Star Trek. It's baaccckk

Kirk: "Who was that pointy-eared bastard?"
McCoy: "I don't know. But I like him."

[This review is mostly non-spoilery. I have things to say that may spoil, but it's at the bottom under scads of spoiler space.]

When you reboot a beloved institution, you have to go in a new direction, while somehow retaining the core of what everybody originally loved about the old direction. It's not a task for the faint of heart. I love J.J. Abrams for doing this. And I think he pulled it off.

You know why? Because he got the characters right. And then he picked the perfect actors to play them.

I loved Chris Pine's Jim Kirk. Loved him, loved him, loved him. Younger, edgier, more dysfunctional, and much sexier than the original, for me, anyway; in fact, he had me at the bar fight. But Zachary Quinto had me before I got in line for the movie, and it's not just because of his strong resemblance to Leonard Nimoy -- a resemblance that held even when they were doing a scene together. It was Quinto's movements, his mannerisms, the timber of his voice. He *was* Spock, and for me, it's always been about Spock. Pine and Quinto played off each other so well, too; they have the acting chemistry essential for Kirk and Spock, especially when they were at each other's throats.

And that wasn't all. I loved Karl Urban's Leonard McCoy with all of my heart. He made me laugh, over and over again; I could almost feel DeForest Kelley's presence. And the rest of the casting was also good: Sulu with his fencing, Chekov with his youth and his accent, Scotty with his mad brilliance, even Sarek and his logic, all good. Bruce Greenwood as Christopher Pike was a standout, as well. And they gave Uhura in particular the expertise that someone in her position would have to have; she was much more than the original telephone operator in a miniskirt. She was also elevated to love interest, which was a surprise, but also pretty much worked for me.

One thing I thought they did particularly well was blend the trappings of the original series into this movie, while making everything look bigger and better. Like the Enterprise herself, which felt familiar and new at the same time. The shuttlecrafts, the transporter, the costumes, the communicators... all the same, but updated. Aliens all over the place -- including beautiful green women -- but much better done. And they brought in one of the best bits from The Wrath of Khan: Kirk as a cadet reprogramming the Kobayashi Maru test. Making it the source of the original conflict between Kirk and Spock was a great writing choice.

Yes, it didn't all work as well as it could have. The time travel plot and the way the villain was set up was too convoluted; it will probably go down a little better when I see the movie a second time and can track it better. (Although the Rambaldi red ball of death from Alias just made me smile.) And I had other issues (see under the spoiler space).

Will people who have never seen Star Trek before like this movie? I honestly don't know. (And if you fit into this category, please post a comment and tell me what you thought.) Will the long-time Star Trek fans accept it? Star Trek fandom is a complicated thing dating back before Star Wars. I suspect that some fans are going to decide that J.J. Abrams and his writing team took too many liberties with the structure of the original series, even though those changes were accounted for in the story.

Well, I've been a fan of Star Trek since I was a girl. I've seen every episode of every Trek series, and I know the original series like the back of my hand. And personally, I thought this movie did the job. Most of it was wonderful. The action was constant and edge of your seat, the dialogue was snappy and often quite funny, and the effects were exceptional, as you might expect.

But it was the characters that blew me away; the casting and acting chemistry, just dead-on. And that's what the original series was all about. The later series were often good and sometimes great, but I honestly believe none of them ever captured that magic. This movie did.

As soon as it was over, I wanted to see it again. And that's my base criteria for a rating of at least three out of four stars. I want a sequel, and I want it with these actors. And fortunately, I'm getting my wish.

***

I have a few more brief comments, but they will involve spoiling this movie for you. So if you haven't seen it yet, check back later. I promise you won't miss anything scintillating.


Spoileree....


Spoileroo...


Tra la la....


Spoil-dee-do....


Okay.

Kirk was a lot younger, and I actually thought that worked for the character. But someone that young after only three years in Starfleet is not going to get command of a starship, no matter what he did to save the world. And Spock was a lot more human, which I found disconcerting. But okay, I can live with Spock nuzzling Uhura on the teleport pad; setting up Kirk, Spock and Uhura as a love triangle could work with this set of actors.

