I’m not going to be shy about it. Despite my love of the science fiction genre, I have never been a fan of the Star Trek universe. The original series was too campy for me and while the original cast movies were certainly an upgrade, they were very hit or miss. The Next Generation never held my interest, I generally disliked all of the characters from it, and I don’t even want to talk about Deep Space Nine, Voyager or Enterprise, which were snooze fests of the highest order.
Believe me I have tried to enjoy the series. As of this review I have seen all 10 of the previous Star Trek films (I had not seen Nemesis prior to the new film) and while I certainly enjoy the dynamics of the original cast (Shatner rocks) and will admit about half of the films are good (one being great), I just don’t get the draw.
My friends liken my apathy towards Star Trek as a whole to my supposed worshiping of Wookies. Yes, I am a Star Wars fan (I even enjoyed the prequels for what they were, schlocky B-movies that had A-movie budgets and D-movie direction), however I don’t think that my love of Star Wars ties into my dislike of Star Trek. After all, I am not the type of guy who would dress up as Han Solo and have his wife-to-be dress as Princess Leia on our wedding day, although we did “accidentally” walk down the aisle during our recessional to the “The Throne Room / End Title Medley” from A New Hope. In any case I do not begrudge anyone for liking Star Trek, it’s just not for me.
Honestly I think it might be the lightsaber thing, or maybe the star-fighter thing, or whatever, I am getting really far off track just so I can tell you that Star Trek (not to be confused with Star Trek: The Motion Picture) is an awesome film. I haven’t had so much fun with a film since Transformers and this is better than that film in every aspect. Special Effects. Check. Unrelenting action sequences. Check. Explosions. Check. Comedic relief. Check. It’s like J.J. Abrams took a page out of Michael Bay’s handbook for making blockbuster films and then added stuff like great casting, good acting, superb pacing and fantastic direction to make a purely entertaining and good film.
And that is where Star Trek separates itself from the average run of the mill summer blockbuster and elevates itself to the level of a film like The Dark Knight. Is it as good as The Dark Knight? No its not. For one there are plot holes and inconsistencies that you can drive a truck through, sometimes stuff just happens because it is the most convenient way to progress the story but Abrams paces the film in such a way that before you have the chance to start questioning why or how something happened you are onto the next big set piece. A lot of the problems can be directly tied to the script which was rushed for filming to start before the writers strike last year. I firmly believe if writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman had had a little more time some of the more unexplainable happening would have been worked out better. In any case Abrams took what he was given and smacked it out of the park.
A lot was made before the release of the film that Abrams was rebooting the series. Star Trek nuts were up in arms because they were afraid that Abrams was going to come in and somehow destroy the legacy that Star Trek had built. Star Trek is a reboot but it also doesn’t ignore the fact that everything that Trek fans have latched onto as cannon actually happened. Star Trek is a prequel, a sequel and a reboot all in one. The device used to make it all work, a crazed Romulan mining captain (Eric Bana) from the future comes to make Spock’s and the Federation’s lives a living hell, forever altering the future by killing Kirk’s father in the opening minutes of the film. It is a little bit silly, but c’mon it is Star Trek and there is no denying that it both works for an entertaining movie and to allow Abrams to go his own way with future sequels.
Of course none of this works at all if the cast doesn’t work together. If there was anything I particularly enjoyed about the original cast it was that they had such a strong on screen chemistry and the one thing I was afraid about with Star Trek was that this new younger cast would all try to impersonate their iconic counterparts. Fortunately, aside from Bones (Karl Urban), everyone takes their characters and approaches them from a new perspective. Chris Pine does a fantastic job as Kirk. And while he is inevitably going to be compared to Shatner’s version, Pine holds his own. It is not necessarily a better Kirk than Shatner, its just different and that is exactly what this film needed. The same goes for Zachary Quinto as Spock. Quinto should be congratulated even more for being able to change Spock so drastically, while still maintaining his essence all while having to work with the Leonard Nimoy, who was also playing Spock in the film. Yeah that’s right, wrap your head around that one.
The rest of the Enterprise’s crew is great as well. As said earlier Bones is more of an impersonation of the late DeForest Kelley but it works and I really liked Urban in the role. Scotty* (Simon Pegg), Sulu (John Cho), Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin) were all fantastic with the screen time they were given. Uhura in particular was given a bigger role than in previous films and Saldana made the most of it, making her character relevant and likable. In fact I felt all the characters were generally likable and they all seemed to be having a lot of fun, which in turn translated into me having fun.
I never thought I would say this but I can’t wait until the next Star Trek film. I haven’t enjoyed the universe and characters this much since Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn and I am actually quite excited to see what Abrams does with the series going forward.
Simply put Star Trek is a fantastic film and you should go see it.
On a side note, Abrams is now two for two behind the camera on the big screen. Can this guy do no wrong?
On another side note, during the scene where Kirk, Sulu and Chief Engineer Olson are walking with Pike to the shuttle where they will jump out and space / sky dive to the drill did anyone else think to themselves (or say it out loud like I did) that dude is going to die (in reference to the red shirt)?
5 out of 5
*My last name is Scott. I have been saddled with the moniker Scotty for quite a long time and have had to endure the timeless quote of “Beam me up Scotty” which I always find it funny being as I know nothing about engineering and never really liked Star Trek.
I was a guest on the latest episode of the About 12 Minutes podcast where I discussed the film. Give it a listen here. The Star Trek discussion starts about 17 minutes in (I know that fact doesn’t make much sense).