directed by J.J. Abrams
starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, Zoe Saldana
The surviving original Enterprise crew are collecting Federation Social Security. Voyager and Deep Space Nine have apparently been deemed unfit for the big screen; Star Trek: Enterprise has been abandoned. How will the franchise continue, and more importantly, how can it continue to be relevant? Where has no director gone before?
The beginning, of course. The very beginning.
As the simple name implies, Star Trek re-boots Roddenberry’s vaunted creation literally from birth, with an expectedly epic origin-tale.
The challenge? Simultaneously pleasing older fans and hardcore Trekkies while luring that all-important, under-25 demographic into the fold. It had to be foremost on Lost creator J.J. Abrams’ brilliant mind as he embarked on this very risky venture; there were a dozen ways he could’ve screwed up the maiden voyage of James T. Kirk’s Enterprise. However, by respecting the original Trek’s characters as he breathes new life into them, Abrams will satisfy almost everyone. Star Trek certainly offers something for every movie-goer: Briskly paced, Jonny Quest-like action, sans choppy editing; gorgeous, 2001-style, crystal-clear cinematography, and a few inventive, potentially controversial injections into the Trek universe that ultimately work because, again, the filmmakers’ hearts are in the right place.
Yes, Abrams couldn’t help but tuck some heretical gestures into this movie’s many surprises. One certainly would never expect to hear a Beastie Boys classic or see a vintage Corvette convertible in a Star Trek flick. Seemingly implausible, but wildly successful moves, nonetheless.
Star Trek centers around Spock and Kirk’s early relationship. The latter (Chris Pine) is a two-fisted, joy-riding rebel, saved from a directionless life by a friend of his legendary father’s, Capt. Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood). Young Spock (Heroes baddie Zachary Quinto), breezing through his Vulcan education, struggles to control his emotions as he experiences bigotry aimed at his half-human, half-Vulcan lineage. The two later meet at Starfleet Academy, where Spock serves as an instructor and Kirk is, well, nailin’ green chicks. The by-the-book scientist misinterprets Kirk’s tactical genius as cheating, and the two budding icons’ adversarial relationship weaves its way through the film’s plot.
While Shatner’s Kirk and Nimoy’s Spock were the stars of the original series, every Trek lover knows that the show thrived on the supporting cast’s portrayal of the crew. In imagining and casting a young Uhura, McCoy, Scotty, Chekov and Sulu, the filmmakers were hit-and-miss, with the “hits” compensating for the few missteps. Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban), in his late 20s, is a recent divorcee who views a tour with Starfleet akin to escaping to the French Foreign Legion; unfortunately, space travel terrifies him. The Kiwi actor steals almost every one of his scenes as fiery young Kirk’s hilarious, quick-with-a-syringe protector. Zoe Saldana’s somewhat icy Uhura is not quite right, in that hard-to-put-a-finger-on way; however, her rebuffs of Kirk’s advances are notable. Sulu (John Cho, Harold & Kumar) is solid, brave and handy with a sword, but the comedic focus on 17-year-old Chekov’s (Anton Yelchin) thick Russian accent becomes irritating. And then there’s the engineer… the casting and portrayal of Trek’s most beloved character was a make-or-break proposition for the film, and Simon Pegg sinks it from half-court – his gutsy, earnest and funny-as-hell Scotty would have made the late, great James Doohan proud.
As for Spock and Kirk… the young First Officer has yet to develop that ironic sense of humor, but brings a lot to the table besides a pair of pointy ears and a measured demeanor. Pine, the relative unknown, is spot-on fabulous as a swashbuckling legend-in-the-making. He carries this film through its weakest link – the plot. Convoluted and sometimes confusing, its purpose seems to be the insertion of Leonard Nimoy into the film. With all due respect, many will find that the last half should have been trimmed in favor of further development of the first chapters – or at least, to develop an antagonist.
It’s a good thing that Star Trek is an exception to the old adage about being only as good as the villain. Eric Bana’s talents are once again wasted as Nero, a one-dimensional, forgettable foe whose reasons for wanting to destroy the entire Federation are flimsy, at best. No Borg, no Khan, just a guy with a squid-shaped spaceship.
Yes, there are flaws, cracks to be found in this new vision of the old Enterprise. However, no Trek movie has reached perfection, not even The Wrath of Khan. Star Trek has plenty going for it, though – a great crew, top-notch action sequences, and most importantly, the hallmarks that made the original series successful. The blend of cool and corny, tragedy and comic relief – plus those classic catch-phrases – are all here. Oh, and it might be the most beautifully filmed installment of the franchise; the opening, edge-of-your seat sequence is absolutely breathtaking.
All one has to do is clean the slate, leave any old Trek baggage with the usher, sit back and enjoy the ride. Star Trek is worth at least two tickets.
Star Trek: http://www.startrek.com