Star Trek Reviews
Having sold us a decent monster movie in Cloverfield, and co-created the most overrated TV series of all in Lost, Abrams has now turned his hyping hands to Star Trek. In the series' first outing since Star Trek: Nemesis seven years earlier, Abrams attempts to reboot the entire series and bring in a new, younger audience while appeasing long-time fans. What results is promising and watchable, but it also squanders a lot of its potential and ultimately leaves us feeling empty.
There can be no denying that Star Trek looks good. Notwithstanding Abrams' baffling obsession with lens-flare (which reared its ugly head again in Super 8 two years later), the film is a breath of fresh air for those who endlessly groaned about the creaky special effects in 'Trek films. You won't find any plastic rocks or monsters made out of pipe cleaners here, with the CGI being crisp and the aliens realised in a generally convincing way. The camera may be on the move a little too often for those of us who like stories to unfold naturalistically, but cinematographer Daniel Mindel keeps us on an even keel with attractive lighting and responsive compositions.
From a character perspective, Star Trek manages to give us fresh character portrayals which also tie up well with their older selves. We can certainly believe that these young characters will grow into the people we know from the TV series and original films. Chris Pine nicely captures the headstrong, impulsive, reckless nature of Kirk, and there are early traces in Zachary Quinto's performance of the imperious stoicism that the late Leonard Nimoy made his own. The best piece of casting, however, is Karl Urban as Bones: he's so hilariously irascible, but the film never lays on the humour too thick in either his performance or his dialogue.
Because the film is attempting to appease old fans as well as bring in the new, there are quite a lot of references to the Star Trek back catalogue in here. The sequence of Sulu sword-fighting is a slightly updated restaging of George Takei's swordfighting in 'The Naked Time', and the reappearance of the Kobayashi Maru immediately brings to mind Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Some references are broad and well-known, such as the Prime Directive and the Romulans, while others are more obscure: Captain Pike will be a familiar figure only to those who saw the original pilot.
When interviewed for the BBC's Red Dwarf Night in 1998, Patrick Stewart said that he wished some of the show's "wild, ironic humour" could have been incorporated into The Next Generation. Regardless of how well this would have worked, there is quite a lot of welcome humour to be found in Star Trek. One of the biggest problems of the original series was how seriously William Shatner played every scene, when the sensible thing would have been to acknowledge its limitation and knowingly embrace its silliness. Here, we get to see Kirk as more of a wisecracker, and Spock is the perfect foil, especially during his early scenes at Starfleet.
So far, Star Trek is shaping up to be decent effort, improving on the originals' production values, bringing more humour to the table and doing justice to the characters. But there's one massive problem with Star Trek which leads onto several smaller but equally bothersome problems, and when combined they ultimately scupper this film.
The single biggest problem with Star Trek is this: it's not a proper 'Trek film, because it isn't driven by ideas. Even at their weakest, the Star Trek series and film franchise were idea- or concept-led, much like the halcyon days of Doctor Who; rather than simply settling for a clearly drawn, good vs. evil pantomime, they tried (albeit with many failures) to tackle subjects which were interesting, complex or provocative. For everything that is wrong with Star Trek: The Motion Picture or Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, they deserve a modicum of credit for the ideas they attempt to espouse.
Star Trek starts off very promisingly, but it eventually becomes a Star Wars film by any other name. It's not surprising that Abrams was more of a Star Wars fan than a Trekkie growing up, with the resemblances growing stronger as the film progresses. The entire sequence on the ice planet is simply the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back with a bigger, less memorable monster.
To claim that Star Trek does for Starfleet what Batman Begins did for the Caped Crusader is to overstate its virtues while doing Christopher Nolan a hue disservice. When Nolan approached the Batman franchise, which had been in hibernation for a similar length of time, he wanted to take Batman back to its dark, moral roots, reshaping the iconography to explore complex philosophical ideas. It's no surprise that Abrams is now helming the latest Star Wars film, because he clears prefers spectacle to scintillating conversation, and dog-fighting to dissections of dogma.
All the aspects of Star Trek which should have weight is either overlooked or quickly abandoned. The time travel and comparisons between the universes are reduced to an Austin Powers-style plot device: Kirk's conversations with Spock Prime are largely padding, with Nimoy's appearance serving as a sop to older fans. The red matter used by Nero (a good performance by Eric Bana) could have been explored in the manner of the Genesis device, as a symbol of how uncontrollably powerful yet dangerous the desire for revenge can be. Instead, it becomes just another plot mechanism, brought up occasionally in an attempt to add drama when it actually does nothing of the sort.
Then there is the problem of sexualisation, with Star Trek going strongly after the teenage boy market at the expense of everyone else. The romance between Spock and Uhura makes little sense and goes nowhere, and then there are the costumes. On the one hand we have the shots of Uhura and her roommate in their underwear for no good reason; on the other hand, all the woman wear very short skirts, but all the men are always fully clothed. It's bizarre that Star Trek Into Darkness got such a public wrap for a similar double standard while this escaped seemingly unscathed.
