Star Trek… Directed by J.J. Abrams, written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Eric Bana, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, and Leonard Nimoy.
The Trek is back. Big opening weekend, great buzz. What a fun movie…
Is it the timing? Almost 40 years(!) after the original series, 20 afte the Next Generation, with few enough successful big screen space adventures of late. Battlestar Galactica and to some extent Star Wars, have shown you can keep going back to the sci-fi franchise, even when the original cast has moved on. Is it the team? J.J. Abrams has had some success with ensemble pieces; the writers obviously know and revere the original material but have also taken to heart lessons learned from other recent reboots. Is it the casting? If you’re a Trek fan, you had to be a little nervous when the actors were all named. Zach Quinto? Shaun of the Dead? And who’s this Chris Pine dude? Yeah, I sort of wish John Cho could match George Takei’s melodious baritone as Sulu, but if that’s all I have to complain about…
Some spoliers after the bump.
So I had some concerns, like any self-respecting fan, starting with Abrams self-professed lack of Trek-lore and the whole alternate reality card. If J.J. didn’t have the official Trekkie’s Almanac memorized, I suppose we can forgive him. His writing team obviously had it under control, and the skill with which he was able to handle the ensemble cast, the storyline, and the big action sequences was impressive. As for the alternate reality, well… I’m still not 100 percent in favor of it (repeat after me: black holes do not equal worm holes…) but I understand why they did it. Certainly, it frees the creative team up for more movies and gives them a lot of freedom in an otherwise well documented sci-fi universe.
I was also a little worried about Chris Pine as James T. Kirk. Not because I have anything against (or know much about) Pine, but because Kirk is one of my favorite fictional characters. He’s the red-blooded square-jawed starfleet Captain who pretty much set the standard back when. And I was concerned not only about Kirk’s brashness coming off as too arrogant and self-serving, but whether they’d diverge too much from my own interpretation of his origins. I guess I shouldn’t have worried. From the first brawl to the first time he sits in the Captain’s chair, Chris Pine really nails it. Young Kirk is the likable chick-chasing, ass-kicking cadet. The guy who goes with his gut, inspires loyalty in his friends, and really pisses of the bad guys.
And Pine isn’t the only one turning in a strong performance. Quinto is convincing as an obviously emotional Spock. Pegg, Cho, and Saldana are good as Scotty, Sulu, and Uhura, and Karl Urban is a riot as a younger but already cranky Dr. McCoy. Urban gets the diction right and sounds a lot like DeForest Kelly, and the sequence where he chases Kirk around and administers various shots as the Enterprise disembarks is an absolute riot… Eric Bana is sufficiently psychotic as the Romulan Captain Nero, and Leonard Nimoy is, well… Leonard Nimoy.
What Star Trek does best is strike the right balance of action, characterization, humor, and that all important element in good science fiction and fantasy – sense of wonder. Giant planetary core drills? Fearsome ice planet beasties? Time travel and singularities? You got it. From the Enterprise rising up from the mists of Titan to Kirk and Sulu dueling out with the Romulans to universal themes such as revenge, honor, love, sacrifice, this movie hits all the beats. It’s reminiscent of one of the standard bearers of Space Opera, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away…
The balance of these elements is so seamless you barely notice the plot contrivances (planetary distress right when Kirk’s about to get the boot), implausibilities (beaming people onto a ship at warp speed? really?), or old Spock’s clunky expository dialogue scene.
For me as a Trek fan, it was a lot of fun watching all the interplay between these very familiar characters – watching the original crew meet and interact for the first time. Sulu’s first time at the helm… Chekov trying to activate the voice recognition protocols… Kirk meeting Uhura… The initial rivalry between Kirk and Spock is perhaps the best move here. But you don’t have to be fully fluent in klingon to get some enjoyment. The wife had a blast at this movie and thought it was great, and she’s probably never watched an episode of the original series (and that’s OK, I love her anyway). Her knowledge of these characters, like most of the younger viewers, is through the lens of popular culture.
Abrams and his team deserve a lot credit for bringing it all together. Now I’m eager to see what they do next with the franchise. The bar has been set high, and we haven’t even met any klingons or tribbles yet… So Star Trek gets a high Beemsville recommendation. Doesn’t matter if you’re a Trekkie or just in search of some good weekend entertainment, this film has a lot to offer. It’s Space Opera done right, a triumphant return for Kirk, Spock, and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise.