Damn it, Jim, I’m a TV Producer not a Film Director!
Author: David H. Schleicher
TV guru extraordinaire J. J. Abrams beams up as producer and director of this zippy and serviceable relaunch of the moribund Star Trek film series, itself a spin-off Gene Roddenberry’s iconic 1960’s sci-fi drama. There’s plenty of circularity in concept and execution as Abrams does an adequate job of paying homage to the original TV series while giving everything a big epic, slick, modern film veneer. Abrams displays his usual flippant emo-sensibilities (lest we not forget his first claim to fame was the insufferable TV show “Felicity”) in creating a colorful back-story to familiar characters, but he wisely focuses on action for the better parts of the film and keeps the pacing at warp speed even though we really know he just wants to play with Trekkies’ emotions, much in the same way a swaggering Kirk antagonizes the desperately logical Spock.
Though Zachary Quinto is fairly lifeless as Spock, the rest of the cast is up to task doing fine impersonations of the senior Trek crew. Simon Pegg gets plenty of laughs as Scotty, and Karl Urban is mockingly masterful in his delivery of all the classic Doc McCoy witticisms. As the young Kirk, Chris Pine puts an entertaining spin on the role as he seems to be channeling both Christian Slater doing Jack Nicholson and, well, Chris Pine doing William Shatner. But it’s only the dashingly smart and sexy Zoe Saldana who takes things to a new level by giving Uhura a personality and vibrancy that was never apparent in the original film series.
Comparing the film to others in the series, it probably ranks somewhere in the middle. By far it displays the best production values and special effects of any Trek before it on the big or small screen. Always crucial to the film series, the villain in this one (a tattooed Romulan named Nero played by Eric Bana) is clearly no match for the mythic-sized Khan of said Wrath of… or the unstoppable Borg Queen of the Next Generation’s First Contact. And while the early years of Kirk, Spock and the U. S. S. Enterprise are fairly well played here, the main storyline is where the film really suffers as it mashes up a big old mess of a plot involving black holes, time travel and planetary annihilation.
While I grew up watching the “Next Generation” on TV and enjoyed the original film series, I’m by no means a Trek purist. I am, however, a stickler for good storytelling. By playing with all this time-travel mumbo-jumbo, the screenwriters have essentially wiped the slate clean and negated the entire original series. The same old characters are now free to roam outer space on brand new missions, which is a brilliant business building ploy but lazy writing and a big cop-out. By going backwards in the serial mythos instead of forging ahead further into the future, the filmmakers have backed themselves into a corner. Just how many of these new adventures can the old crew have? And will it all lead to the inevitable…Picard’s Academy Days or the origins of Data? While this new film was modestly entertaining and better than your average sci-fi flick, it didn’t really leave me clamoring for more. Will the filmmakers eventually “make it so?” Quite frankly, I’m indifferent, though Abrams probably “gave it all she’s got”.
Dave – thanks for the review. I won’t watch it, I’m tired of this stuff. I’m sure the special effects make it alright, but I like to be entertained by an unknown plot … no surprises with this one, I’m sure.
With a 96% rating on RT, and similarly spectacular numbers on MT, with raves from Manhola Dargis,Stephanie Zaharek and THE NEW REPUBLIC’S Chris Orr, I can say that this time I am solidly with the majority. When GOMORRAH got terrific numbers last month I was a dissenter, so I know just what you are saying David. But I must be honest with you. The film hits the mark most compellingly with the Trekkies, of which I am one. I fely Quinto’s performance, drenched in melancholy, was the most fascinating of the cast, and Pine, Urban and Pegg were excellent. (I noted you thought Pegg was masterful)
My lifelong love for STAR TREK in large measure informed my opinion here, but I thought just about everything worked, including the convoluted time travel/alternate universe story.
David, excellent and honest review. One couldn’t hope for more.
This movie is a true “reboot” of a franchise, and it does it right. JJ Abrams makes this his own, while still remembering the great Star Trek of the past. I have a problem with the “alter time” scenerio. I like the “alternate universe ” scenario so it doesn’t erase our old Trek. They should have been more clear on that……..but great acting, Bones is hilarious, Pine makes the role his own. And stunning special effects ! A really great time at the movies, and probably the best opening scene in Trek history. Long live the TREKKIE !!
Ah, this is the best movie I’ve seen in a long time as far as the action genre is concerned. The alternate reality/universe doesn’t negate the original series and its stories but leaves it intact, admired and respected, while opening the door for more adventures in this new reality. As a character-driven story focused on Kirk and Spock, I applaud the filmmakers for sticking to developing characters and not letting the action and special effects take over. Their friendship is a core element to Star Trek, so it’d be important to begin with it. Spock’s ambivalence for his emotional, human side was established in the original series, but here we see the source of his need to repress his emotional side. Quinto did an amazingly good job for one so young.
I had thought that “First Contact” had the most amazing opening sequence ever, but now I have to say for sheer action and suspense, for pulling the viewer into the story immediately, “Star Trek” does the job above and beyond expectations. And it’s important that this scene starts the movie because it takes us OUT of the original Star Trek universe and establishes the new reality — the moment Nero’s ship pierces through the black hole event horizon it’s the alternate reality.
I’d give this movie a very enthusiastic “Go see it!!!” Sorry you missed the ship….(smile)