Movie Review: Star Trek


J.J. Abrams’ much-hyped reboot of Star Trek has arrived. Will it have you shouting “Warp Speed Ahead” or “Red Alert”? Read my review and find out.

There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind after the disastrous reception to both the last Star Trek movie, Nemesis, and the last TV series, Enterprise, that Star Trek was broken and badly in need of a reboot.  Enter J.J. Abrams, the man behind Lost and Fringe, two of the best shows on TV. Also enter screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who have already earned major pop culture street cred and realized a lifelong dream by writing the screenplays for both Transformers and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Their work on Fringe with Abrams help secure them the job on Star Trek. They have delivered a script that breathes new life into this storied franchise and sets a new course for adventure

In the year 2387, the galaxy is threatened by a supernova. Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) pilots a Vulcan-commissioned ship carrying “red matter” that can create a gravitational singularity, drawing the supernova bs1202071656into a black hole. Spock succeeds, but not before Romulus, the Romulan homeworld, is destroyed. Captain Nero (Eric Bana) of the Romulan mining ship Narada attempts to exact revenge on Spock for letting Romulus be destroyed, but both ships are caught in the black hole’s event horizon, traveling to different points into the past and creating an alternate reality from the original Star Trek series. The Narada arrives first, 153 years before the supernova, and attacks a nearby Federation starship, the USS Kelvin. As the Kelvin is evacuated, acting-Captain George Kirk stays behind to provide cover for the fleeing shuttlecraft, dying moments after his son, James Tiberius Kirk, is born. When Ambassador Spock arrives 25 years later, Nero captures his ship and the remaining red matter. Spock is left marooned on the planet Delta Vega—near Vulcan—so that he may witness the destruction of his homeworld.

Growing up without his father, Kirk (Chris Pine) becomes an intelligent, reckless, and cynical young man. Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), dismayed that Kirk is wasting his intelligence on self-destructive behavior, tells him of his father’s heroic efforts and convinces him to join Starfleet. At Starfleet Academy, Kirk befriends fellow cadets Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana). In his third year at the Academy, Kirk is accused of cheating on the Kobayashi Maru test by its programmer, Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto). During the ensuing hearing, during which Kirk is placed on academic suspension, Starfleet receives a distress signal from Vulcan, and the cadets are mobilized to help man the ships in orbit. Acting as his attending physician, Dr. McCoy brings Kirk on board the USS Enterprise, to which both Spock and Uhura have been assigned under Pike’s command.

Kirk, recognizing similarities between the distress call from Vulcan and the encounter that destroyed the Kelvin, warns Pike that the fleet is heading into a trap. The Enterprise arrives late, by which time the fleet has been destroyed. While the Narada is drilling into Vulcan’s core, Nero disables the Enterprise and orders Pike to surrender himself via shuttlecraft. Pike agrees, leaving Spock in command and Kirk as first officer. En route to theSTAR TREK Narada, Pike arranges for Kirk, Hikaru Sulu (John Cho), and Chief Engineer Olsen to perform an orbital skydive onto the drilling platform and destroy it. Olsen is the token “red shirt” and so, of course, is killed fairly quickly, but Kirk and Sulu stop the drill. However, it has already reached the planet’s core, and Nero launches red matter inside, collapsing the planet into a black hole. Spock rescues most of the planet’s elders, including his father, but his mother dies, along with nearly six billion Vulcans; Spock estimates only ten thousand Vulcans are left. Nero intends to do the same to Earth, and tortures Pike for the command codes to Earth’s perimeter defenses.

Kirk attempts to convince Spock to travel to Earth to stop Nero, but Spock maroons him on the nearby Delta Vega and orders the ship to rendezvous with the rest of the fleet. On Delta Vega, Kirk encounters the elderly Ambassador Spock, who relays the future’s events through a mind meld and insists that Kirk must become captain of the Enterprise. The two travel to a nearby Starfleet outpost where they meet the talented Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg) . Spock helps Scott refine his equations for “transwarp transportation” to allow Kirk and Scott to beam aboard the Enterprise. There, Kirk manages to anger Spock, forcing him to cede command due to being emotionally compromised. Spock, Scott, and Pavel Chekov (Anton Yelchin) devise a plan to bring the Enterprise to Titan and take advantage of Saturn’s magnetosphere to disguise their presence, allowing them to beam Kirk and Spock aboard the Narada unnoticed. While Kirk rescues Pike, Spock retakes the future Spock’s ship, using it to destroy the drill and lure the Narada away from Earth before piloting a collision course into the mining ship. The Enterprise arrives and beams Kirk, Pike, and Spock away before the collision, which releases the remaining red matter and creates a black hole within the Naradas superstructure. Though Kirk offers to help rescue Nero and his crew, the Romulan refuses and the Narada is torn apart. The Enterprise narrowly escapes the same fate by igniting the ship’s warp drive reactor cores, the resulting explosion pushing them clear.

enterprise579_lKirk is promoted to captain of the Enterprise, relieving the newly promoted but wheelchair-bound Admiral Pike. While searching for his father, Spock encounters his older self in a hangar; Ambassador Spock is departing to help found a new colony for the remaining Vulcans. Spock informs his older self of his intention to leave Starfleet to help in the rebuilding. Ambassador Spock tells his younger self that he and Kirk need each other and that he should remain in Starfleet. Taking his older self’s advice, Spock does so, becoming first officer under Kirk’s command. As the Enterprise warps away, Leonard Nimoy recites a version of the “Where no man has gone before” monologue.

