May 2009 07

star_trek_movie_posterMake no mistake, this is not the Star Trek you grew up on. This movie is two hours of pure fun. Exciting visuals, snappy dialogue, great acting, and just overall great production values. This is the movie that is going to breakout from word of mouth.

Star Trek is in one part a prequel, and in another part a whole new series of tales that have nothing to do with the original series, other than characters. It’s main characters are two characters everyone knows whether you watched Star Trek or not growing up as a kid, James T. Kirk and the Vulcan Spock. The movie starts with a bang as we see James T. Kirk’s father become Captain of the U.S.S. Kelvin under duress from an attack from a giant Romulan ship coming out of a black hole. Ensuring his crew and his newborn baby’s safety he pulls a move which can save almost everyone. From there we jump into different points of both Kirk and Spock’s lives to show how they got into Starfleet. The film doesn’t stay on the back story too long, in fact it stays there just enough time for you to get a feel of the characters, but without boring you. Once we get to the Starfleet Academy you start to meet most of the main cast in a really entertaining part of the movie that many Trekkies will love, the Kobayashi Maru test.

Once the story moves to the Enterprise is when the main conflict of the story becomes apparent, and many of the twists and turns of the film happens. The twists and turns in this film have to be my only major complaint with the film. I can’t say much without giving a major portion of the plot away, but if you think about it after the movie, there will be apparent scenes where a little too much Deus Ex Machina occurred. There are only a few scenes which this seemingly improbable coincidences occur, but it is enough to give you pause at times.

J.J. Abrams appears to be getting more deft at helming a major motion picture. He has moved from television to film as about as effortlessly than I could have ever anticipated. His first attempt with Mission Impossible III was admirable, but to me fell a bit short. This movie however shows that he has a real talent for making things not just meant for my DVR. He keeps the pace so even and light that by the end of the movie it doesn’t feel like you have been sitting in a dark theater for two hours. He takes his cast, which is no where near an A-list cast and makes them seem that way.

The cast should be thanking Mr. Abrams and Bad Robot because this is the type of movie that is going to move a lot of them into the household name category. Much of the main cast has fame in other arenas, but none of them have made the move to the top. Chris Pine is not an actor many have heard of until this movie, but now that many have seen his brash, arrogant, but smart Kirk he is going to be a new Hollywood heartthrob. I enjoyed his performance much more than I had anticipated. He had a twinkle in his eye that at one moment looked mischievous and at other times light. It took great faith to put a relative unknown in the role, it looks to have paid off in spades.


Zachary Quinto might have had the hardest job of any of the actors in this film. Playing probably the most well known speaking alien ever on film you are going to be held up to a lot of pressure. Where Chris Pine is allowed to deviate from the original Kirk, Quinto had to play this more like the original role. He nailed the inflection and the silent power that Spock has. It has to be hard for an actor to convey an emotion when none is allowed. This is a role we will only see him get more comfortable with as more films come out. Let’s just hope his stint on Heroes doesn’t delay his shooting on a sequel for this film.

The rest of the cast is very solid, some of them are given little screen time, but all do well with what they are given. Eric Bana is hardly recognizable as the Romulan villain in the film. His slow pace and slight slur of words give him a other worldly feel that is both vicious and damaged. Karl Urban hopefully will earn his breakout role in this film as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy. He does a brilliant job as one of Kirk’s best friends and confidants. His inflections of voice hearken back DeForest Kelley’s original Bones. I didn’t notice even a hint of the native New Zealander’s accent. In all the screenings I saw the biggest fan reaction had to be to Simon Pegg’s Scotty. Simon Pegg being a self professed geek and at the same time a bit of a geek god with his roles in Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz was not a lot of people’s first choice to play the role made so famous by the late James Doohan, however, he pulls it off admirably even though he seems to be just the comic relief in most of this movie. John Cho’s Sulu is probably given the least screen time out of the major crew members of the Enterprise. Although Cho displays his likability to a good portion that gives you hope that he will be a little more present in the next film. Anton Yelchin’s Chekov rounds out the majority of the main Enterprise crew. Yelchin’s Russian accent is fun, but a little too slapsticky at the beginning to be taken seriously.

Zoe Saldana gets the honor of being basically the only significant female cast member, sure you have Winona Ryder as Spock’s mom, but she is in the film for maybe a minute or two of screen time. Saldana’s Uhara gets to be many things at once, the character that male audiences lust after and the strong woman that the female audience members get to look up to. She is sassy and fun, and you can see why James Kirk would be interested in the challenge. She moves comfortably in the role and acts with the intelligence that her character so obviously has.

The special effects in this movie are mindblowingly good. I don’t know if it is because I saw Wolverine last week where the effects were so shoddy, but I don’t remember effects being used this well lately. There is just enough effect shots without being overwhelming to the audience. Anytime you have a sci-fi movie set in space you are going to have a lot of green screen shots (I’m looking at you Star Wars), but it appears they used enough physical sets to be convincing that when the CG does hit you it’s presence isn’t overly obvious. This will obviously be one of the best looking movies this summer.

Overall, Star Trek is one of those movies made for theater viewing. I think you would do yourself a great service to see it on a digital screen to appreciate the digital effects that went into the movie. I saw both a 35mm print and a digital version of the film, and Star Trek is a movie made for the digital age. After the misstep to the start of the summer season, Star Trek looks to put us back on track for a summer filled with action and adventure. Let’s just hope we can keep up with it.

I give Star Trek a 9/10 for being a great popcorn flick.

Another Take By Zac:

J.J. Abrams’ second feature film is a fast, fun, and ultimately successful reboot of the floundering and practically disappeared Star Trek franchise from modern media.

