Fair enough, I’m probably later with my review of this than anyone else on the planet, but in the absence of anything else to look at and the fact that I’d seen it anyway I figured, why the hell not.
Whether you love it or hate it, there are very few people who aren’t aware in some form or another of Star Trek. It seems everyone grew up on a diet of the original series from the mid sixties with its abundance of body painted aliens, William Shatner’s monolithic dramatic pauses in dialogue (ace!) and of course Leonard Nimoy as Spock with ‘those pointy ears’. The show spawned arguably one of the most successful franchises in film and television history, brought back to the big screen in 1979 Star Trek has since been revised with a series of sporadically good/bad films and a host of television series which ‘boldly go where no one has gone before’ again.
The latest outing for the Star Trek franchise is one with a difference, the seemingly unstoppable J.J Abrams (creator of Lost, Alias, Cloverfield, Mission Impossible III and seemingly everything else ever) was at the helm for the latest installment which had the unenviable task of a) restarting the whole franchise from scratch and b) keeping the fans happy.
The idea of this story was to go right back to the beginning and show you how the original crew of the starship Enterprise came together and became the characters that were beloved by so many over the last forty years. Now at this point I don’t think I’m going to be giving away any spoilers, the films been onscreen for a while now and enough has been said about it elsewhere but just in case you are going to see the film and want to enjoy it without any teasers then you might want to stop reading now.
The story goes back to year zero with the events that led to James Kirk’s birth onboard the U.S.S Kelvin and the death of his father caused indirectly by the actions of all round bad guy Nero who it transpires has come from the future after his home planet was destroyed (stay with me here kids, it’s not as difficult as it sounds). Kirk’s father saves the entire crew from Nero’s attacks by giving his own life but this means that Kirk grows up without a father and as a consequence becomes a headstrong fool hardy character in his formative years.
Elsewhere we see the childhood of Spock, where we discover he was…gasp…a bullied child. Born of a Vulcan father and a human mother (Winona Ryder took time away from stuffing tins of beans in her pockets to play mum) this meant he was something of an outcast, unsure which culture he truly belonged (yes, there was a racial integration message in there…thankfully they don’t hit you round the head with it too much though).
Along the way we meet the rest of the ensemble cast in their new incarnations, Zoe Saldana plays Uhura, the communications officer and is remarkably faithful to her original counterpart, in this cinematic reboot she is given more to do than just sit around with a piece of metal in her ear talking about hailing frequencies. Karl Urban plays Doctor Leonard McCoy and for me this is the guy who really takes the torch from his predecessor (the late DeForrest Kelly). At first glance they look eerily similar but it’s when Urban speaks you realise he’s put a lot of work into catching the vocal inflections of the character which make him the most faithful re-imagining of any of the original cast.
The same cannot be said of Simon Pegg who takes over the role of Scotty, with a Scottish accent that drifts on and off with more frequency than a detuned radio this is proof that despite some of his previous work Pegg does not walk on water, and not everything he touches turns to gold. Thankfully he isn’t given too much to do, other than be comic relief and with a relatively limited amount of screen time he was never going to screw things up too badly.
Chekov and Sulu are played by Anton Yelshin and John Cho, if anything these are the most interchangeable characters with both roles having an almost token element to them (perhaps demonstrating how the original series has dated). Chekov like his predecessor is the Russian helmsman who mangles his ‘r’s’ and Sulu is the swashbuckler of Japanese origin.
Kirk and Spock are played by Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto respectively, the former doesn’t go for the ‘Shatner ham’ factor instead opting to play the role in pretty much the mould of a generic action hero, and once you get used to him he does a decent enough job. Quinto meanwhile is a little more faithful to Spock’s original character (he kind of has to be, because Nimoy has a cameo and is quite an active part of the story).
Once the crew are assembled with Captain Pike in command (a reference there for the real geeks) they rapidly find themselves thrown in at the deep end left to save the galaxy from the vengeful actions of Nero (Eric Bana’s cameo is acceptable enough although on occasion it does feel like he’s ad-libbing). From this point onwards it’s pretty much a very glossy high octane flick that rarely pauses for breath and leaves you with precious few moments to reflect on what is actually going on. Still this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as a reintroduction to the mythos of the films, they had to start big and grab everyone’s attention. And in fairness they manage that, the visual effects are pretty dazzling with epic space battles to sate the appetites of the casual fan boy, and a nice little time travel subplot to look after the needs of the die hard fan (and don’t worry they explain how and why this version of Star Trek won’t have to stay faithful to the original). With a cameo from Leonard Nimoy as ‘old Spock’ there’s even a final sense of the torch being passed to the new generation of actors.
As a whole it’s a worthy reboot to the franchise and while some of the purists are going to find some thing to moan about, for the rest of us this is a decent enough film. Recommended.