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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Star Trek (2009) - Theater

AndyO review: * * * 1/2

Metacritic: 80/100

Full disclosure: It's no secret to people who know me that I'm a big fan of Star Trek. I grew up watching the Original Series, with Shatner and Nimoy. But I'm also a fan of the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise.

I've also enjoyed the Star Trek movies. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was probably the best, with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VII: First Contact my second and third favorites. But I've actually liked all of them. Even Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Now there's a new Star Trek movie that joins the best ones. This film returns to the original characters.

First impressions

After seeing the new Star Trek film, I'm happy to report the filmmakers have succeeded in relaunching Trek. All our old friends are here: Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Sulu, Scotty, and Chekov. The actors all do a fine job channeling the original actors, while not impersonating them. I thought Chris Pine did a particularly good job with some of the subtleties of Kirk, and Karl Urban hit all the right notes with McCoy. 

The look and feel of Star Trek has also been updated. The Enterprise looks a little different, inside and out. The pacing and cinematography are more modern. And because of advances in special effects, this is the most realistic Star Trek universe ever seen on film (I'm sure much of the $160 million was spent on effects). In particular, the shots of the shuttlecraft flying over San Francisco were spectacular.

The story

Abrams and crew have found a unique way to approach the original Star Trek universe: What if a rogue Romulan (Nero, played expertly by Eric Bana) from the future waged a war on the Federation and altered the Star Trek universe as we know it? In other words, Nero's attacks create an alternate timeline.

For example, in the prologue of the film, the U.S.S. Kelvin is attacked by Nero. This is the ship where Kirk's father is serving. Kirk's father dies while saving 800 people, including his son James T. Kirk, who is born during the battle. In the original timeline, Kirk knew his father.

Spock's story

Like many of the original Star Trek films, this is Spock's story. We see how his half-human, half-Vulcan nature creates a ticking bomb that can go off at any moment. We watch Vulcan boys bully him. We watch the Vulcan council accept him into the Vulcan Science Academy, while calling his human mother a "limitation."

And while Spock may be at the center of this story, it's the relationship between Spock and Kirk that is the engine that drives the story forward. As the saying goes, opposites attract; but in many ways, Kirk and Spock (especially in this new universe) are very similar. Both are struggling with their identities.

The essence of Star Trek

So how do you catch the Star Trek essence -- and also satisfy all those die-hard fans out there? In the case of director J.J. Abrams and his collaborators, they give the fans enough familiar images, dialogue, and references that the changes they have made don't seem too severe. Some of my favorite pure Trek moments from this film:

  • Kirk and his enduring fascination with green women
  • Scotty giving her "all she's got" in the engine room
  • McCoy saying his famous, "I'm a doctor, not a <fill in the blank>" line
  • Seeing the Kobyashi Maru simulator again
  • Spock saying, "fascinating" and "logical"
  • The famous "live long and prosper" line and Vulcan hand gesture
  • Captain Christopher Pike (especially in the last scene and the reference to The Menagerie)
  • Using the original music and opening lines of the TV show
  • Chekov's Russian accent: Wictor, Wictor, and the problems it causes him
  • Sulu's fencing and legendary starship piloting skills
  • Uhura's ability to "open hailing frequencies" and more
  • Seeing Leonard Nimoy wearing the Vulcan ears again (maybe for the last time)

Flaws (nitpicks, problems, and what-have-you)

While the film is exciting and everything a summer movie should be, it also includes some pretty big plot holes and problems -- very surprising given J.J. Abrams' fascination with puzzles and crazy plots.

1. The biggest problem for me was when Spock kicked Kirk off the Enterprise. He didn't confine him to quarters, didn't throw him in the brig. He kicked him clean off the ship! This seems a little odd for anyone to do, let alone Spock.

2. Kirk ends up meeting the future Spock on the ice planet where the younger Spock banished him to. The odds of them meeting like this are far fetched to say the least. Surely there could have been a better way to write this in?

3. Spock and Uhura are in a relationship. This one really goes against the Star Trek canon. Even if there is some obscure reference in a Star Trek novel somewhere, this is just not how fans think of Spock and Uhura. Kirk and Uhura I could buy -- given that Kirk is ready to pounce on just about any female life form.

4. Kirk being promoted to second in command when he just graduated from Star Fleet academy. This is one that a friend pointed out to me, and I have to agree it's pretty unbelievable.

The final analysis

The good news is the flaws in this film don't detract enough to ruin it. I for one am excited about where they take this reboot of Star Trek. With the way they've set it up, they could go anywhere.


posted by AndyO @ 5:24 PM   1 comments