he is an egomaniac, too smart for his own good and bad boy demeanor, he must learn to trust and rely on those around him, even if they disagree. Not having ever watched the original television series, but having seen a couple of the films, I always did found it interesting that someone so cavalier as Kirk could be so close of friends with a Vulcan like Spock, pretty much unemotional, by the books, and unrelenting in his logic. Here we get the answers. We learn about Spock’s interspecies parents—Vulcan father and human mother—and how the two races have affected his internal structure and emotional gauge. We also see Kirk’s hardnosed childhood without a father in backwoods Iowa, a chip perpetually on his shoulder. It is an adolescence brought on by the ripple through time Captain Nero has caused, coincidentally being the direct reason for Kirk’s father’s death in this alternate reality. Whereas “Lost” posits that the past cannot be changed, Star Trek not only says in can, but also does so without warning. The crewmembers you know from old discover each other, find their way onto the Enterprise through aptitude or sheer dumb luck, and discover the strengths they each possess, forming the bonds and work ethic that will keep peace in the universe for years to come.

I loved the camerawork and cinematography. The lens flares and glares galore, the shiny/reflective metallic surfaces all around this futuristic world, and even the starship animation couldn’t be better. Action-packed and yet keeping true to a story, you can’t ask for more out of a summer blockbuster. Abrams has infused his penchant for humor and assembled a perfect cast to play it out. John Cho and Simon Pegg show they shouldn’t be relegated to only comedic fare. Pegg keeps the laughs coming of course, utilizing a thick Scottish accent, and Cho brings some seriousness to the proceedings, even showing off Sulu’s fencing prowess. Anton Yelchin’s accent as Pavel Chekov begs the question on whether that is his real voice or not. I’ve seen him in so many films with an American accent, but the kid was born in Russia, so maybe the American is indeed the fake one. He excels as the jubilant seventeen year old on the bridge, excited at any opportunity to use his mathematical skills to save lives and solves problems. Zoe Saldana as Uhura and Bruce Greenwood as Captain Pike round out the supporting roles nicely, playing their parts with aplomb.

The real success stories come from our trifecta of leads, Chris Pine’s Kirk, Zachary Quinto’s Spock, and Eric Bana’s Nero. Bana brings some real malice to the role of the villain. He is an imposing figure, even more so with his introduction at the start, brooding in his chair while his right-hand man, played by Clifton Collins Jr., does the talking before he strikes. Quinto was a no-brainer choice to play Spock as his Sylar from “Heroes” contains similar mechanics and streamlined actions. You do miss the sly smirk that that character brings, but the tumultuous conflict of emotions battling each other behind Spock’s eyes show the fire inside—the human part of him unwilling to stay buried. Watching him be so matter-of-fact with lines such as “I’m not familiar with humans’ idea of the prank” elicits many laughs, but never at the character’s expense. And Pine really shows what he is made of here. A badass, smart mouthed, punk hiding a mind and willingness to lead, his Kirk couldn’t be better. With some great one-liners and perfect timing, you really start to like this kid and understand why he will become the great leader he does. You even see a little of Shatner in the role—and that’s a good thing, especially since oddly timed verbal pauses weren’t necessary to do so.

Star Trek is everything it has been built up to be. A worthy addition to the series and possible frontrunner quality-wise to the rest, Abrams has restarted the franchise and I’m sure reinvigorated the public’s want for the Federation. I hope the cast and crew continues to create more, as long as the professionalism and strong storytelling stays intact. If you want story, action, science fiction, or just some good ol’ Trekkie fun, go out and see it now because it’s all included. All the characters are present, each developing and honing the quirks and idiosyncrasies we’ve grown to love from them. Not to mention many a fanboy’s dream in seeing Leonard Nimoy play opposite Quinto, passing the torch onto a new generation. Television be damned, Star Trek may have some legs to make many more films, keeping the tradition alive while earning new, younger fans. This world has some more life in it after all.

Star Trek 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½

[1] Anton Yelchin, Chris Pine, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, John Cho and Zoe Saldana in Paramount Pictures’ Star Trek (2009) Copyright © Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
[2] Eric Bana stars as Nero in Paramount Pictures’ Star Trek (2009) Copyright © Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
[3] A scene from Paramount Pictures’ Star Trek (2009) Copyright © Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.


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