Today I took some time out of my busy study schedule to go check out the new Star Trek movie. Some call it the new JJ Abrams movie. You know, the one everybody’s talking about.
Just a disclaimer: I’ve never been a Star Trek fan, never seen an episode of the TV show, and only saw one of the films (I can’t even remember which one – perhaps First Contact or Nemesis – and I can’t remember a single thing about it). Like most normal people though, I have heard of some of the catchphrases and I know of Kirk, Spock (including his ears and hand gesture) and Scotty, but that’s the extent of my Star Trek knowledge.
And so, I went into the movie relatively optimistic but unsure of what to expect. I came out of the film raving about it. Honestly, it blew my mind!
The new Star Trek is what has been called a ‘reboot’ (kind of like the new Batman films with Christian Bale) that explores the origins of its two most famous characters, Captain James T Kirk and his pointy-eared Vulcan friend, Spock. It’s also considered a ‘prequel’ that sets the foundation for a whole new series of films. With the exception of one person, the film sports an all-new cast that is fresh, young and brimming with vitality.
As per my usual review code of conduct, I won’t give away the plot, and honestly, I don’t even know if I could explain it even if I wanted to. There’s a fair bit of what I assume is ‘Trekkie’ jargon (but it could also be basic science stuff) that went right over my head and the film didn’t exactly take its time to explain everything in detail. But it’s not hard to figure out the basic premise of the storyline and what is going on.
In any case, the story, while interesting in its own right, is not the strength of the film. The strength lies in the way in which director JJ Abrams (the genius that created Alias, Lost and Fringe and produced Cloverfield) has reinvigorated the franchise with freshness, excitement and enthusiasm. You don’t have to be a Trekkie to enjoy this movie. Star Trek WAS, for the most part, seen as a thing for die-hard fans and sci-fi geeks only. One of the reasons I never got into it in the first place was because it seemed old and out-dated (despite being set in the future!), and the world it created was so extensive (with so many series, movies and novels) that I couldn’t be bothered making the effort to get to know it. This film has provided the perfect spark to inject some much-needed life back into the franchise, and because it’s set right at the beginning, newbies to Star Trek (like me) can be eased into its world.
Abrams has inserted his unique directorial style and visual flair to the film. Fans of his other works can probably spot the best elements of Lost and Fringe somewhere in there. The new franchise players, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto were knockouts. Pine delivered a scruffy yet charismatic Kirk, brash and arrogant but a born leader, whereas Quinto showed he could be much more than a psychopath killer (what happened to Sylar’s eyebrows?!), inhabiting the character of Spock. The supporting cast is also great. John Cho managed to leave Harold (of Harold and Kumar fame) behind, and Simon Pegg stole the show as Scotty. Guys like Karl Urban and Anton Yelchin were also solid.
The film was action-packed right from the start and didn’t let up. It also had just the right dash of humor. As for the special effects – I didn’t really notice it that much because I expected to see space ships and lasers flying through space – but I suppose that means they did an excellent job of it by not allowing the effects to overwhelm the film.
There were only two weaknesses I could point out. The first was probably the antagonist played by Eric Bana (almost unrecognisable in heavy make-up), which I felt wasn’t really terrifying or imposing enough. It wasn’t really his fault though because the focus of the film was firmly on the young Kirk and Spock. The second was some of the action sequences, which still relied too heavily on the rapid cut scenes.
On the whole, however, the new Star Trek was fantastic. I’m sure old Trekkies will enjoy it, as will those who simply like to watch a fun, exciting movie. Despite its significant running length (126 minutes), I was left wanting more by the time the credits began rolling.
I’m not going to rush out to buy the series on DVD any time soon, but I’m glad to hear that this film could be the first of many. Bring on the sequels!
4.5 stars out of 5