Chris Pine as James T. Kirk
Zachary Quinto as Spock
Leonard Nimoy as Older Spock
Eric Bana as Nero
Bruce Greenwood as Capt. Christopher Pike
Karl Urban as Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy
Zoe Saldana as Nyota Uhura
Simong Pegg as Montgomery Scott
John Cho as Hikaru Sulu
Anton Yelchin as Pavel Chekov
Ben Cross as Sarek
Winona Ryder as Amanda Grayson
Chris Hemsworth as George Kirk
Jennifer Morrison as Winona Kirk
A fantastic cast, faster pace, more action, and more humor make “Star Trek” not only a successful reboot of the franchise, but a movie accessible to fans and new audiences alike. This is arguably the best of the “Star Trek” movies.
After his father is killed in a surprise alien attack when he is born, James T. Kirk grows up to be a young, rebellious kid in Iowa. Without a father figure to guide him and carrying a big chip on his shoulder, it appears that he’s going nowhere in life and his talents are being wasted. But when he meets Captain Pike, his life is set on a new course and he heads to Starfleet Academy. While there he meets new friends including Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy and new love interests including Nyota Uhura. He also makes a new enemy the half human, half Vulcan Spock.
Spock and Kirk immediately butt heads, but their rivalry must be put aside as they are sent on a mission to the planet Vulcan. Little do they realize that their ship, the newly christened Enterprise, is heading into a trap set by the very aliens that killed Kirk’s father. Led by the Romulan Nero, they’re on a mission to wipe out Starfleet and all its member planets. Kirk, Spock, Bones, Uhura, a young Checkov, and an untested Sulu must combine all their considerable talents to save Starfleet and billions of lives.
“Star Trek” is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence and brief sexual content.
Let your resident “Star Wars” geek declare this new “Star Trek” film is really good. It’s commonly known that George Lucas’ direction to his actors in “Star Wars” was, “Faster! More intense!” That’s exactly what J.J. Abrams has done with “Star Trek.” He’s taken the same old “Star Trek” mythology we know and love and spiced it up with more action, impressive effects, and a story that lets the strengths of the original characters really shine through. This is a film that’s going to make little kids grab a lightsaber in one hand and a phaser in the other and play Darth Vader vs. Captain Kirk on the playground. The film is very accessible to new audiences while simultaneously pleasing Trekkers, Trekkies, people offended by being called Trekkies, and anyone else that loves good action/sci-fi movies.
I was impressed with how Abrams and writers Orci and Kurtzman handle the ensemble cast. Every single character has a real moment to shine in this story. While the spotlight is definitely on Kirk and Spock, we are treated to moments where Sulu kicks butt in a sword fight, Chekov saves the day (with math!), and McCoy endlessly grouses and jabs Kirk with injections. And each performance is spot on with the original characters. This could have very easily become something where Pine was doing a bad Shatner impression or Quinto was cheesily sporting rubber ears and a bad haircut, but the actors really take the characters and put a fresh spin on them.
The creators have also injected the right amount of humor into the film. The best “Star Trek” movies have always had an equal number of laughs and gasps in them and they correctly stuck to this formula. There are hilarious moments between Bones and Kirk where he has an allergic reaction to an injection, a funny moment between Chekov and the voice recognition computer, and endless rejections of Kirk by Uhura. These are destined to be favorite moments of fans of the movies. But the story has a lot of emotional moments, too. The opening scene where Kirk is born among an alien attack will bring a lump to your throat, and that’s just in the opening minutes of the movie. The scene where Bruce Greenwood as Capt. Christopher Pike sets Kirk on the straight and narrow is also perfectly done. So despite being “faster and more intense,” Abrams perfectly hits the emotional moments the story needs. I also have to say the writers perfectly deflected Trek fan ire about continuity issues by setting this up as an alternate reality. This gives them free reign to do what they want, and that’s something desperately needed for the series to live long and prosper (sorry).
