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“Star Trek”-(2009)-(Movie)-(Chris)
Reviewer:
Chris Pandolfi
Studio: Paramount
Genre:
Sci-Fi
Release Date:
10/17/09
Special Features:

Audio commentary / gag reel / featurette

Review:

I wish I could say that “Star Trek” is the film to end all “Star Trek” films, but in reality, it’s your run-of-the-mill summer blockbuster, and no more. It has a definite storyline, but director J.J. Abrams and writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman seemed more focused on developing overwrought action sequences and endless references to the original TV series. If you’re at the point where you can only keep winking at the audience nostalgically, you’ve lost track of what the concept set out to do in the first place. ***

I’m well aware that this movie is critic proof, that it will be a resounding success, and that it will spawn an entirely new series of sequels. But for my money, this reinvention of “Star Trek” is all about continuing a mission when it should have boldly gone where no one has gone before. ***

The film opens with an operatic space battle between the Federation and the Romulans. Born in the middle of it is James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine), who would grow up in Iowa as a trouble-making rebel who never knew his father. After getting into a barroom brawl – which involved a beautiful young communications officer named Uhura (Zoë Saldana) – he’s encouraged by Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) to finally apply himself and join Starfleet Academy. ***

Kirk concedes, but as we quickly learn from the Kobayashi Maru test, he’s not one for following rules. This puts him at odds with a young half-Vulcan named Spock (Zachary Quinto), who designed the test to be unbeatable. Apparently, it’s not about winning so much as it’s about handling yourself when in the grip of fear. ***

With the help of a flustered young doctor named Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban), Kirk is smuggled aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise during its first mission to the planet Vulcan, where a distress signal is being sent. When they arrive, they come face to face with Captain Nero (Eric Bana), a Romulan from the future who, for reasons I won’t reveal, has a vendetta against Spock. Nero’s mining vessel, a monstrosity that looks like a series of claws, twists its way into view, leaving in its wake a manmade black hole that eats everything in its path. ***

That’s about as much of the plot as I’m going to describe. Needless to say, Kirk soon finds himself in command of the Enterprise, and lo and behold, here enters young versions of Hikaru Sulu (John Cho), Pavel Chekov (Anton Yelchin), and Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg). ***

Had this film not been so insistent on reintroducing these characters, there’s a chance that they could have been developed a bit more. We don’t see complex personalities so much as actors doing impersonations of other actors. Urban, for example, is so focused on capturing the mannerisms of DeForest Kelley that we can’t look past the mimicry. The same can be said for Yelchin and Pegg, both of whom seem more interested in perfecting their accents than in delving into their roles. ***

Quinto’s take on Spock, however, is a bit more acceptable, probably because of we see him struggling with identity and emotional attachment. Unfortunately, these issues play a big part in a subplot that, for lack of a better term, is highly illogical. To describe it would give too much away, but I will say that a Spock scene late in the film is so implausible that it hardly seems fitting of a “Star Trek” film. ***

As for Pine, there is the sense that he was trying to expand on a well-established character; we now have some context for Kirk’s inflated ego and risk-taking behavior. Still, there are moments when he’s reduced to a mere William Shatner parody, which has been done so often by so many other actors that it’s virtually a cliché. ***

I was also disappointed with the character of Nero. His motives are clear, but everything is explained in just one scene, and it passes by so quickly that what he says never really has the chance to sink in. I kept asking myself, “What are they not telling us about this character?” Everything about him feels rushed and incomplete. Maybe much of his screen time was left on the cutting room floor. Or maybe Abrams was too invested on the Enterprise crew to give Nero the attention he needed. Whatever the case, something’s missing here. ***

But as I’ve already said, I know that “Star Trek” will be a very successful film. Indeed, it does deliver as an action-packed summer popcorn flick, with plenty of high-octane sequences that employ a wealth of elaborate special effects. If this is what you’ve been waiting for, then by all means, go buy this DVD. If, however, you wanted something that wasn’t simply a long-winded throwback to Gene Roddenberry’s original TV series, there isn’t much this movie can give you. ***

Special Features:

In addition to an audio commentary by J.J. Abrams, Brian Burk, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, and Roberto Orci, this DVD includes a gag reel and the featurette “A New Vision.” The film is presented in its original 2.40:1 widescreen format and features Dolby 5.1 Digital sound. ***

Final Words:

It was apparently made with the intention of appealing to all audiences and not just Trekkies, but considering how often it ropes the audience in with insider references, I don’t think it achieved its goal. Fortunately, I have hope for the next film in the series; since we’ve been reintroduced to all the characters, there’s now the opportunity to actually develop them. Until that time comes, I’ll give the filmmakers a heartfelt Live Long and Prosper.

 

 
 
 
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