It’s been an unlikely success story, but one that is becoming increasingly familiar in Hollywood that with the right talent, the right motivation, the right execution, seemingly dead franchises are rising from the grave and against all odds are thundering their way into mainstream popularity.
You needn’t look any further than the past 12 months with images of The Joker plastered proudly on high street fashion t-shirts triggering a sensation of “where have you been?” for the Clown Prince of Crime, with hindsight now unthinkable that the most marketable screen villain of all time had been off our screens for two decades. Only five years ago, they were talking about not making any more James Bond movies, but it took guts and a lot of foresight to reboot the character back to his roots, and it worked magnificently with a new 007 for the 21st century.
Similarly in 2005, when the final episode of Enterprise aired, for the first time in it’s long and glorious history, Paramount had no Star Trek t.v. or film in production, and no plans for that to change anytime soon. The double whammy of fans being tired of the adventures of Captain Jean-Luc Picard and a few misfire t.v. shows resulted in a down time for Trek, which again many were saying would be the death of a franchise that forever had a loyal but fairly limited cult fanbase, and even those were getting bored of it’s output.
But just one year later, one year after Star Trek was at it’s lowest point, J.J. Abrams, possibly the most powerful man in entertainment saw a vision and had the balls to take this franchise into an avenue you can’t imagine anyone else would dare. And now comes spring 2009, and rest assured, all misgivings you have ever had about a Star Trek reboot should now be thrown out the window, this very instant. Trek delivers, BIG TIME. This isn’t just speaking from someone who loved Zack Snyder’s Watchmen, it’s not from someone who is recommending the movie only to those who loved the original material, this is from someone who loves Star Trek but also loves big budget science fiction, and there’s been no movie like this for a very long time.
Whether you have ever loved any incarnation of Star Trek, whether you have loved Serenity, Battlestar Galatica, Star Wars or even if you are new to any of those franchises. Your going to love this. Star Trek is the perfect platform for a newbie and just like over the past decade comic books have become cool, now so will Star Trek. And fanboys shouldn’t become bitter about it, they should embrace it because this series should now live long and prosper and there’s more than enough here to satisfy what you have come to expect from this franchise.
Writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, with far more attention to detail than they ever paid to the Transformers mythology, have put together a carefully well thought out reasoning for a reboot, which is of course the only reboot in film history which manages to keep continuity. It’s never quite been done like this before and I can’t imagine any reboot coming anywhere near to being this successful ever again. They haven’t simply made another Superman Returns which struggled to form it’s own identity and was constantly been held down by what went before it, this Trek has new refreshing life and no restrictions on where it can go, for at least the next ten years.
With a new Terminator movie just weeks away on the horizon, I sincerely hope they have been as wise too in thinking about the bigger picture.
Star Trek begins, and well, it’s a shock that it’s most definitely not like any Trek movie you have seen before. The camera angles, the very fast movement Abrams used in Mission Impossible III to tell the story where the camera was never quite still, always excited more by the footage it was trying to capture than being steady is at use once again. This time it has the lens flare light that keeps interrupting proceedings, which you do get used to very quickly.
The bridge looks different, nothing is quite defined. There’s screens that you can see through, you get different head shots of the crew that we aren’t used to. We are on board the U.S.S. Kelvin during an epic battle against a scary, deathly looking Romulan mining ship. We see the universe alternating destruction of Kelvin, and with the new mythology that James Tiberius Kirk was born at the same time as the death of his father George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth), who as you have heard from the trailer saved hundreds of lives whilst he was in captain of the ship for 12 mins, allowing enough people to get off the ship before it’s used as a battering ram.
It’s an exciting sequence, and it’s all before the opening credits. It’s the kind of finale that has ended Trek movies in the past, but this one was just the opening.
From there the movie barely ever stops as it goes through dozens of different locations, resembling a Star Wars movie in depth and scope. As you might have guessed, we get an introduction to all the characters we love and how they stumbled on board the Enterprise together, which is particularly rushed it has to be said but better to establish everyone in one movie than to take several.
It is a little tiresome to see the coincidence meetings between the crew members of how they met and especially the many quick fire rapid promotions that occurred to get the faces we know on board the Enterprise. I kinda know what they were doing, they wanted each individual to have their own origin and introduction that we would remember throughout the series but it also stretched believability.
