A while ago, I wrote the “This Week In Blockbusters” for Star Trek and indicated my excitement, despite knowing hardly anything about the basic series. Four exams and two beaches later, I finally got to watch it, and it matched and exceed my expectations. Star Trek is one of the best science fiction movies I’ve ever seen. When the biggest problem I have with it is the way Zachary Quinto stands as Spock (I tried to find a picture. It seems like his chest is stuck out and his arms are bent and pulled back), I know I have a great movie.
Star Trek opens strongly, with an intense action sequence as a gigantic Romulan ship attacks the U.S.S. Kelvin in deep space. Once the captain boards the ship, per their leader Nero’s (Eric Bana) request, he puts a young man named George Kirk in charge. Once all hell breaks loose, Kirk, as the new captain, orders the people on the Kelvin to be evacuated, including his very pregnant wife (played by the lovely Jennifer Morrison) who has just gone into labor. Once Kirk is the last one left, he realizes that he must remain on the ship to divert the Romulans long enough for the evacuees to survive. In his final minutes, as he shoots down missiles pursuing the small escape crafts, he talks to his wife one last time and helps name his son, James.
I did not expect to get chills watching Star Trek. I certainly did not expect the opening scene to pack such an emotional punch. I thought we’d have a space battle, sure, but not a story of such sacrifice and emotional weight. It’s a mythic origin, very much akin to the beginnings of various heroes throughout time (including, I have to say it because I noticed so many similarities, Superman). As I watched this scene, with its pristine special effects and its heroic message, I knew it was going to be great.
We then see the origins of a young Spock, trained in the methods of logical thinking and emotion suppression on the planet Vulcan. This might be more difficult for him than for his peers, since Spock is only half Vulcan; his mother is human (played surprisingly well by Winona Ryder). He is ridiculed by those his age and the leaders constantly underestimate his talents. He is told, “Control your emotions, so that they don’t control you,” and he learns to suppress his humanity, though it sometimes eeks out. When offered the opportunity to attend a school for higher learning “Despite his disadvantage” (aka his human mother), he refuses. He is the first person/Vulcan/living being to ever decline admission.
It’s these two early events that indicated I would love this movie. I knew it would have brains, and I knew it would have great action and special effects, but it also has heart, and I was not expecting that.
As the plot develops, we find out (what most people already know) that Nero has come from the future from the original ‘Trekverse,’ thus creating a tangent and alternate universe (the movie goes into perhaps too-much detail, making it abundantly clear that in this Trekverse, ANYTHING can happen). We also learn why he blows up Federation ships, and why he creates black holes at the core of planets. It works for the story, but the character is very one-dimensional. He’s out for vengeance, and is an evil Romulan. Got it? Good. It’s simple, but Bana plays it capably, since all he has to do is sneer and be evil, and cringe every time he hears the name “Spock.”
And about Spock. Even I got chills seeing Leonard Nimoy reprise his role (that being, future Spock, or as he’s listed “Spock Prime”). It’s great seeing him interact with young Kirk as if they’re old friends (I suppose they are, for one of them), and then later with New Spock. It works well, and serves as a nice tie-in.
Chris Pine plays James Tiberius Kirk very well. I don’t know much about Shatner’s Kirk (except, of course, for…his… stunted… speech), so I can’t compare, but this Kirk is strong, confident, often humorous, but also rebellious and risk taking (something his father was as well, and a quality he is told will work for his benefit). It’s great to see his transformation from a drunkard in a bar to the leader of the newest ship in the fleet (despite it’s slight contrivance). Overall he was very entertaining to watch, and I hope this helps push his career forward, as I’m sure it will.
The movie also made me wish I knew more about Star Trek lore, which I didn’t really think I’d care about. But even I picked up on some of the throwbacks. There’s a, “Damn it man, I’m a doctor not a physicist,” and a “I’m givin’ her all she’s got.” I did some research after seeing it, there are other little fun factoids for Trekkie fans. For instance, there’s a scene where three people sky dive and they’re each wearing different colored shirts. Those familiar with the show will realize one of them isn’t going to survive very long, based solely on his attire.
The movie is also surprisingly funny. There’s a lengthy sequence where Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban) continuously injects Kirk with various medicines and antidotes in order to get him onto the Enterprise, all the while Kirk is trying to get to the deck to warn Captain Pike of an impending ambush. Okay, so writing it doesn’t sound that humorous, but it’s worth a few laughs, another thing I didn’t expect from Star Trek.
As I said, this movie exceeded my high expectations, something few movies do. It deserves all the praise it’s getting, especially for making a Star Trek movie that is entertaining and accessible to the general public whether they be Trekkies or those that are dragged there by their boyfriends and think that they hate sci-fi movies. It’s sci-fi at its best, reminiscent of the old Star Wars and a reminder of what the new Star Wars (particular I and II) could have been. J.J. Abrams has directed a fantastic space epic and once again shows his clout in movie-making. Sure the time travel story is a little contrived, and Winona Ryder plays an old lady, but they make it work for a thoroughly entertaining summer blockbuster, and somehow make Star Trek cool.
UPDATE: Sequel Rumors: Slashfilm has posted an article discussing the guaranteed sequel. Abrams says both William Shatner and Kahn are candidates for characters, though it’s pure speculation at this point.