"…To BOLDLY go where No Man had Gone Before."..
…or something like that. The immortal tagline of the operatic TV franchise that had gone on for many generations. First off, let me tell you that I am a casual fan and more of a "Next Generation" kind'a guy, although my favorite Star Trek movie is still "The Wrath of Khan". After the failed box-office outings of recent ‘Star Trek" films ("Nemesis" for one) and the less than dominating presence in television by "Enterprise", one wouldn't be hard-pressed to think that the franchise needed a reboot to attract a new generation of fans. What made the series successful that also spawned numerous spin-offs (such as "Deep Space Nine") was the manner of which it creates mythic characters, with storylines that are pretty much driven by its characters and situations. Well, "popcorn" director J.J. Abrams is the one to undertake this very dangerous assignment of rebooting a well-loved franchise that had earned its place in pop culture. What should be the focus of this reboot? Remembering what had gone before while injecting a certain needed dose of energy.
Some years ago, and the U.S.S. Kelvin is under attack by a huge Romulan ship that dwarfs the Kelvin in size and power. Aboard the federation starship is George Kirk, who would then be revealed as the sire of one Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine). Sacrificing himself to save the lives of the crew, Kirk proves his mettle as a man who saved 800 people in under 8 minutes.
Now 20 years from that time, a cocky James Kirk is dubbed by Captain Pike as "only the genius level intellect repeat offender in the Midwest", and reveals the sacrifice made by his father. Inspired, Jim decides to enlist in the federation, finally beating a simulation program designed by Spock (Zachary Quinto) and attracts attention from the academy. Unfortunately, the planet Vulcan becomes under siege by the very same ship that killed Kirk's father; a rogue Romulan hero named Nero (Eric Bana) wants revenge on the planet. It is up to new federation cadets to try to intercept Nero, but will they be in time?
J.J. Abrams is one very mainstream director, he knows how to give his audience what they want or to believe that he knows what they want. The direction is indeed very energetic and fast-paced, the film keeps on moving, as Abrams bombards the audience with nostalgic scenes as we become privy to "Star Trek the Early Years". It is quite great to see the younger Kirk munching on an apple, the Vulcan mind-meld and nerve pinches, and accompanied by classic supporting characters such as Spock, Uhura (Zoe Saldana), McCoy (Karl Urban), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Chekov (Anton Yelchin), Sulu (John Cho) and even Leonard Nimoy makes an appearance as "Spock # 1". There is also a sexy green alien who is reminiscent of the green ladies in "Enterprise". The dialogue is full of humorous quips that give our characters some weight and lets them grow on us, in place of characterization. Sure, we are all familiar with these characters so development doesn't really matter right? Wrong. The characters this time around feels very one-dimensional, even Kirk's clichéd "bad boy" image persona is rather overused; he crashes a classic vintage sports car, and involves himself in barroom brawls, which make for fun development but a little too clichéd.. The characters while having an entertaining feel are very ‘cartoonish' and made very transparent to make for easy connection to its audience.
The screenplay by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman is full of action and set ups for the usual Hollywood injections of elaborate stunts, special effects, and heavy doses of explosions. While this is not exactly a bad thing, it does manage to keep the proceedings in a hyper-kinetic fun pace, if you are looking for action thrills then this movie will not disappoint. I rather enjoyed the scene when Kirk and Sulu engaged a vertical drop from space, I like the ‘ice planet' where Kirk meets the "prime" Spock, there are many scenes that can easily be seen as ‘popcorn' entertainment. The new U.S.S. Enterprise had some minor re-designs but none that looked too extravagant. Nero's ship does have a HUGE intimidating quality but it looks a little insect-like or a "flytrap". However, it doesn't have the feel of ‘classic' Star Trek movies, that may be seen as a misstep to purists, as the overly kinetic action tends to distract the audience from its plot.
The plot in 2009's Star Trek is very simple, and has the usual "trappings" of Hollywood formulas, such as time travel, an alternate reality, a black hole and a quest for revenge. The plot offers nothing new, and Abrams wisely avoids the inside details of the plot. (don't even try to dissect the logic and science of its plot since it is so unimaginative) Yes, to hide every plot misstep and hole, he distracts his audience with its pace, humor, a lot of huge explosions and action. What happened to Kirk's mother? She disappears after we see James taking a joyride in a sports car. The villain, Nero feels rather underwhelming, and all the emotions that he can display is anger, the explanation behind his goals for vengeance is also too short and rather feels like a throw-away detail. Much of the film's central focus is on the developing friendship between James and Spock, with Spock's budding romance with Uhura as a subplot. I have to say Zachary Quinto gives a very good performance, and almost steals the show from Chris Pine if it wasn't for his character's outward ‘cockiness'. the rest of the crew seems decent, although the cast definitely spends too much effort in acting like the ‘classic' cast so I cannot really comment on their acting talents.
I have seen many reviews of the movie and I have to say, everyone seems to be so happy to see the franchise re-energized. If you dissect the limitations and weaknesses of the plot, one can see that this film is JUST your usual popcorn affair, that comes straight from the Hollywood oven. It is a good film but the film spends too much time being fascinated with itself--"Hey look at us, we are making a new Star Trek movie", and fans of the almost ‘asleep' franchise are just happy to see the U.S.S. Enterprise Starship once again. The fact that Abrams knows "playful entertainment" is what gave the film its extremely high entertainment value, along with his innate skill in casting Winona Ryder in a surprise appearance and finds room for the Vulcan salute, and the little alien with Scotty, not to mention that green alien slut, Abrams knows energetic momentum and redeems the film. The film is fun, thrilling and enjoyable, but it is HARDLY Epic or groundbreaking. Would Gene Roddenberry give this film his approval? Probably not, but then all that should matter is how well ‘fans' take to it. When in doubt, clichéd popcorn movies are the safest bet. This movie will not make a dent or add on to Star Trek's legacy, but it sure is fun and as a lady friend of mine said; "CUTE".
Recommended! [3 ½ + Stars]
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