Posted on 19 May 2009.
Thank you J.J. Abrams for not only meeting my expectations with Star Trek, but also surpassing them. You are now the saving grace behind the franchise and you gave it a much-needed dose of adrenaline. Through all the years that I’ve liked Star Trek, I’ve never experienced a mass communities excitement over a new film set in that universe. Usually people would mock it and often associate its fan base with being “nerds” or “dorks.” Especially in the past seven years, Star Trek was at a low point. The last film, Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) was the lowest grossing film of the franchise and its last remaining TV Show, “Star Trek: Enterprise” was canceled in 2005. There was little interest by the public and it appeared Star Trek would just be a celebrated franchise of the past. Thanks to director Abrams, I can now (for the first time) talk about Star Trek with anyone and not feel embarrassed about it.
I loved this movie. Loved it. I’m perhaps saying this because I’m a huge fan, but anyone will enjoy this. This Trek takes a different approach, by making the characters more human than before. Abrams (not a “trekkie,” but actually a Star Wars fan) had the right idea by taking the characters of Kirk, Spock etc. and focusing on their younger lives, before they joined Starfleet. We are already familiar with these characters and we get a chance to see them when they were young, reckless, inexperienced and only on the verge of greatness. Of course, how can younger audiences be familiar with these characters when they weren’t exposed to the shows? Easy, Abrams plays it loyal to the original show, but starts from the beginning of everything so we become familiar with the characters at the start of their lives. We all start from the beginning.
When a Starship named the U.S.S Kelvin is investigating a strange black hole, it’s mysteriously attacked by a huge ship coming from the hole. When the Kelvin asks the mystery ship about the unprovoked attack, they respond by asking the captain, Richard Robau (Faran Tahir), to come aboard. Robau meets Nero (Eric Bana), a Romulan miner bent on revenge. Robau is unfamiliar with Nero’s questioning and is killed as the Romulan ship continues its attack on the U.S.S. Kelvin. The acting captain, George Kirk, takes control of the Kelvin and orders the evacuation of the ship, including his pregnant wife. When his son is born during the evacuation, he names him James Tiberius Kirk. Kirk Sr. collides with the Romulan ship on a suicide mission to give the rest of the crew time to get away. It’s revealed that the Romulans were accidentally sucked into the black hole while their home world, Romulas, was destroyed by a supernova. The Romulans, who were from the 24th century, realize they’re 154 years in the past and can’t get back. Before the time warp, Nero was seeking revenge on Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) after he failed to save Romulas.
"Westsiiide...I mean, live long and prosper."
Twenty years after the Kelvin attack, an older Kirk (Chris Pine) is convinced by Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) to join Starfleet. Spock (Zachary Quinto) also joins Starfleet because he doesn’t feel fully accepted by the Vulcan culture, since he’s half human. While at Starfleet, Kirk meets and befriends Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban) and Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana). After beating the impossible Kobayashi Maru test (a Starship bridge simulation test), Kirk is accussed of cheating (which he did) by Spock (who programmed it) and must stand before the Academy to await his punishment. This is one of the few times where Abrams actually references an older Star Trek movie, which talked about Kirk cheating the Kobayashi Maru in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. During the hearing, Starfleet receives a distress call from Vulcan (Spock’s home world) that they’re under attack from an unknown ship. Kirk is suspended indefinitely and the rest of the cadets are rushed into action aboard the brand new U.S.S. Enterprise (which hasn’t even had a maiden voyage). Kirk, wanting to get into the action, becomes a fake patient of McCoy’s and he manages to sneak aboard the Enterprise. While on board, Captain Pike discovers Kirk and promotes him to first officer, since he had a terrific tactical record at the Academy. Spock is also promoted to captain in case something ever happens to Pike. Kirk recognizes the similarities between the attack of the Kelvin and Vulcan and warns the crew that the Romulans are behind it. The Enterprise must travel to Vulcan to stop the attack during which Kirk and Spock are uneasy with each other.
Star Trek will certainly rank at No. 2 on my “From First to Worst” list of the Star Trek films. It is also the first Star Trek movie to features the Romulans as the principal antagonists, despite them being the longest running de facto alien villains of the TV series. I was really impressed with Eric Bana as Nero. You feel for him, but also hate him at the same time. Chris Pine is a good Kirk and didn’t do any William Shatner impressions. I can’t say he’s better than Shatner, but we’ll see over time, as he develops the character in future reprisals. He portrays Kirk on a new level and it’s good to see the character young again, not an overweight captain who wears a “Go Climb a Rock” t-shirt (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier). Karl Urban is eye-popping as McCoy. Not only did he quote famous lines like “God damn it Jim,” but he also has the same speech delivery and body mannerisms as the original McCoy, DeForest Kelly. Urban did mimic Kelly, yes, but did it so well that it works in his favor. He was very funny and definitely one of the brightest parts of the movie. The best performance, however, goes to Zachary Quinto as Spock. He looks like a younger Leonard Nimoy reincarnated, but plays it better than Nimoy ever has. Quinto’s Spock is a lot darker and edgier, which easily makes him the most interesting character. Nimoy returns as an older Spock (Spock Prime) and I got chills when I saw the legendary character return to the big screen. Nimoy plays Spock as cool and intellectual as ever and I was glad Abrams made him a major character and didn’t reduce him to a stupid cameo. Simon Pegg as Scotty and Anton Yelchin as Chekov also provide the movie with some humor. I did, however, think Zoe Saldana’s portrayal of Uhura is weak, as it’s forced and actually made her come across as a bitch.
The effects are good (provided by Industrial Light and Magic), but the true visuals were the actors. They made us fall in love with the characters all over again and even improved on some of them, mainly Kirk and Spock. Abrams focuses on the most important element of Star Trek, the characters, and it paid off. Yes, it’s an action-oriented Star Trek and it has mind-blowing special effects, but it’s the characters that ultimately draw us in. Once again, thank you J.J. Abrams for making a once proud franchise, proud again.