Although Gene Roddenberry always intended to make a prequel to the original Star Trek series, this film does not honour the intentions or spirit of his work in any meaningful way. While the best Trek films were properly plotted and ended on a strong and resonant note, this gradually unspools into a series of incoherent and frankly boring battle scenes. We are constantly bombarded by noise, special effects and lens-flare but not given enough by way of character stakes to keep us interested.
Star Trek is a disappointment which could easily have been better if anyone other than Abrams had directed it. While it generally looks better than some of the other films in the series, and benefits from a good-humoured cast, on a narrative level it has far too little between its ears and not enough substance or discipline to sustain our attention. As a totally disposible slice of space fantasy, you could do a awful lot worse, but true Trek fans will not be abandoning the old films any time soon.
Though time travel plots are nothing new to Trek, they decide to bring it back here, but, they put a twist on it by establishing that, somehow, an alternate timeline is created, which allows for this reboot and its subsequent sequels to pretty much do whatever they want without upsetting the established canon. That's a cool idea.
So yeah, it's a weird time travel revenge plot that the fledgling Enterprise crew get involved with, but it's still a lot of fun. I actually really like that they decided to reboot things, and give us a fresh glimpse into how the gang came to be.
The film is really well cast, and the principal performers do a great job filling some very large shoes. The only casting choice that sticks out to me in a kinda bad way is Eric Bana as the main antagonist Nero. Actually, Nero is my biggest problem with the film, mostly because he's not as interesting of a villain as he could be. Apparently the tie-in comics did a great job creating his character and motivations, so its a shame that the same can't be said for here. Bana is okay, but he really doesn't seem all that compelling or memorable.
So yeah, the villain aside, this is an amazingly solid and entertaining film. The easter eggs and fan service are awesome too, especially the way they worked Nimoy into things.
The film's score, cinematography, and effects are all top notch, the pacing is brisk but still allows for some depth and development, and the action is pretty thrilling too.
I really loved it when I first saw it, but I've kinda mellowed on my feelings for it, thus I'm downgrading the rating by a half-star. It's still a strong film, but time has revealed that it's got more flaws than I picked up on initially. Still though, give it a shot.
Gotta love a movie that knows that it's a Sci-Fi action movie and boldly go(es) for it (see what I did there...?). Infinitely re-watchable and with characters you can't wait to see in a sequel, the 24th century has finally made its mark on the 21st century.
As much as I loved this movie, I couldn't compete with my mother -- an old school trekkie who saw it 6 times in theaters. Yeah, she's real serious about Spock.
Not only is it an awesome, grand and in many ways fantastic sci-fi film, but it's given Star Trek a new face, and reinvented the whole franchise into something more modern and exhilarating. And it couldn't have come at a better time. Because after the soulless Star Trek: Enterprise series, along with the highly disappointing Insurrection and Nemesis flop, this is just what we fans needed.
Many trekkies (at least all the hardcore purist ones) are likely to complain about the changes in design and what not, and that it doesn't stay 100% true to the original series, but personally I couldn't care less. Because what J.J. and his crew has done here, is given Star Trek a good name again.
Sure, it may lack some of the philosophical and deep-thinking qualities that the franchise is known for, but it compensates for that by being incredibly exciting and well-directed instead. I for one loved every second of it and can see myself watching it many times over in the not-too-distant future. An amazing movie altogether, that I hope will live long and prosper for a long time to come.
"The future begins."
The first time I watched Star Trek two years ago was my first taste of the Star Trek franchise. I had never seen the show or any of the old movies that followed it. Since then I have watched most of the old movies and a handful of episodes, but have never gotten to into the original series. But just visiting the origins for this Star Trek made me like it so much more. The first time I watched it I really enjoyed it, but I didn't know any of the characters and how they relate to each other. My second viewing of Star Trek was even more fun then the first. It's one of the better Science Fiction movies of the last decade.
What really leaps out at me while watching this is that you don't have to be a fanboy to appreciate it. Like Nolan's Batman , if this is the first of the franchise that you have seen you are still likely to enjoy it. J.J. Abrams is able to appeal to everyone with this. He makes it enjoyable for the Star Trek noob, while clearly not offending any of the fanboys who have seen every episode and movie twenty times. This may seem like no big deal, but it has to be hard to do.
Star Trek looks and sounds great. The special effects are big, but not overblown to the point where it cancels out everything else that is going on. The film features a great cast including Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Leonard Nimoy, Simon Pegg, Bruce Greenwood, Anton Yelchin, and the sexy Zoe Saldana. There's also smaller performances from Eric Bana and Winona Ryder.
With of all that put together the film is pretty epic. It's exciting, fun, funny, and occasionally heartfelt like no other Star Trek film has been. There is a great balance between dialogue and action. It never relies too much on the action, but also never provides too much downtime for some viewers to get bored in.
There's always going to be those people who refuse to watch a movie with the name Star Trek in the title. It has that connotation of being only for nerds and losers. I have friends that refuse to watch it no matter how many people tell them how great it is. All I have to say to those people are that they are missing out on quite a film.
J.J. Abrams did an amazing job bringing Star Trek to a new generation and I can't wait until we see a sequel. Let's just hope it is half as good as this one was.
Spock Prime: Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Her ongoing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life-forms and new civilizations; to boldly go where no one has gone before.