The cast is superb. Chris Pine does an amazing job of reinventing the Captain Kirk character for a new age. His Kirk carries obvious influences from Han Solo and Top Gun’s Maverick. Kirk is still a “ladies’ man” and spends some of the movie trying to pick up Uhura. He also beds Uhura’s roommate, who, in a nice nod to the original series, is a green-skinned Orion girl. Zachary Quinto plays Spock as a conflicted child of two worlds, fully belonging to neither one. His expressions and vocal cadence illustrate the constant war of emotion and logic raging inside his mind. Karl Urban channels the late DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy, and we get to see the origin of his nickname “Bones”. The most well-known of Dr. McCoy’s characteristics, his irascibility and his “Dammit Jim, I’m a Doctor not a …” line are lovingly recreated here. The vocal match is particularly impressive considering that Urban is Australian and McCoy’s accent is not the easiest to replicate. McCoy is as willing to challenge authority as Kirk and you can see seeds of the bond that will develop between the two men. Simon Pegg has a great time playing Scotty and he looks like he cannot wait to continue in this role. He is funny and engaging. Zoe Saldana absolutely reinvents the character of Uhura, giving her a strength that refelcts the changing times and how far women have come in the 43 years since the original series first aired. Her Uhura is sexy, sassy and not to be messed with. The new wrinkle in this alternate reality is her relationship with Spock, which I am interested in seeing further development of. John Cho goes from stoner to Sulu. He captures the essence of George Takei, especially in the swordfighting scene, but he still manages to make the character his own. The scene where he first takes the Enterprise out of spacedock is priceless. Finally, Anton Yelchin manages to flesh out the character of Pavel Chekov, who was previously an almost “throw-away character. This Chekov is intelligent, hard-working, and still has trouble saying the letter v. However, Chekov is instrumental in devising the plan that allows teh Enterprise to stay hidden from the Narada’s sensors. Also, Bruce Greenwood plays Pike as the perfect mentor/father figure to Pine’s Kirk. He pushes, prods and even dares Kirk to excell. Outside of the main crew, two stellar performances also exist. Eric Bana plays Nero, the time-travelling Romulan villain. Bana plays Nero as a totured soul, driven insane by grief over the loss of his homeworld. Nero has taken the idea of “an eye for an eye” literaly. He blames Spock for the destruction of Romulus, and he takes his revenge by using the very red matter that Spock used to try to prevent the destruction of Romulus with to destroy Vulcan. This new renegade Romulan archetype brings them away from their former secretive , conniving nature, towards a more wild, impetuous type. It will be intersting to see if they keep this character type if and when the Romulans reappear. Finally, this movie sees Leonard Nimoy return to the role he made into a sci-fi icon. The credits list his role as Spock Prime. Nimoy effortlessly picks Spock back up, as if no time has passed since he last played the role. His interactions with the younger Kirk and Spock are amazing to watch and he proves himself a consummate professional. The screenwriters very smartly make him an integral part of the movie, while not forcing the movie to revolve around him.

Visually, the film has a very clean and dynamic look. Starfleet Academy in San Fransisco looks like it could be a real institution at some point in the future. Vulcan is full of the type of spectacular architecture that you would expect to find, with ornate temples and  meeting halls set amongst mountains and cliffs. The shipyard where the Enterprise is being built is truly awe-inspiring. Nero’s ship, the Narada, is enormous and very stylistic. It dwarfs the Enterprise and every other ship it comes into contact with. Speaking of the Enterprise, I love the new redesign of Star trek’s iconic flagship. It retains the basic shape of the original, but has a slightly larger saucer and sleeker lines. On the inside, the bridge has been completely redisgned, with the scheme making some people wonder if Apple had anything to do with it. The only word that can possibly be used to sum up the new bridge is cool.

And that, perhaps is the biggest accomplishment of this film. It has made Star Trek cool again. The pacing was great, it was both light-hearted and serious at just the right points. It made me remember why I loved Star Trek in the first place. It is still completely faithful to Gene Roddenberry’s original vision of a “Wagon Train to the stars.” It has made Star Trek fresh and new for me.  And for that, this “Trekker” hopes that this cast will indeed “Live Long and Prosper. See this movie now!

It is my pleasure to give Star Trek a 5 out of 5.

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