Star Trek Review

Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto as Kirk and Spock in the new Star Trek film

As a life long Trekkie, I went into the new J.J. Abrams Trek reboot/sequel with my expectations set to stun—fearing that if I set them to kill I would end up vapourizing myself… whatever that means.  Phaser analogy aside, I knew that J.J Abrams’ vision of Star Trek would be different from that of its original creator Gene Roddenberry. This Star Trek isn’t Roddenberry’s Star Trek; it is a familiar and yet altogether different beast. Many of Roddenberry’s hallmarks remain intact and for better or worse Abrams makes Trek his own with this film. Abrams’ Star Trek is cool, it’s sleek and it’s shiny, but I don’t know if that was what Star Trek was ever about.

Full review after the break. Possible spoilers to follow.

Much of the plot of the new Star Trek film centres around time travel and alternate universes.  Time travel and Star Trek go together like bread and butter. Every Star Trek TV series and three of the previous Trek films featured plots that involved time travel as part of their stories.

Events in the classic Star Trek universe (the universe that every series and film thus far have taken place in) lead to a change in the timeline right before the birth of James T. Kirk. This change in the time-line means that everything in this new Star Trek universe can and will be different. The characters remain the same but the events that shape their lives are much different. This gave the creators of the film carte blanche to play with the characters in the universe, without having to deal with almost 50 years of established Trek canon.

Seeing Leonard Nimoy reprise his role as Spock was a welcome inclusion for me. I felt that Nimoy’s involvement in the film lent it an air of legitimacy that would not otherwise have existed if the film were just a straight reboot of the franchise.

Stepping.  Into the shoes… of.  Acharacterlike, Captain Kirk is no… small task; To follow in the footsteps of William Shatner is an even greater task. Given the expectations piled upon Chris Pine, he really succeeded in capturing the essence of Kirk: the charm, the confidence, and the arrogance. Pine’s performance wasn’t an impersonation of Shatner’s Kirk (or rather Shatner) he really made Kirk his own.

As for Spock, gone is the gravelly detachment of Leonard Nimoy (although his Spock is in the movie), Zachary Quinto‘s take on Spock was an very interesting portrayal. Something was lacking from Quinto’s Spock in the film. He nailed the look of the character, but just didn’t have the same gravitas as Nimoy. This Spock is meant to be a younger more emotionally fragile version of the character, so maybe this was a conscious choice on Quinto’s part.

Karl Urban was spot on as Leonard “Bones” McCoy, but at the same time really made me miss DeForest KelleyEric Bana is solid as the Romulan villain Nero, a man with nothing to lose and the tools to exact terrible vengeance.

The rest of the cast is great, but they’re just not given enough time to shine. Undoubtedly, there will be plenty of time for them to develop in the sequels. I should also note that the movie also features one of the most unlikely romantic pairing of classic Star Trek characters… and no it’s not Sulu and Chekov.

From the short skirts and green Orion girls, right down to the way the characters act, it looks like the Trek we know. However, in many ways the film feels more like a caricature of the original 1960′s Star Trek series, a shallow and shiny imitation.

Familiar catch phrases like “Damn it Jim!” and gags like the cannon fodder Red Shirts felt like they were being checked off a Trekkie’s list of must haves for the movie. Star Trek tries to be one part nostalgic fan service and another part slick Hollywood blockbuster.

There is no question that the movie is huge in scope and scale, they spent a lot of money on this movie and you can tell: the film looks amazing. The big budget and effects may be enough to draw people into the theatres to see Star Trek, but I have a feeling it may put off some hardcore Trekkies.

Save for the politicking of the last three seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, it was the first time that the world of Star Trek felt like a living breathing universe to me.  Gone is the ridiculous techno-babble that nearly sank Star Trek: The Next Generation at times, you don’t have to know what an inverse tachyon pulse is to enjoy this movie.

Star Trek has been a part of pop-culture for nearly 50 years, even those people who’ve never seen a single episode of the original series have a vague conception about what Star Trek is. I probably bring too much Trekkie baggage to the film, and as a result I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have.

If you love Trek, you’ll like something about this movie, but you’ll probably find it lacking in some ways. Make no mistake Star Trek is an entertaining movie; it may even be a good movie, I’m just not sure it was a good Star Trek movie.

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  • Lucas

    Man, I watched Abrams’ Trek last night. I agree with your assessment of it, Will: it’s, at times, an enjoyable movie, but it never really feels like it’s Trek. Not enough, anyway, to satisfy me, a very casual Trek fan. Most of the time, it feels like a mediocre TV drama.

    The first five-or-so minutes of the movie are excellent. It dips into Star Wars-like melodrama for a while, but everything before the titles is great. As with the beginning sequence of the first X-Men, I was surprised at how it intrigued and impressed me.

    Of course, the new Trek comes in and shits all over that. I won’t list my complaints here, though I will say that I feel that the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” does not belong in Star Trek.

    There are heartening points between crap like the Greaser vs. Soc bar fight sequence (which takes place in “Iowa,” as the film is so very eager to remind us) and the odd plot holes.

    The supporting characters—Sulu, Chekov, Scottie, Bones—are, to me, just right. They are much closer to characters from the original Trek than are the three primaries, Kirk, Spock, and Uhura.

    They are too new, too different. I suspect that the screenwriters screwed with their backstories so much, they ended up spoiling them, changing them. To me, watching Kirk, Spock, and Uhura was too much like the watching the first half of Starship Troopers only without any sense of self-mockery.

    I was aware of a great amount of tired tropes and lazy dialogue. (I’m sick of hearing “you choose your own destiny.”) The soap-opera–like romantic triangle, Kirk’s quest, and Spock’s emotional struggle really grated on me. It felt very obvious, very cheap.

    Worst of all was Nero, the bad guy. He bookends the film and is there to be beaten. His ship looks mean and is full of lightning because, uh, it’s the bad ship. He’s violent because, well, uh, he has to show that he’s a threat and that he needs to be beaten. There’s almost nothing to his story. It’s all a thin patina over Kirk and Spock coming to be friends.

    The moments of genuine Trekkiness are too far and few between for the movie’s weak plot and soapy characters to be overlooked.