Reel Review: Star Trek

Category: Movies
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy

As a trekkie, it would only be logical for me to mention that I had been ‘trekking’ this movie for more than a year already, especially much more so when it was announced that JJ Abrams (one of my favourite directors) would helm this project. I would assume at that time that an unwritten clause in his contract was to re-boot the Star Trek (ST) franchise which was undeniably running low on dilithium crystals in recent years. Heck, if he could move islands, imagine the wonders he could do for a 30-year old established universe? I have always been intrigued by the way Abrams thinks and directs the flow of his story. Surprises and suspense has always been his forte and thus I waited with full anticipation of what he could pull out from his ‘mystery box’ for ST.

The story is spun at the very start of the Original Series (TOS), before Kirk and his crew became legends over their 5 year trek. An action-packed opening sequence which introduces the audiences to Nero (how original can one get?!), a renegade time-travelling Romulan baddie, sets the pace for the entire show. Within the next 15 minutes, we are given a quick history lesson on how Kirk and Spock grew up, shown their distinct different characteristics and eventually how they both ended up aboard the Enterprise. Along the way, we are introduced to Kirk’s other crew members that have become legends in the trek universe like Bones, Uhura, Sulu and Chekov. I’d bet other trekkies watching this movie would also be waiting with glee whenever one of these characters comes out. The rest of the story tells of how Kirk gets along with Spock and proceeds to work together with the crew of the Enterprise to stop Nero and his devious plans.

The storyline is simple enough to understand that even if you are in the neutral zone (aka not a trekkie), you still would be very much able to enjoy the film. Abrams certainly stuck with a tried and tested formula in the treklore of plotlines. Whenever Earth is threatened or becomes a critical element in the plot, the movie should be successful. ST4:The Voyage Home and ST8: First Contact were some of the more successful ST movies when the crew of the Enterprise went back in time to rescue some humped back whales from extinction and save the future and stopped the Borg from destroying Earth respectively. In this year’s edition, Earth is under threat again from total annihilation and the Enterprise is the only starship around to save it.

When I first heard of the cast, I had initiated yellow alert and braced myself for Star Trek:90210. Boy was I glad I was so wrong! Chris Pine gives a refreshing and brash look for Kirk while Zac ‘Sylar’ Quinto was perfectly cast as Spock. Cool, calm, calculative. Leonard Nimoy must be proud that they found a good fit for Spock’s character. By the way, it was also good to see ol’ pointy ears in this movie as well as Ambassador Spock from the future.

The chemistry between the two leads was also spot on in the movie and it would prove to be really important as one of the strengths of the franchise focuses on the tense yet strong friendship of Kirk and Spock. It was unfortunate that the movie couldn’t find enough time to develop Bones’ character into the mix as well because one of the key elements that all trekkies enjoy is the constant banter between the three good old friends.

Amidst the high octane action and warp-paced storyline, I was glad Abrams managed to throw in classic lines that all trekkies grew to love over the years. Lines like “Ah’m already givin’ her evry’thang she’s got!” , “Damnit! I’m a doctor, not a physicist!”, “Fascinating..”, etc. just adds more colour to the already superb and sharp dialogues throughout the movie.

Another aspect of the movie that is worth highlighting is Abrams dry humour which intently pokes fun at ST clichés. Try to look out for the space dive scene where Kirk, Sulu and a third member, named Olson takes the plunge. Now, we don’t need a crystal ball to tell us who is the ‘one that wears the red suit’ or what happens next. 😛 Also, you really don’t want to miss Pine’s over-exaggerated Kirk-pose on the captain’s chair! The movie also has spices of tributes for trekkies to spot and savour. A slug that was used during a torture scene immediately brings back memories of ST2: The Wrath of Khan. Classic.

Abrams also managed to successfully stay away or cut down from boring and atypical scenes of the trek universe such as the exploding bridge with crewmen flying all over, percentage strength of shields going down and down during attacks that is supposed to cause drama, saucer separations, etc. I was glad the movie managed to stay focused on the people to carry the show, rather than let technology dictate terms. Abrams has brought back the human value of Star Trek that was seemingly getting lost in recent years. The charisma of Kirk and Spock and the seamless interactions of the crew of the Enterprise just carried the entire movie beautifully.

If I had to complain about the movie, only two things come to mind. One, for all the emphasis on character development, it was unfortunate that the movie had a weak villain in Eric Bana’s Nero. The only thing scary about Nero was his face paint and oversized but cool trenchcoat. To me, Nero simply didn’t do enough to secure a spot on the ST Villians Hall of Fame list. Definitely a forgettable villain compared to memorable baddies like Khan, the Borg Queen and even Shinzon. Secondly, I felt deprived of tense starship confrontations that had long become a hallmark of the trek universe. If only Abrams had added in such a sequence between Kirk and Nero that could rival Kirk on the Enterprise vs Khan on the Reliant, this could have become the complete trek film.

But overall, I couldn’t be complaining much. After all, Abrams has put together a movie that can be readily enjoyed by all trekkies as well as newbies; a movie that has contemporary yet edgy elements that will suit today’s generation’s tastebuds; a movie that doesn’t try too hard to impress with its amazing visuals but instead draws its strength from character development and superb acting; and finally, a movie that has completely reset, reboot and reenergized the trek universe for the better.

There is no doubt this movie – Star Trek – will definitely live long and prosper at the box-office and for many more years to come. A TV spin-off detected on long-range sensors, perhaps…

Rating: ★★★★☆

(Originally posted on allandog.multiply.com)

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