As far as casting goes, Zachary Quinto was a no-brainer as Spock. As soon as he walked out on that stage at the San Diego Comic-Con and was revealed as Spock, I think I and everyone else there said, “Ah, that makes perfect sense.” Quinto doesn’t let us down. He perfectly shows Spock’s logical side, but also is convincing when he allows his human side to take over. You really get a sense of his inner turmoil, possibly even more than in Nimoy’s earlier performances. Speaking of Leonard Nimoy, it’s really great to see him on the screen. He provides a good connection between the TV series and this reboot of the films and it’s fun to see him on screen with Quinto.
When Karl Urban was cast as Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy, I have to admit I said, “Huh???” I didn’t see it. But now I agree he was a good choice. Urban is a lot of fun to see grousing about space, his ex-wife, and Spock. A scene where he sneaks Kirk on board the Enterprise is hilarious and gets even funnier as it spirals further out of his control. I also questioned the casting of Simon Pegg as Montgomery Scott, but he won me over, too, as the unappreciated and somewhat quirky engineering genius. When he yells, “She’s giving it all she’s got, Cap’n!” the audience appropriately cheers. Zoe Saldana, John Cho, and Anton Yelchin all do great jobs as well. But the success or failure of the film really rode on the shoulders of Chris Pine as James T. Kirk. Fortunately, he did a perfect job. He’s reminiscent of Shatner, but not overwhelmingly so. This is a take on Kirk more akin to Han Solo mixed with Lando Calrissian than Shatner’s from the TV show. And it works really well. He is appropriately cocky, he flirts with anything in a skirt, and he’s unafraid to take a risk. Kirk would shoot Greedo first.
The effects by ILM in the movie are quite impressive. Sometimes it’s a little hard to tell what’s going on with the “shaky cam” and extreme close-ups, but when the camera does pull back to give you a good look at what’s going on, it’s impressive. Scenes with the opening space battle are cool and the free fall from space will leave you holding your breath. There’s a fun though gratuitous moment with some monsters on an ice planet. The design of the creatures is cool and a little reminiscent of the “Cloverfield” monster. Overall, it’s quite a visual treat.
What Didn’t Work:
I read an interview with J.J. Abrams and he was asked why there was so much lens flare in the movie. I wish now I hadn’t read that because it became very, very noticeable as I watched the movie. (And now you’ll notice it, too. You’re welcome.) Practically every scene has back lighting that creates that lens flare effect on the screen. It was too much.
I also thought the “shaky cam” was used a little too much. I can understand using it in action scenes to give a more realistic, frantic feel to the action. But shaking the camera around while two characters are sitting around quietly talking didn’t work for me. I wish it had been used a bit more sparingly.
“Star Trek” is also over 2 hours long, but I think a couple of deleted scenes should have been left in. For example, the first time we see Winona Ryder as Spock’s mother, we just see her in old age makeup. You’re instantly ripped out of the scene and start wondering, “Why take a young actress and make her look older when an older woman could have played the role?” We now know there’s a deleted scene showing the young Ryder giving birth to Spock. If we had seen that, the ‘made up’ Ryder would have made more sense. Kirk’s mother is also shown at the beginning and never shown again (with a throwaway line saying she’s off planet being the only explanation of her disappearance). I hope the DVD fills in the blanks.
Finally, the ending seemed a tad ‘standard’, for lack of a better term. It’s pretty much what you’d expect. That’s not necessarily bad, but after the fantastic buildup, the climax didn’t feel as innovative. I can’t get into more details here without spoiling the ending.
The Bottom Line:
Overall, I think you could make a valid argument that this is the best of the “Star Trek” movies. This one and 1982’s “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan” are neck in neck in my book. Its accessibility, faster pace, strong cast, and audacity at following in the footsteps of the TV series certainly makes it one of the best. I’m ready for another one and I think you will be, too.