But did they have to irrevocably destroy the planet Vulcan? Six billion of my favorite aliens? And Amanda died long before her time, and that actually upset me. And I think a lot of what happened with the Romulans and the time travel and Spock Prime destroying Romulus was outright muddy, and could have been done better. It was hard to follow, even for a fan like me.

But as a package, I'm on board. Beam me up.

Billie
---
Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

I love Star Trek as well, ever since tNG but have never watched the original series. I watched one of the movies but couldn't get into it. I'm sure i missed some of the 'inside' OS jokes but i still really enjoyed this movie.
First time i saw Zachary as Spock on tv i couldn't stop laughing b/c i'm so used to seeing him as psycho Sylar. But luckily that didn't come up while watching the movie.

Anonymous said...

I watched it this afternoon. I grew up watching the original series and loved it. I skipped most of the others. I loved this movie. True some things didn't work as well as they should have. But, I thought the cast was great. And the story was good. Like you I'm looking forward to the sequel.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for your Star Trek Review Billie! My husband and I went to to the cinema to watch it a couple of days ago, and I could wait to read your review!!

My husband is a Star Trek fan, but I'm not, I only saw a few episodes here and there (although when I was younger my dad "threatened" me to cut my ears like Mr Spock when I did something naughty! ;-) ).

We both LOVED it!! We agree that some things, in the storyline, could have been better, but we absolutely loved the film! The actors were fantastic (Karl Urban, Chris Pine, the actor palying Sulu), Zachary Quinto in particular was excellent, the special effects were really good too. And we both said the exact same thing as you: as soon as it was over we wanted to watch it again!!

Thank you so much again for reviewing this movie, we'll be back on your blog next week for the Lost season 5 finale!!

V&P

Anonymous said...

Sorry I made a typing mistake on the above comment: I obviously meant to say "I couldN'T wait to read your review"!

V&P

Anonymous said...

I LOVED THIS MOVIE!
I've never seen any episode of Star Trek, ever, nor have I seen the movies, and honestly, I was embarrassed to admit that I even wanted to see this one. But Chris Pine is hot, and I am absolutely 100% on board with everything JJ Abrams does, so I wanted to give it a try.
And I loved it. I'm already dying to see it again. It was just FUN (the beginning felt so Alias to me. I'm not sure why, but it did. Something about the rebel kid driving the car and then turning into a sexy rebellious man at a bar...he felt like a Bristow on a mission.) The humor especially came as a surprise. So in answer to your question, Billie, I think this movie will definitely appeal to non-Trek fans. It certainly reeled me in.

daniel c w said...

Loved to read the review.

I and the 6 other Trekfans who saw the movie with me definitely agree with Billie, that the characters were spot-on.

But all of us also think, that the movie was not great, just good.
I guess something is missing from the formula. The movie had no major topic.

It was "just" an origin story, the best executed origin-story I ever saw.

[The 2 non-trekkers (both female, 25-ish) who saw the movie with us, think the movie was good.]


Nitpicks (aka minor annoyances):

Why can't the computer understand Chekov?

Why did the small ship Spock flew used the new (simplyfied) stardate-system?


I liked:

Nero's understatement, when he was on the viewscreen. He just said "hello", like he picked up a phone.

The Red-Shirt/Red-Jumpsuit
(best telegraphed death scene, ever)

Spock(s) screwing with Kirk's understanding of the timeline :D

Amanda's Death and Spock's reaction.
(This was the second time ever, that a death scene in cinema resonated in me.)



p.s.: Billie, did you stop adding a score to your reviews?

daniel c w said...

p.p.s:

Where were the 47s ?
This is a Star Trek movie from the creator and 2 of the primary writers from Alias. This should have been a fourtysevenpalooza.

I spotted only three 47s, and all were in the beginning of the movie.

Jess Lynde said...

