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Review: Star Trek

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Now this is what I want out of a summer blockbuster. Star Trek delivered all of the action, all of the spectacle, all of the emotion, all of the characterization I could have asked for and then some. [1]  I found myself immersed in the world, in the stunning visual design and the engaging characters, in a way I’ve never been before with any of the previous Trek films or TV shows.  Star Trek truly managed to do something new with these characters and ideas that have been around for forty years:  make me care about them.

I truly loved the fact that, unlike other recent reboots and reimaginings which simply restarted their stories from scratch, Star Trek managed to explain its own revised continuity as part of the story itself — admittedly, the world of Trek is much more suited to such meta-shenanigans than other series. Director J.J. Abrams and screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman were able to utterly reset our expectations of this world and these characters while still letting the previous stories stand. And wow, do they up the stakes in a big way; there’s one event in partiular in this newly-reimagined universe that would have seemed unthinkable in the original series. When they say “everything you know is wrong”…well, it’s still hyperbole, perhaps, but it’s not as far from the truth as you might think.

Not Exactly Spoilery But Certainly Geeky Digression:  I read a comment on a well-known science fiction author’s site today from a commenter who was pissed off because, he said, the new movie threw out all of the previous continuity, rendering moot all of the stories we’ve experienced before.  I took away the exact opposite idea:  to me, the new movie said “everything you’ve already seen still happened, but now this is happening, too.”  But maybe it was a little bit easier for me to take that particular bit of continuity shuffle from all of my years of reading comic books, where this sort of thing is far from a novel idea, especially for readers of DC Comics and/or Grant Morrison.


One of the things I never quite understood about the original Enterprise crew was exactly why this crew was supposed to be special. Yes, Kirk and Spock in particular were compelling characters-cum-icons — there’s a reason they’re still part of the pop culture landscape after forty years — but to me the original Trek always felt like “Kirk and Spock and Those Other Guys (Oh, and the Woman, Too).”   (This isn’t a point I’m interested in arguing — it’s just my relatively uninformed opinion as someone who was never much into Trek.) But in this movie, Abrams and company show that each of these people is indeed special in his or her own way and adds his or her own special brand of brilliance and ultra-competence to the crew. Abrams gives each of the main crew a chance to show off their various skills, and it works spectacularly.  I felt like I was watching these characters for themselves and not for their (not-even-assigned-yet) Five Year Mission.

And speaking of the characters, the casting in this new movie is almost perfect, especially given the fact that none of these characters is exactly as you remember them from before incarnations. The worst possible decision would have been for Chris Pine to have attempted to ape William Shatner; except for one (I’m sure very conscious) moment toward the end of the movie, he utterly avoids any Shatnerisms. But he brings the core essence of Kirk — the complete self-conifdence, the lusty roving eye, the anti-authoritarian streak — and makes this new James T. Kirk a compelling, if different, character in his own right. Zachary Quinto‘s Spock is much more at war with his dual nature than his predecessor, though he’s certainly the actor who looks the most like his character’s previous portrayer.  I especially enjoyed Anton Yelchin‘s Chekov and Simon Pegg‘s Scotty, both of whom were primarily played for laughs.  (It worked, too — Star Trek was quite a bit funnier than I expected it to be.) 

Not Exactly Spoilery But Certainly Geeky Digression:  I found it notable that while most of the secondary characters never had their full names mentioned on the show — usually that information got revealed in after-the-show sources like movies or novels or role-playing games — every one of the main Enterprise crew gets his or her full name dropped at some point in the new movie.  Just another little touch I liked.

Yes, the science is wonky and didn’t make much sense.  I truly didn’t care — some people like science fiction for the science, but I’m more into the fiction part.  And the fiction in this movie worked fantastically for me.  I was sad when the movie ended and came out of the theater already looking forward to the inevtiable sequel.  

Grade: A

[1] This opinion was not colored by the fact that I’d just seen the craptastic Spider-Man 3 twelve hours before.

Written by Allen

May 11th, 2009 at 8:03 pm