a critiQal film review Star Trek (2009)

Plot: When danger threatens the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise during her maiden voyage, the fate of the galaxy rests in the hands of bitter rivals. One, James T. Kirk (Pine), is a delinquent, thrill-seeking Iowa farm boy. The other, Spock (Quinto), was raised in a logic-based society that rejects all emotion. As fiery instinct clashes with calm reason, their unlikely but powerful partnership is the only thing capable of leading their crew through unimaginable danger, boldly going where no one has gone before!

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  • ...Abrams' new vision is something to behold, and should garner praise from old fans while attracting a whole new crowd into the Trek universe.

While I wouldn’t exactly consider myself a “Trekkie,” I’ve been a fan of the film series over the years. While I never really got into the re-runs of the original series on television, the movies did a good job of producing decent snippets of the characters. I did catch a bit of the “Trekkie” bug once “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (TV) hit the air, and enjoyed their foray into films even more. That’s about where my interest ended, however, and I never did get around to checking out any of the other future spin-offs of the original show.

So, when I first heard about a new Star Trek film coming out, I wasn’t too excited. – after all, the previous films had pretty much buried the series after hitting their peak with Star Trek: First Contact (1996). But, as I kept hearing more about this new Star Trek, I started getting interested. A fresh new cast? Sounds good – shake things up a little. A “reboot”? Works for me – show us something fresh and exciting. Directed by J. J. Abrams, whose previous success have included Mission: Impossible III (2006) and “Alias” (TV)? Let the wunderkid loose!

But amidst my growing excitement, I was a bit worried. Would Abrams be able to pull another rabbit out of his hat and revitalize the series with his reboot, or would this film be the final stone over the series’ grave? Since I couldn’t wait to find out, it was a given that Star Trek was going to be stop #2 in our Summer At The Movies ’09.

The new cast has some familiar faces mixed in with the newcomers. While James Kirk himself, Chris Pine, is a relative newcomer to the biz, he’s balanced out well by Zachary Quinto’s (“Heroes” (TV)) Spock. Just as Spock tends to help Pine through some of his scenes (possibly giving some sage advice on acting in the background), Karl Urban’s (Doom (2005)) Bones does a good job of lending a hand when Spock isn’t around. And Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead (2004)) seems to still exist within his own world in the movie biz, lending an irreverent zanity to the proceedings when needed.

Only John Cho’s (Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle) interpretation of Sulu seems out of place amongst the familiar faces, but if his ex-partner Kal Penn can go from “House, M.D.” (TV) to joining the President’s staff as the Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Liason, then anything is possible.

And, unfortunately for Eric Bana, the villain of the pic gets a bit of a short shift, since the story is more about the origins of Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise rather than about any real threat. It’s more focused on how the characters respond to a big threat, rather than the threat itself, leaving villain Nero (played by Bana) to garner less screen time than expected.

That’s not to say the newbies don’t get their own sequences, of course. Chris Pine manages to stand all on his own in several sequences, especially when he’s trying to engage in a battle of wits with Zoe Saldana’s Uhura.

For die-hard Trekkie fans, the rumors are true – Leonard Nimoy (the original Spock) does put in an appearance in the film. While he looks older and more ragged than ever, Spock is ingrained within him at this point, and he manages to easily slip back into his very familiar character.

The plot is somewhat hard to follow at first, as fans of the series try to make sense of the changes happening to the mythology on-screen, but even that makes the viewer pay closer attention to what’s going on. When it is explained (and blamed once again on time travel), it does a good job of setting up a whole new series of films, ones where reality is slightly different from what series’ fans would expect. While most of these changes are shocking, enough stays the same that fans should be able to take the changes in stride.

Abrams new vision of the Star Trek universe is bold without being too bold. He manages to shake things up a bit, but at the same time leaves enough of the mythology intact to keep fans of the previous films and tv shows sticking around. His new approach – which includes quite a bit of humor and a few silly aliens – manages to both spoof and pay homage to the episodes and films that have come before it. How he straddles that line without going too far in either direction is as impressive as it is surprising. However he does it, his new vision is something to behold, and should garner praise from old fans while attracting a whole new crowd into the Trek universe.

Whether you are a fan of the previous films and TV shows (me), or you’ve done your best to avoid them at all costs (Heather), you should check out this new Star Trek. It’s definitely worth the price of admission, and a wonderful edition to our Summer At The Movies ’09.

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