Just got back from the movie and couldn't wait to read your review, Billie. I loved it every bit as much as you did, and for all the reasons you noted. It was intense, funny, and dramatic. The action sequences and special effects were amazing, and the casting was simply fantastic. Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Karl Urban were outstanding. Urban and Quinto really captured the original actors so well. And I enjoyed Chris Pine's Kirk immensely. He didn't channel Shatner, but he *was* Kirk.

My chief complaints are Amanda's death and the mind meld/exposition dump scene with Spock Prime and Kirk. You are right. This is simply too soon for Amanda to die. Spock needs her. I suppose Uhura will have to help Spock learn to embrace his human side. As for the mind meld scene, it just felt clumsy and forced. I guess they needed to explain why Nero was there destroying planets, but Spock's voiceover narration didn't work well at all.

I can't wait to see this cast in their next adventure!

Billie Doux said...

I'm glad you felt the same way, Jess. It's funny how the "crimes against canon" (as the Sci-Fi Wire just called it) didn't bother me as much as the plot holes, but the plot holes didn't ruin the movie for me. I was never a big fan of Shatner's (he is cordially disliked by a lot of Star Trek fans) and I just didn't expect to love Chris Pine as much as I did, either. What a wonderful surprise he was.

Daniel c w, I'm not doing ratings as much as I used to. I just find it a lot harder. But as I said, when I get to the end of something and I want to see it again, it's at least three stars. This movie wasn't perfect and doesn't deserve four, but I loved it. I think I'll have to go see it again in the theater.

Remco said...

I watched the movie, and I think it was pretty good. It didn't destroy the established continuity, which was nice. The movie itself was a mindless fun action movie. I can't say much more about it than that the casting was spot on. Just wait for the sequel to see a little more ingenious plotting.

I only hope that when a new show will come along that is set in the original universe, after the events of Star Trek Nemesis, they won't make it so that the Romulans are extinct. They are such a powerful race. It would be sad to have the majority killed in a supernova, and the last remaining ones die some 100 years in the past because JJ Abrams made them so profoundly stupid.

And the alternate universe better have a "Vulcan II" of some sort in the next movie. Go forth and multiply, you Vulcans!

Steve said...

Excellent review, Billie. I went with my wife and two boys (13 & 16). The boys haven't seen the original series but my wife and I know it well. Everyone liked this movie. The boys said it rocked, and they enjoyed it immensely (they're also completely hooked on Lost, but they've never seen Alias -- I'll have them watch that over the summer).

My wife and I both thought it was a good summer movie, a fun romp. I agree with you that they got the characters down well, the dialog was snappy and the plot kept moving along.

I wanted to see more of the interaction between the characters -- there was not enough time to get into anything. But it was fun, and I look forward to the next one.

I have to say that the scene with the huge hands and the constant shots in the neck "OWWW! CUT THAT OUT!" was absolutely hysterical.

and...

"Is there a problem, officer?"

Mark Greig said...

Just got back from seeing it and… Wow! There aren’t enough platitudes in the dictionary for how much I loved this movie. It was amazing! Okay, maybe I’m getting a little overexcited. I’d hoped the movie would be good I just didn’t think it would be this good. Well done, Abrams, well done indeed.

This was a Star Trek movie that was warm, passionate, exciting and funny. I had a massive grin on my face almost throughout. The entire cast were excellent, especially Chris Pine as Kirk (it’s hard to be that smugly cocky and likeable at the same time). Plus I still get a massive kick out of those retro uniforms. Ahhh, primary colours, how I’ve missed thee.

Alright, it wasn’t 100% perfect. Why they didn’t just go for a straight reboot instead of all this timeline altering malarkey with the Romulans. Did not mind Vulcan getting black holed, Trek movies have played it safe far too often it was refreshing to something so bold and shocking. Despite Eric Bana’s best efforts, Nero was a rather bland villain. And I also found it a little far fetched that Kirk would make Captain that quickly.

Yet I can over look all its little faults because I had such a great time watching it. It’s been a long time since I’ve been this excited about anything Star Trek, the last couple of movies and TV series really put me off, but the little Trekkie within me is finally back with a blazing passion. Bring on the sequel.

Jolyn said...

