****1/2 (out of 5)
May 8, 2009
Chris Pine as JAMES T. KIRK
Zachary Quinto as SPOCK
Leonard Nimoy as SPOCK PRIME
Eric Bana as NERO
Bruce Greenwood as CHRISTOPHER PIKE
Karl Urban as LEONARD MCCOY
Zoe Saldana as NYOTA UHURA
Simon Pegg as SCOTTY
John Cho as HIARU SULU
Anton Yelchin as PAVEL CHEKOV
Ben Cross as SAREK
Winona Ryder as AMANDA GRAYSON
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Let’s begin with a few confessions:
I confess that I have watched “Star Trek” ever since I was a child. I also confess that I have dressed up as a “Star Trek” character while attending a science fiction movie marathon in high school. I further confess that while I have never attended a true “Star Trek” convention, I have attended plenty of science fiction and genre conventions.
However, I have never considered myself to be a Trekker, or even the more casual and less politically correct Trekkie. I have enjoyed the series, but I am not a purist. I do not believe that one day we will be living in Gene Roddenberry’s future. And I am not afraid to say that I have always enjoyed “Star Wars” more than “Star Trek.”
With that said, I was still very nervous, yet decidedly excited, to see the re-imagined version of “Star Trek,” brought to us by “Lost” and “Alias” creator J.J. Abrams.
Initially, I didn’t like the casting choices. I thought they were potentially disastrous (with the exception of Zoe Saldana as Uhura… I always knew she’d be smoking in that role). Over the past two years, surrounded by Internet buzz, I’ve kept an emotional distance from the new movie.
Now that I have seen it, I can honestly say that this was possibly the best modernization of the series I could have ever imagined.
The new “Star Trek” follows everyone’s favorite characters when they were young and green. James Kirk (Chris Pine) is a troublemaker who reluctantly joins Starfleet. Spock (Zachary Quinto) is a human/Vulcan hybrid who suppresses his troubled feelings about his lineage by diving into the logic of science at the Academy. The two young members of Starfleet clash on their first assignment, which brings them face-to-face with a mysterious Romulan warrior named Nero (Eric Bana) who is attacking Federation planets.
Abrams has given the “Star Trek” franchise a huge face lift, not just by casting younger actors but by applying a slick coat of coolness to the entire production design. While some aspects of the film seem shiny and new (like the design of the Enterprise and the weapons technology), others are shown in a more crude light (like the transporters, which don’t work as efficiently as we remember from the original series). If you let your mind stretch far enough, you might actually believe that this new movie can be consistent with the series itself.
Abrams manages to walk a thin line between pandering to the fans and reaching a new, modern audience. Similar to the James Bond reboot that happened a few years ago with “Casino Royale,” we get to see the classic Trek characters as unrefined and therefore fresh. They have yet to make mistakes that mold them into the characters we remember from the series and earlier films. The actors don’t mimic the original performances, which would lead to caricatures. Rather, they take a fresh approach and make them their own.
With the exception of Winona Ryder as Spock’s mother (and possibly Tyler Perry as a Starfleet officer, which seemed to be pandering to Perry’s own fandom and potential audience), the casting is excellent. Pine plays it cocky and exudes the womanizing charm that William Shatner set forth (although never really achieved). Quinto steals the show as Spock, the pivotal character in the film.
The rest of the cast offers support, with John Cho as a stoic Sulu, Karl Urban as a cranky yet fun McCoy, Simon Pegg as a hyperactive Scotty (possibly the closest the film gets to caricature) and Anton Yelchin as an impressive and sympathetic Chekov. And then there’s Zoe Saldana, who sizzles as the new Uhura.
There’s plenty in this film that nods at the Trekker fans – from Rachel Nichols’ sexy turn as a green girl conquest for Kirk to a bevy of throwback lines (including “I’m a doctor, not a physicist!” from McCoy and “I’m givin’ ‘er all I’ve got!” from Scotty).
Considering how many things J.J. Abrams had to juggle in this film – the reintroduction of the characters, the new introduction of the villainous Nero, the initial set-up of a new series and all the action needed for a summer blockbuster – he did an incredible job.
Die-hard Trek purists will always find things about this movie that they don’t like, but for the casual fan and summer movie buff, this is a fantastic film.