In the interest of full disclosure, I’d like to share that I was afforded this opportunity to see Star Trek by the staff of b. I thank them for the pass, and I am both humbled and horrified to know that “marty f’n day” is known by name in their halls. Also, it was in IMAX. Suck it, nerds.
In all my years of nerddom, there were two levels I’d never broach. One out of personal indifference, one out of personal dislike. Indifference was the way for pen and paper role-playing games. Never grabbed me, and at the age of Twenty-Four, I doubt they’d grab me now. Dislike was the way of Star Trek.
In life, I feel all people can be evenly split amongst two groups. Typically, this theorem is applied to Superman and Batman…you either love one, or another, and it says something about you. I’ve felt this way about Star Wars and Star Trek.
Trek was seen in my eyes as the sterile exploration of space, pushed through the eyes of 60’s nostalgia. Wars was the epic, the grandiose tale in the vein of pulp long lost. Exploration versus adventure. Analysis versus opera. This is what split the two. And I’ve long put myself in the “Wars” side of things.
But ‘lo, Paramount had a vision.
Star Trek, long considered the thing of hardcore sci-fi fandom, had lost it’s grip on the mainstream realm. Eleven films later, and only the most devout of fans were coming out. The television shows, no longer grabbing the ratings they once were.
It was time to make Star Trek anew. Batman Begins did it, so why not Trek?
The first key move in grabbing these new eyes was attracting the directing talents of JJ Abrams. Cultivating an audience over his television shows Alias and Lost, films like Mission: Impossible III and Cloverfield…he WAS mainstream….but the geeks loved him just as much.
And so Paramount set out, with a cast of relative unknowns (and the knowns, best known for cult) and a director the world adored.
Did it work?
From the first frame of the first true trailer I knew that this was the Star Trek film that would grab me headlong into the Trekkies warm embrace. And by god, it delivered.
From the opening sequence, which shows an epic space battle on an incredible scale (and proves that Abrams learned a lesson or two from Joss Whedon), we’re thrust headlong into the growth of this new universe’s James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock from childhood to starfleet and their ascension to the roles we’ve become accustomed to seeing them as.
Note the term “new universe”? Yeah, that’s super key here, as not only do we newbies get a new Trek universe to call our own, but they conveniently tie it to the existing Trek cannon. The explanation for this is incredibly complicated and verbose, but it sets the entire films plot into motion, and is rather fantastically verbalized by a rather reverent and wizened Leonard Nimoy.
What follows is possibly one of the better sci-fi movies of the summer, if not of the year, if not of quite a few years.
From top to bottom, Star Trek delivers.
It starts with an incredible lead in Chris Pine’s James Kirk. One part Shatner, one part Daniel Craig’s reinterpretation of James Bond, he (pardon the pun) commands the screen with equal parts charisma and wit. You understand how he could become a captain at such a young age, and Pine is an absolute blast to watch in character building scenes like the Kobayashi Maru.
Right behind him is Zachary Quinto as Spock. I had a feeling this would be his breakout moment, and by god, he is wasting his time on Heroes. Quinto personifies both sides of Spock, human and vulcan, to a T, and is a great compliment to Pine. (A side note, Winona Ryder appears as Spock’s Mother, and sweet jesus do I feel old having an actress I had such a crush on appearing as someone’s MOTHER.)
The rest of the supporting cast lives up to their roles with equal joy and abandon. Anton Yelchin as Chekov, Simon Pegg as Scotty, and Karl Urban as Bones reignite their iconic roles, showing deep character despite ultimately being used as comedic relief throughout the film, but I have no doubt they’ll be the highlight of future installments. While fleetingly used, John Cho is a superb Sulu, shining in his action sequences, and Bruce Greenwood is a believable inspiration for Kirk, as Captain Christopher Pike.
Possibly the unsung hero of the film, I suppose appropriate given his villain status, is Eric Bana as the villainous Nero. In his appearances on screen, Nero remains an imposing presence, showing equal parts intelligence and anger. You truly believe that he could destroy a world at a moments notice…yet believe he was in the right to do so.
Unfortunately, there is a weak-link in the film, and it’s Zoe Saldana as Uhura. While a perfectly fine actress, Saldana is reduced to window dressing, acting as a lover to Spock and lust object for Kirk, while having no real character development of her own. Hopefully Star Trek II will fix this.
What can I say? For the 126 minute running time of the film, I was completely enthralled, and as a decided anti-Trekkie, I never thought I’d say this…I loved Star Trek.
And hopefully you hardcore fans will love it too. There are tons of nice references dropped about the film, both for Trek fans (note the color of a certain sky jumping suit…you’ll predict his fate) and Abrams nerds (SLUSHO! GREG GRUNBERG’S VOICE!), and all and all, it’s just a stunning experience.
After the decidedly tepid kick off to the summer movie season last weekend with X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I am super pleased to say…the summer movie season is finally here, with JJ Abrams’ relaunch of Star Trek.
Be there this weekend. In IMAX, if you can.