Aboard the USS Kelvin, the ship is responding to an anomaly coming from a supposed black hole only to come across a huge Romulan ship coming through said Black Hole to which a fierce, if one sided space battle begins to erupt in space. Suddenly, fire ceases from the Romulan ship just as it was about to be finish off the Kelvin. The captain of the Romulan ship Nero demands the Kelvin’s captain’s presence on his ship as to find out more about the location of a ship being manned by Spock. As the captain turns leaves, he turns the ship over to his 1st officer, George Kirk who after tragedy on the Romulan ship orders a full evacuation of the Kelvin and is able to save the lives of hundreds of the ships crew, including that of his just born son James Tiberius Kirk as he has to sacrifice his own for the sake of his crew. Meanwhile on Vulcan, Spock, who is a half human, half Vulcan son of the planets ambassador to Earth excels as a student of the country and carries the element to have emotions unlike others in the Vulcan race due to his human lineage. Presented with the opportunity to stay and go to school at the revered Vulcan academy’s, Spock refuses due to his own peoples smugness towards his human side and enrolls in the Starfleet Academy. Meanwhile James Kirk is growing up as a farmer in Iowa, a townie bar hopper that likes to dust it up after being raised without his parents most of his life. The Starfleet academy is based out of Iowa and after a visit from a Captain Pike after Kirk gets into it with a pack of cadets, Kirk is convinced to join up himself after hearing the harrowing story of his father’s selflessness and ability as a captain, for however short a time. After a three year jump in time over the majority of their cadetship, Kirk and close friend ‘Bones’ McCoy are close to graduating from the Academy and finding a home on a ship. At about this same time, we see Nero capture a small ship coming through a similar black hole as they did, and it is the same ship he was looking for 20 some odd years earlier when he attacked the Kelvin. Kirk then manages to get court marshaled for seemingly cheating an unbeatable simulation created by Spock who has risen to the status of a Commander in the Starfleet. The two are in a heated argument when an emergency distress call is received from the plant Vulcan and all cadets are assigned to ships as they set out to find out what the issue is at the planet. And from here, the wheels have been set in motion for the picture and for the story of Kirk and Spock to begin on their lives on the USS Enterprise.

Now, that was a bit long winded to set up the film, but I have spoiled little and there is plenty more to discover after the fleet takes off for Vulcan. As for the film as a whole, it is a whole lot of fun, filled with fantastic and top notch special effects, and has a well rounded and solid cast all around. The pacing on the film never drags and is full of action from start to finish. The film is very accessible to those that are virgins to the franchise while still holding a number of winks and nudges to Trekies out there and keeping the cannon of the series in tact by creating an alternate path for these characters once Nero traveled back in time and destroyed the Kelvin.

Now, I will say, there are a couple of glaring questions to be asked about some over sites on the film that might cause the nitpicky to run amok. For instance, after Nero destroyed the Kelvin, we are supposed to believe everyone just forgot about him for and he hid for the next 20 something years? Also, the film can’t overcome a couple of all too convenient moments, most of all the fact that elder Spock, Kirk, and Scotty just all happen to end up on the same desolate planet so that they can pass on the appropriate information and join aboard the crew of the ship like they were destined to be. There is also a couple of fairly cheesy, sentimental moments in the film that might rub some people the wrong way, but nothing was too distracting or too much for me. Also, a couple gags seemed out of place, most of all an allergic reaction joke that seems both unnecessary and out of place in the context of the film. With all that said, there is a whole lot more to like in the picture then there is to nitpick and the film making is top notch work by everyone involved.

The cast is great from mostly top to bottom and that really helps the picture shine and take on a life of its own. Chris Pine carries himself with a swagger and cocky personality that works for the angst driven Kirk who feels he is and wants to be the best. Whether he is barking out orders, chasing tail, or beating on cadets, Pine handles it all and is a fun guy to have commanding the Enterprise. Zachary Quinto is fantastic as Spock, easily injecting humor, confidence, and the duality of the man and his conflictions as he works his way through the plot. Quinto just shines from start to finish and he is reason enough to want to see another Star Trek film. In the supporting roles, Karl Urban is funny and pitch perfect as McCoy, supplying advice and a voice of reason for Kirk while trying to keep him straight all the same. Simon Pegg has a few scenes as Scotty but is hilarious in every one of them and I can’t wait for more of him in the sequels and getting quips from throughout the entirety of the picture. John Cho and Anton Yelchin are both solid as supporting crew members, with Cho even getting an action scene to boot that he handles surprisingly well. Zoe Saldana is adequate as Uhura but isn’t really given a moment to shine, while Bruce Greenwood does what he does best at turning in another solid effort as Captain Pike who recruits Kirk and commands the Enterprise. Lastly, Eric Bana as the villain Nero is good enough, but doesn’t really have a whole lot to do, and one wishes they would have given as gifted an actor as he is something more to do and bigger scenes to chew on; same goes for the Romulan 1st mate played by Clifton Collins Jr., another great actor underutilized.

In the end, Star Trek is a fun and exciting sci-fi adventure that lays the path for some potentially more substantial and superb sequels down the line. With enough action, humor that works for the characters, and superb film making all around there is plenty to enjoy in Star Trek and to keep one entertained. There might be a few plot holes and might leave people that are unfamiliar with the franchise scratching their heads in a couple moments/jokes, but the film remains an accessible and worth sci-fi film for the fans of the genre. I look forward to future endeavors of the Enterprise and I hope they can bring the whole cast back again and again for each potential film as Kirk and Spock are now cool again.




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