Star Trek (2009)

22 Feb


Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Star Trek” has generated many fans with its long-running TV series, originated from Gene Roddenberry, and numerous films. Now here is the prequel in which the characters, that fans have grown to know and love, meet each other for the first time. You’d think from seeing the cast list of this film that the actors seem be playing trick-or-treat with the “Star Trek” characters because they’re so young. But that’s the fun of “Star Trek”—this movie is a prequel to the show and other films. Every superhero story (or any other popular franchise) requires an origin story and here we have the origins of Capt. James T. Kirk, Mr. Spock, Uhura, Bones McCoy, Sulu, Chekov, and Scotty. So it makes perfect sense why the characters are younger this time around.

“Star Trek” is directed by J.J. Abrams who delivers slam-bang action sequences that are all great fun. And seeing as how special effects have improved long since the original show, all of the effects in the action scenes are extremely well done. More importantly, I wasn’t bored. The film looked great, the special effects were first-rate, and the characters were interesting, which made the action all the more exciting.

We have the younger versions of the well-known “Star Trek” characters here and the actors seem to be channeling their adult counterparts. We meet James T. Kirk as a rebellious, hotheaded young man (played by Chris Pine) who gets into all sorts of trouble, even when he believes he is right about how to take control when flying a spacecraft. This raises an issue with young Spock (Zachary Quinto) who created the flight-simulation test that James has taken three times now.

For fans of the “Star Trek” franchise, this is great fun. Seeing James and Spock as young adults (and at each other’s throats every now and then) will delight many viewers. Without giving much away, I have a feeling they’ll be even more delighted when the old Spock (reprised by Leonard Nimoy) arrives from the future and meets young James. Now see, young James does believe that this is Spock Prime, but he just can’t believe that he’ll be Spock’s dear friend, as Spock Prime calls him, because the young Spock that he already knows is an emotionless, somewhat-pompous guy.

Yes, time travel is part of the movie’s plot, which could explain the origin story itself.

The main villain in “Star Trek” is the evil Romulan Capt. Nero (Eric Bana) who, along with his forces, are destroying planets (including Spock’s home planet Vulcan) and going through (and creating) black holes that devour everything in sight. James and Spock are two of many space cadets chosen to do battle with Nero, so it’s onboard the U.S.S. Enterprise in its visual glory. Among the cadets are Communications Officer Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Doctor Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban), and Navigators Sulu (John Cho) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin). Scotty (Simon Pegg) will join later, but I won’t go into it—I don’t want to go into heavy detail as to how everything comes to anything in this film, but then again, I already mentioned Spock Prime. One weakness with the film is that sometimes, the situations feel just a bit rushed.

Among the brilliant action scenes—the opening space battle, the scene in which James and Sulu use swords and fists to fight off a couple of Romulans after landing on a platform in the air from which the Romulans are drilling a hole into the core of Vulcan (…OK that’s cool with me), and the final climax. Each of these are thrilling and great entertainment.

The characters in this movie are well-developed. They have to be, since their characters will become the people that “Star Trek” fans know and love already. They are all given their moments and they all work fine. Spock, in particular, is half-human and half-Klingon, so he is constantly taunted by his peers as a child and by the Ministry of Vulcan. Klingons supposedly have no emotion and Spock is always trying to betray emotion, but being also half-human, it’s hard. You really want to see him lose it and shed a tear or even smile once in a while. And then you have Spock Prime, who seems more human. You get the two of them together and…what can I say? It’s satisfying. Also satisfying is the relationship between James and Spock—their beginning rivalry and their eventual teamwork in the final climax.

The actors are all solid here—Chris Pine is suitably cocky and charismatic as James T. Kirk, Zachary Quinto does a nice understated job as Spock, and Leonard Nimoy is excellent in reprising his role from the original show and films. Zoe Saldana and Karl Urban are spot-on in physique and personality of their older counterparts; and John Cho, Anton Yelchin, and Simon Pegg are also fun company. Eric Bana is quite effective as the villain.

I need to be honest—before I saw this movie, I had never seen a single “Star Trek” TV episode or movie. So this was my introduction to the “Star Trek” franchise. I knew a few things about the show and films—I just hadn’t seen either of them. This is a solid introduction for me and it deserves a solid recommendation from me. It’s a well-done space opera that packs the punches and delivers the goods. I look forward to checking out any other “Star Trek” film (or maybe an episode) sometime soon. Or maybe there will be a sequel to this one coming soon…can’t wait!

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