26 April 2009 | ametaphysicalshark
Thrilling adventure with great characters, maintains the spirit of the original series while appealing to a mass audience. A landmark blockbuster for sure
I'm a fan of "Star Trek", but not obsessive, having read only one "Star Trek" novel, owning no merchandise and only TOS in its entirety on DVD. I abhor "Voyager" but like every other Trek series, including "Enterprise" although nearly all of that show's especially good episodes are in the fourth season. My favorite remains TOS for its unforgettable characters, performances and stories, as well as the sense of camaraderie aboard the Enterprise.
I hope I've established my feelings on Trek (after all there are Trekkers who think "The Motion Picture" is the best Trek film, and a lot of people seem to like "Nemesis") and what I truly value in it. As long as it wasn't overwhelmingly dumb I didn't require any sort of truly thoughtful sci-fi in this film, nor did I expect it. What I desired, what I can say with a deep, deep sigh of relief, I got, is a film brimming with confidence, energy, a sense of adventure, a suitably emotional story for the film's main characters, and, thank heavens, superb characterization.
Using a plot device bring Nero, our Romulan villain played by Eric Bana, and Nimoy's Old Spock into the film, the writers Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman maintain canon. While Trekkers will whinge about many things here no more canon contradiction happens here than in the Trek series following TOS. Instead of merely rebooting the series entirely and creating an entirely separate canon, the writers have fairly deftly worked this film into the existing Star Trek universe. It's an alternate (not mirror) universe story done well. A great deal to enjoy for Trekkers with throwbacks to the originals but there's also a lot to satisfy summer movie-goers. It's a very, very fast-paced film, the action scenes are exhilarating (and you can actually keep track of them), and there's a great deal of humor
It sounds almost unbelievable but they've actually managed to pull it off: they've made a "Star Trek" film which is a Trek film through and through and yet will still draw a bigger audience than any of the previous films, and moreover satisfy that audience. The film has been compared to "Iron Man" in more than one review the similarities are clear. Both films feature excellent dialogue and character interactions, swift, clever characterization, a minimum of laborious exposition, and also have a common flaw: a rushed plot which overall is almost a side plot. The only reboot to truly escape this pitfall thus far is "Casino Royale", which successfully told a very tight story and also consistently developed Bond as a character. Bana is menacing enough and his ship is well-designed but overall he's no Khan or Chang and was much better-written in the Countdown prequel comic than in the film itself. There are also a series of massive contrivances to get everything where it needs to be which will have viewers rolling their eyes, but even these are handled well by the script, which is smooth and fast as opposed to clunky and sterile. Plus, they're necessary for this origin story not to be a typical boring origin story and become what it is.
The partnership of director Abrams and cinematographer Mindel will annoy some people with their deliberate use of lens flares as well as shaky cam in scenes (not in a Greengrass or worse, Peter Berg style, but merely a slightly unstable camera), but overall I found it to be consistently involving and thrilling to watch, with good visual storytelling throughout. I also quite enjoyed the lens flares. It's not quite on par with Nicholas Meyer's attempts for me but still good, and interesting. The score by Michael Giacchino suffers from familiarity and a lack of individual identity, but works well with the film itself.
Chris Pine is absolutely terrific as Kirk, doing so much more than a Shatner impression and creating something of his own character (and it is, after all, an alternate Kirk) while absolutely nailing several of the trademark attitudes and behavior of the Kirk we all know and love. Much more than a pretty face, Pine's in for mega-stardom after this. Quinto's Spock is really quite terrific and much more nuanced than expected, and Spock's emotional story (and backstory) in the film is well-written as is Kirk's (though Spock gets a more emotional and better overall arc for sure). Pegg is fantastic as Scotty, used here mostly as comic relief. Urban's McCoy is the closest to an impersonation but overall just a joy and a pleasure to behold. Cho's alright as Sulu, who doesn't really get much to do (heck, when did he ever?), though Uhura is surprisingly prominent and well-played by Zoe Saldana. Yelchin as Chekhov is the only really problematic casting choice for me, he really overdoes the accent and takes you out of the film a bit. Bruce Greenwood as Pike nails the character and in a crucial role Leonard Nimoy shines yet again as Spock.
Abrams' "Star Trek" isn't quite tight enough and emotional enough to compete with "The Wrath of Khan", isn't as much fun for me as "The Voyage Home", but overall is probably the third best Trek film to date, on par with "The Undiscovered Country". It's a fairly new direction, yet totally faithful to Trek where it needs to be: in spirit. In a world of dreary blockbusters and 'dark' reboots, this Trek, though grittier in terms of design than anything before, shines, from opening to closing, as an example of optimistic, exciting, thrilling, humorous, and thoroughly enjoyable adventure cinema, as well as a great addition to Trek's long, long history.