Star Trek

startrek2009posterstarring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Leonard Nimoy, and Eric Bana
written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman & directed by J.J. Abrams
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, and brief sexual content.

Young James T. Kirk (Pine) is a restless troublemaker in a small Iowa farming community in the 23rd century. Challenged to follow his dead father’s heroic example, he enlists in Starfleet where his penchant for bending the rules soon has him locking horns with a young Spock (Quinto), and facing expulsion. Before that can happen, however, a distress call from the planet Vulcan sends everyone scrambling for their ships, and the disgraced Kirk is wrangled aboard the USS Enterprise by his friend Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban). As they race to the rescue, Kirk realizes that the fleet is heading into a trap involving the same giant, highly-advanced alien vessel that destroyed his father’s ship decades earlier. The enemy is under the command of Nero (Bana), a deranged Romulan who has come from the distant future to exact a terrible revenge by changing the course of history. It will be up to Kirk, Spock, and rest of the not-yet-famous crew of the Enterprise to step up and stop Nero from erasing their future, along with the future of the entire Federation.

I should say right off that, while I’ve seen all of the previous Star Trek films, I’ve never really watched any of the various TV shows associated with the franchise, and I’m certainly not what you would call a “Trekkie.” I enjoy the characters of Star Trek and the universe that they inhabit, but I’ve always been more of a Star Wars fan. Imagine my surprise, then, upon discovering that this story “reboot” of the original crew shares more than a few superficial similarities with George Lucas’s space epic, and in a good way. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Star Trek has reinvented itself by becoming Star Wars, but the new film is visceral and invigorating in a way that I have not generally associated with previous installments.

Naturally the first concern of any fan, casual or otherwise, will be the fate of one of the most beloved sets of characters in American popular culture. Happily, the casting, development, and portrayal of Kirk, Spock, Bones, Uhura, Scotty, Sulu, and Chekov are the film’s greatest strengths. The movie spends a lot of time laying the groundwork, and the result is funny, exciting, and highly enjoyable. These are the same characters we know and love . . . but different. Pine and Quinto to an excellent job, though I thought it was a bit unfair for Quinto to have to play Spock opposite the legendary Leonard Nimoy as the older version of the character (he must inevitably suffer by comparison, through no real fault of his own). Meanwhile, although Kirk and Spock are the center of things, everyone is given some chance to shine. I was particularly charmed by Urban’s take on Dr. McCoy and Simon Pegg’s charming and affable Scotty.

The writers are swimming in dangerous waters in allowing time travel to once again play such an integral role in the plot. If the story just doesn’t work for you because of various inconsistencies or implausibilities, the time travel element will most likely be the culprit, and I suspect that this is the sort of flaw that will only grow more pronounced in its silliness with subsequent viewings. For me, the experience was too fast-paced and fun to be picked apart while I was watching it, and that’s got to count as a success. The one notable exception to this (and I’m certainly not the first person to point this out) is a very clumsy bit of exposition shoehorned in about halfway through, in which the older Spock literally downloads “the story so far” into Kirk’s mind. I couldn’t help but think that any piece of plot that couldn’t be communicated more effectively than that probably shouldn’t be included at all. Still, it’s such a pleasure to see Nimoy back in action, you might not even notice.

For all of its creative re-imagination and entertainment value, I rather doubt that Star Trek will hold up terribly well against the passage of time. Of course, predictions like this are often wrong and tend to be pointless anyway (all that really matters is that the movie is worth going to see now, at the time of its release). I am led to make this rash statement because of the overall feeling that I was left with at the end: a strong nostalgia for past episodes and excited anticipation of future installments. The movie inspired me to want to go back and watch the movies featuring the original crew, and maybe even dabble a bit in episodes of the original show. At the same time, the film succeeded in reintroducing these characters and setting them up in a situation that I genuinely look forward to seeing developed in the various sequels which are no doubt forthcoming. This strong link with the past and potential for the future are all to the good, but they mark this Star Trek film as a very effective, but probably forgettable, transitional film. I just hope that the new Star Trek lives up to the promise on display here of better things to come.

~ by Jared on May 8, 2009.

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