I (20, female, Dutch) had never seen anything on Star Trek before, and honestly, the 'Trekky-fans' scared me a little. So when I went to another movie (Wolverine -OMG!) and heard we were going to see the Star Trek trailer, I mumbled; 'Wow, another bad remake, what else is new...'

But that trailer actually captured me, and I was very intrigued. Alias is my ultimate favorite series (I started reading your fab reviews back then), and J.J. Abrams is always good. Plus, my best friend (male, 31) was practically dying to go. So we went.

And... I LOVED Star Trek! The beginning indeed reminded me of Alias, the tragedy and motivation for the characters felt Alias, and of course, that big red ball... yeah. *Sigh*

I hadn't expected so much humor! (Wictor, Wictor... 'Acces denied')I loved the acting and some of the interaction felt very sixties, warm and cozy, the way we don't see that anymore in films. There was no hurry in the dialogue, and also silences. That is so real and exiting. The clothing was also sixties, but ridiculous. Really. Anyway, nostalgia, right?

The team in the boardroom was very young, at times I thought almost teenage-highschool-movie too young. But I couldn't think about that too long, because I would get distracted by Chris Pines' piercing blue eyes. (Forgive me my weakness, the guy was in one of my favorite and most-watched teen movies; the Princess Diaries 2. I was 16 and infatuated. I'm nearly programmed to stop breathing when I see the guy.)

Anyway, more than 50.000 people on imdb.com gave the movie an average 8.5 out of 10, and I think that movie totally deserves it. Can't wait to see the sequel in this alternate reality!

Judy said...

I was never a fan of Star Trek...and when I heard they were going to make another movie, I thought, "Oh no, another crappy star trek movie". And then I heard that J.J. Abrams was going to be a part of it and because I just love anything Abrams, I would rent the movie when it came out. But then I saw the first trailer, and I was hooked...I had to see it. J.J. Abrams had made me want to watch a star trek movie. I saw the movie today and what can I say but that I loved it and I want to see it again! McCoy has become my favorite character. I also loved John Cho as Sulu.

Miranda said...

I would be one of those non-Trek-fans you speak of. I scoffed at trekkies and their obsessiveness, I never even considered the possibility of watching the show. But then I ended up going, and now I'm reading the fic, researching the canon, and even, gasp, watching the original series. So yes, the new movie definitely appeals to non-fans, to the point where it can turn a decided non-Trekkie into an obsessive squealing fangirl.

Billie Doux said...

LOL, Miranda. Very funny. :) Enjoy your new obsession!

Josie K said...

I just watched it! (Yes, I'm a bit behind the rest of the world.)

I've only seen two full Star Trek episodes--Darmok and the one with Moriarty--but I really, really enjoyed this. The original show, in all of its incarnations, always seemed like it was unwilling to get its hands dirty: it dealt with 'big' questions, but was rather bloodless. Literal and metaphorical blood.

But this grittier, funnier, higher-budget version was awesome. J.J. Abrams did a great job, and I think he has really grown as a director since MI3.

I know I say this a lot, but Michael Giacchino's score was great, and it was neat to see him push the boundaries of the stuff he usually does.

And is it weird that I thought Spock was kinda sexy?

Pindar's Muse said...

I was hesitant to watch this movie, being an avid TOS watcher, yet I thought the movie was pretty good. For the most part, I though Abrams captured the spirit of 'Trek.' There was never a dull moment, and like all have stated, the acting was great. (McCoy's portrayal literally wowed me).

I also agree that the mind meld was a bit...off.
I did not (naturally) like the Uhura/Spock moments. I could have almost tolerated the first encounter when he seemed a bit distanced from her, but the second kiss just did not sit well with me.
A relationship with a fellow crewmember would have been unethical for someone so steadfast in rules and regulations(I'm not counting the Pike episode).

That Abrams chose to humanize Spock--and at such a young age-- also bothered me. His relationship with Sarek was quite different from the TOS presentation (Journey to Babel), the latter appealed to me more.

But overall, I thought it worked well. The right bit of humour, seriousness, and chemistry all at the right moment.

Love reading your reviews as always!