Posted by: Tony – May 11, 2009
Just in case you missed the millions spent on advertising, Star Trek is back. Or, for those of you who have never been fans, it’s finally here. That’s right, JJ Abrams ends a seven-year hiatus of Trek films to deliver the most enjoyable entry in the series since the mid-nineties. To do this, he has taken the franchise as far back to its roots as possible and boldly transports the audience into an entirely new conception of the Star Trek universe.
The film serves not just as a prequel, but also as another reboot for a Hollywood franchise on the ropes. We can all stop cringing at the idea, though, as Star Trek is an incredibly fun movie that also manages to free itself from existing continuity in a very creative way. You can bet the screenwriters of the inevitable sequels appreciate the freedom to explore the universe without need for concern of offending the rabid fans.
There is plenty here for fans to take issue with, too. After all, the roles of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock have been icons for 40 years. Who wants to see a bunch of younger actors wandering around in Starfleet costumes trying to do their best William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy impressions. Fortunately, the film never falls into this nightmare. Instead, we get some surprisingly talented young actors who, though they have clearly seen Star Trek before, do not impersonate the actors who played the parts before them. They play their roles with such confidence that we have to assume they would have played it this way if they were the first to don the uniforms. The chemistry between them makes them likeable, and it gives us some very funny moments of comic relief.
This does not mean that the film or the actors are flawless. Eric Bana is a very capable actor, but he is given so very little to work with as the evil Romulan Captain Nero that he becomes almost laughable. He has few lines more compelling than, “Fire Torpedoes!” or “Destroy them!” or, when things start to go very badly for our villains, “Fire everything!”
We must also suffer through a scene in which Kirk becomes marooned on an ice planet. While it does lead him to some old friends (or, I suppose, new friends this go around), it seems like the scene exists for the sole purpose of having him run from a giant computer generated monster.
I found myself more than ready to forgive these shortcomings, though. The film is, after all, not about the villains, but about the heroes. Newcomers need to know that Captain Kirk will find a way, whether through his own ingenuity or with some help from one of his loyal friends, to get away from a giant computer generated monster. They also need to know that Spock does indeed have complex emotions, Scotty is a technical wizard, and Dr. McCoy is crotchety but loveable.
This is an introduction that does not steep itself too strongly in the techno-babble and insider information that plagued previous entries and kept Star Trek limited to a relatively small niche crowd. Everyone can get in on the ground floor this time, and for those of you who are already fans: You will walk out of a Star Trek movie smiling.
By Gareth Mussen