Star Trek movie reviewMay 26th, 2009 | By Zach | Category: From the Archives, Movie Reviews, Reviews
Review by Zach Becker
Who would have thought that a screen adaptation of a television series over four decades old would feel this fresh, new and exciting?
But here, we see how these famous characters come together as young cadets and form a lasting bond of friendship. The special effects and action are strong in this new chapter in the Trek saga, but it is the character interaction that drives this film and gives it a necessary sense of light-hearted adventurous fun.
As an admitted die-hard Trekkie, I had my doubts about this film. How could new actors hope to fill the shoes of characters that were almost ubiquitous with the people who originally portrayed them? Thankfully, the cast took the roles in their own direction, while still capturing the essence of what made these characters so memorable. The film focuses on the origin of James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto). Early scenes of animosity between young cadet Kirk and Spock are some of the highlights of the film, as are subsequent events as they slowly learn to trust one another.
Star Trek had started to grow stale and convoluted over the course of five television series and 10 feature films, bogging down good storytelling with the need to maintain the massive plot continuity of over 100 years of back story.
With a plot involving time-travel, Abrams effectively wipes out the original Trek time-line (without simply acting like it didn’t exist), opening up some interesting scenarios for future films with old characters and cultures from the Star Trek universe. (I’d like to see Kirk go toe to toe with Khan again, or maybe we could see an early appearance by the Borg? What if Khan was assimilated by the Borg? Oh, the possibilities!)
With virtually unknown young actors at the helm (much like in the original series), the new cast brings a sense of vigor and fun to a film that could have been a simple money-grubbing rehash of an aging, but still popular franchise.
But what would a Trek film be without a good villain? Nero (Eric Bana) is a conniving Romulan bent on avenging the destruction of his home world, which he blames on a (future) Ambassador Spock. While Nero doesn’t rank up there with the best villains of Trek, the character more than adequately plays foil to Kirk and the Enterprise.
But not everything is new here. The Enterprise (NCC 1701, with no bloody A, B, C, or D) is back and looks remarkably similar to how we last saw it, a classic design that the filmmakers were wise to leave intact. Called into action on its maiden voyage, the awe factor is back as Kirk is shuttled aboard the magnificent ship, an homage to a similar scene in the franchise’s first feature film, Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
While this film effectively re-invents the franchise (for a broader audience), it doesn’t do so at the expense of the rest of the previous four decades of Trek. Little homages (the death of a red shirt), choice dialogue (set phasers to stun), a simulated training voyage to save the ill-fated Kobayashi Maru, and a role for a time-traveling Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy), along with some well-timed classic musical interludes, tie this film to the overall franchise and brought a smile to this long-time fan’s face.
While I wouldn’t say this film is the best feature in the franchise (The Wrath of Khan still holds that banner), it definitely ranks among the best and opens itself up for a promising series of sequels. I highly recommend it.