Star Trek (2009) dir. J.J. Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Bruce Greenwood, Eric Bana
Who would ever have thought a recast Spock, Kirk, Bones, Uruha, Scotty, Sulu and Chekov could have been made into a rebooted franchise? J.J. Abrams strikes gold again adequately updating the 40 year old franchise with maximum coolness. We’ve never seen a Star Trek movie or TNG episode move this kind of pace. From the opening shot, it’s off to the races, with little breathing room to stop and think about an often unfocused and meandering plot.
Flashing back we get to see the origins and formation of the most famous starfleet crew. We get to see Kirk (Chris Pine) birthed as his ship captain father heroically saves his pregnant mother. We see Kirk become a badass rebel getting into fights and skirting the law in typical rebellious fashion - a woeful underachiever destined for greatness. We see the childhood trauma Spock's (Zachary Quinto) half human ancestry and his cross-cultural identity problems cause him in his youth. While in starfleed academy the elder mentor Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) recognizes the leadership talent of Kirk and encourages his development despite objections from his peers, including Mr. Spock.
When Spock's planet of Vulcan is threatened by a rogue Romulan assailant, the Enterprise crew including, Bones, Sulu, Uruha, et al captained by Pike embark on their first mission together. The bland and underdeveloped Romulan baddie Capt Nero (Eric Bana) has set a trap for the crew, a plan of action to hunt down and kill none other than Mr. Spock - a mission of revenge which will involve a number of trips through time and space.
“Star Trek” unfortunately isn't elevated to the upper tier of say, "Iron Man" or "The Dark Knight", but its a fine example of that same character-based blockbuster entertainment. Visually, it’s like Star Trek on steroids, Abrams’ desire to make it ‘not your father’s Star Trek’, has meant, at times, an incomprehensible mash of shakey picture, tight angled close-ups and a hyperkinetic camera movements, reminding us of those early Michael Bay pictures.
Abrams has enough cinematic chutzpah to hurdle his often atrociously written screenplay by Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman. Seriously, how do these guys keep getting work? Carefully looking at the individual scenes , at times the writing is even more amateurish than "Transformers". It's an unnecessarily overtooled narrative. Just as we're trying to re-ingratiate ourselves with these old characters Abrams unnecessarily sends us through black holes, warping us through time. Sure it allows us to see Mr. Nimoy again, but really, save that stuff for the second or third sequels. At one point the writing duo throws us into an elaborate scene of shameless exposition as the Leonard Nimoy Spock plainly describes to Kirk why the hell he's in the movie. And a number of scenes which seems ripe for the cutting room floor seem to have no point whatsoever - namely the Iowa car chase we've seen in the trailer and a Star Wars-like monster attack in the snow. Both are headscratchers and serve no plot purpose whatsoever.
Thankfully it’s not complicated enough to require acute attention to the character movements. The actors playing the roles are red hot and buff and look and sound like a Laguna Beach version of “Star Trek”. Nichelle Nichols was never that hot as Uruha, James Doohan never that clever or funny as Scotty, and even Chris Pine, exaggerates the affability, brawniness, cockiness and horniness of William Shatner's Kirk. There’s no doubt the film is Spock’s picture though. Zachary Quinto, looking identical to a young Leonard Nimoy, brings as much of the logically cold demeanor as Nimoy ever did along with a competing humanism which causes him his inner conflict. He is the heart and soul of the film.
Abrams gets the Trek lore right. Trekkies will love the linkages with both the original series and the movies. Elements of “The Wrath of Khan” provides fun linkups, including the Kobayshi Maru test and Kirk’s personal character flaws which allow him to rise quickly to captain of the enterprise. Watch carefully how the Capt Pike character is played out. Hardcore Trekkies should beam with delight the obscure link up to the great Season 1 episode, “The Menagerie”.
Star Trek succeeds as blockbuster, delivering the spectacle, humour and energy required distract us for two hours and maintaining the integrity of the franchise. Enjoy.