Is “Star Trek” Just For Grown Ups In Funny Uniforms? Not This Time!
There are three groups of people: those that like “Star Wars”, those that like “Star Trek”, and those that don’t like any of it and hate outer space movies. Then, here are different levels of those fans. They range from casual fans that dig “The Wrath of Khan”, those who have seen all the “Star Trek” movies (including “The Next Generation” flicks), and those that dress up in Trek uniforms for an 8:20 showing on a Saturday night. Since I’m somewhere between the first and second options, I have no preconceived notion of how a “Star Trek” movie should be. The big time Trekker probably will tell you that every movie, including that brutally bad “Star Trek V: The Voyage Home”, is great.
There is no doubt that those same Trekker fans are going to love this J.J. Abrams kick-start of “Star Trek”. Somehow, Abrams and crew managed to cram in some decent character development, humor, and homages to the original series while they dished out a constant stream of action. Of the 126 minutes, I can estimate that there was only about 15 minutes in which a character wasn’t running, fighting, flying a ship, diving out of a ship, firing a phaser, or even speaking in a calm voice. Yes, “Star Trek” is definitely not “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”.
If you don’t know by now, this new flick is an origin story of sorts. We learn all about how each key member of the U.S.S. Enterprise found their way on to the ship and we also get a look at how their work relationships started, whether good or rocky. While each character gets at least one moment in the spotlight, the main focus here is on James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto). Of all the actors, these two seem to be the only ones that could afford to not simply do an impersonation of their acting predecessors.
The plot, which is really secondary in an origin type flick, centers on an evil Romulan named Captain Nero, played with quiet aggression by the unrecognizable Eric Bana. Nero is hell-bent on destroying Vulcan and Earth for reasons that I won’t completely spoil here, but let’s say they are due to a certain pointy eared character of half-human, half-Vulcan descent. It becomes quickly apparent that Abrams and Company are going back to the Abrams Well of Creativity by throwing in some time travel a al “Lost” and the next thing we know, there are “Star Trek” worlds colliding.
The time travel bit could have gotten the writers, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman of “Transformers” fame, into a bit of trouble, but they manage to keep it together and not too confusing. They get right up to the point of potential unravel, then back it off just enough. Sure, it changes up history that could get some Trekkies panties in a wad, but nothing that should get them too upset. Again, we aren’t interested in plot so much this time out as we are the character’s stories, the action scenes, and the surprising humor.
It could get pretty boring if we just sit and watch characters meet each other then chit chat. Instead, “Star Trek” incorporates each character into the action. How does Kirk meet Uhura (Zoe Saldana)? Why right before he gets into a bar fight. Sulu (John Cho)? He and Kirk get into a very intense and slickly created fist fight with some Romulan fellas, which show us that Sulu is quite the swordsman. “Star Trek” doesn’t just go from action piece to action piece, with filler in between. This movie is one continuous action piece that perfectly fit in the character’s introductions.
So what about those characters? Some are good, some were not so good. Anton Yelchin’s Chekhov was particularly annoying. He laid that Russian accent on pretty thick and of all the characters, he was the least developed. Simon Pegg’s Scotty, who didn’t get nearly enough screen time, was funny but played with more of an aloofness than the character ever was with James Doohan. Saldana simply had to look hot, which isn’t difficult. Of all the supporting characters, my two favorites were Bruce Greenwood’s Captain Pike, who looked and sounded like he should definitely be the captain of something, and Karl Urban’s McCoy. Urban obviously studied DeForrest Kelley and he has Bones down dead solid perfect.
Of course, the movie completely hinges on Pine and Quinto. They play Kirk and Spock as their own characters. Sure, Kirk is brash and arrogant and Spock oozes intelligence, but they stayed away from simple impersonations. Quinto comes close, but still manages to not completely emulate Leonard Nimoy. As far as Pine…well…as much as I like William Shatner, imitating his Kirk would have doomed this movie beyond all recognition.
“Star Trek” is a much funnier movie than I expected and the effects are some of the finest I’ve ever seen. Michael Giacchino’s music is also a stand out, as it manages to sound similar to the 1960s TV show music but without becoming over the top and cheesy. Of course, we eventually get to hear the familiar “Star Trek” theme, which will always sound great.
Actually, when that music kicked in, it was the closest I felt to that person in her Federation uniform three seats down. I’m no Trekkie…but that particular moment made me realize why a Trekkie loves being a Trekkie.
Live long and prosper…and keep reading my blog.