I also realise that in the Star Trek episode that revolved around Captain Christopher Pike (in the movie played very well by Bruce Greenwood), only Spock was on board as a crew member, so for the hardcore fans seeing Sulu and Chekov on the ship of the Enterprise first would have been broken that. So I forgave them that and because I liked how Kirk met Bones, I liked how Kirk/Uhura thing played out and how she got onto the ship, it didn’t bother me too much.
I would have liked it if Sulu, Chekov and Scotty had already been on board when Kirk joined, just so the Enterprise didn’t feel like it was ran by a team of rookies and there was at least some legit experience on there.
One question I was asked post-seeing the movie by a good friend of mine who might be a bigger Trekkie than me was, “Is it a good Star Trek movie, or a good movie with the title Star Trek?”. The answer I’m happy to say is both.
The magic trick that Abrams has managed to pull off is turning this cult t.v. show into a fully fledged A-list summer popcorn material, possibly the most mainstream two hours of science fiction that has existed on our screens since The Matrix (and yes, this is a review of a movie titled Star Trek you are reading) and one that works on an epic grandeur scale that technology has allowed to match the biggest of any Hollywood productions.
Finally the ship battles are matching those of the Star Wars ship battles, but with Abrams’ ever faster moving camera angles and special effects, matching the speed at which the ever excitable personality talks. The use of Michael Giacchino’s operatic score which for much of the movie provides the emotional cue, and takes over the film as it does for many of the emotional scenes in Lost proves effective in giving Trek a higher sense of purpose to any action, death and decision.
Those who are pissed about the time travel aspect being the catalyst for the movie, like I was originally, should probably re-watch some of those old episodes and see how hammy some of the time travel cliches were that got past writers out of trouble to begin with. What’s so fun, is an exposition scene in the middle of the movie where the characters are openly talking about time travel and an alternative history, just shoving in our faces that this is different to what went before and whatever adventures lie in wait for this ship and crew, it’s not simply going to be a rehash of what happened before. It explains that this is clearly Star Trek, and for a series that has used the concept of alternative and parallel universes many times in the past, it’s not such an untraditional plot device as you may think.
Abrams has created a device where has basically got himself a prime era Kirk, Spock, Scotty, McCoy etc, but is now never tied in to telling stories the way they were told before. It’s a genius idea. I’m certain we will see Khan at some point, but will the end result be the same as it once was?
I’ve only seen Chris Pine act previously in Smokin’ Aces and I praised him in that, but here you are seeing the beginnings of a movie star. He carries this movie, and doesn’t just impersonate William Shatner but he creates a completely new Kirk and by the end of the movie, when he puts on that uniform, the torched has been past.
Pine is a very, very, very good actor and I think the “Seth Rogen” and “Josh Brolin” effect is going to capsulate him soon and your going to see him cast in many geek projects over the coming years. If I were Warner Bros, I would be knocking down on his door for the Green Lantern role, most certainly.
I love that he doesn’t really look like Shatner, he only occasionally falls into Shatner mannerisms, so they just let him do his thing, nakedly put him in there and it works, too great effect. Loved the cocky Kirk who got his ass kicked at the bar, all the way to the leadership qualities he possess at the end, he was born to be Captain and he knows it all along.
Zachary Quinto brings a more sympathetic touch to Spock and arguably he had the hardest ask as he was up against Leonard Nimoy, whose Spock has never been so touching himself as in this movie. Karl Urban is probably the one doing the biggest impersonation of DeForest Kelly but he just goes for it totally, and it works surprisingly well. He gets the best laughs, and has the best lines.
Anton Yelchin’s Russian accent is a dead on Chekov, though it is slightly over-the-top and comical for the action in the movie. Simon Pegg plays every Simon Pegg role we have seen for years now and not Scotty, and he even has an alien sidekick which I guess is his version of Nick Frost or Jar Jar Binks. But he provides light relief, in much the same way Abrams used him in MI: III.
Zoe Saldana and John Cho did enough with those characters to edge out a personality for those unfamiliar with them in the series. Eric Bana’s villain Nero isn’t particularly all that great but this isn’t his movie. He will be a minor villain for what the Federation have to face in the future I’m sure, and his revenge plot was good enough to be interesting in what was a really a movie about getting the crew of the Enterprise together.
Best franchise reboot since Batman Begins? Probably so. If there was ever going to be a Star Trek movie that could seriously make a profit on a $150 million budget, then this one is surely it.
Now it’s up to you guys. We await to see if Star Trek is ever going to be capable of becoming a worldwide pheonemon.
This article was first posted on April 28, 2009