Star Trek: Not Quite Warp Speed Yet


As the film’s end credits began to roll, an updated yet very familiar piece of music was played. It was Alexander Courage’s original theme for the first Star Trek TV series. After watching the crew of the Enterprise meet for the first time it seemed very logic to go back to the moment when the world first got to know them. It seemed to symbolize the end of the introduction and a fresh start of a new, real adventure. I look forward to that, because even though this new vision of the franchise is exciting, I’m sure that director J.J. Abrams and his crew can do even better.

The story begins with a disastrous encounter between a federation starship and a huge, intimidating vessel captained by the evil Nero (Eric Bana); the battle leads to the destruction of the starship, but not until an escape pod is launched containing Captain George Kirk’s wife and their newborn baby James. In the following years, Jim grows up to be a hell-raiser. That changes on the day when he meets Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) who talks him into joining the Starfleet Academy. Meanwhile, the brilliant young Vulcan Spock (Zachary Quinto), who is half-human, rejects an offer to follow in the path of many Vulcans before him, thinking that the Starfleet Academy is a better place for him to come to terms with the conflicting sides of his personality. As he and the new cadets (including Kirk, “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Sulu (John Cho) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin)) begin to serve under Captain Pike on the newly built USS Enterprise, they immediately clash with each other… but also with Nero who specifically targets Spock.

A respectful new take
This does feel like a J.J. Abrams picture; there are certain ingredients and aspects of his filmmaking that are familiar from his previous TV and big-screen efforts. But they are discreet; the film is primarily meant to be a respectful new take on the franchise meant to truly satisfy the fans and attract new ones. I believe it will do the former. The cast members take their parts seriously and there are even moments when they say things or behave in ways that are reminiscent of the original actors, but they never cross the line and turn their performances into caricatures (which was particularly important in the case of Kirk; we didn’t want to see Chris Pine send up William Shatner). I’m sure they’ll grow into their parts and become more comfortable with each other in future endeavors, which was an attractive ingredient of the old films. Very nice to see Leonard Nimoy as an aging Spock. Along with Nero, he visits the young cadets from a future that we in the audience know well, the one where the crew has either retired or died after decades of thrilling adventures together. Nero and Spock have different missions of course, and this part of the story is intelligent and clever. Abrams throws in many spectacular action set pieces, and the visual effects are downright beautiful, ably accompanied by a fresh, majestic Michael Giacchino score.

However, I kept waiting for the story and the action to reach warp speed and they never quite do. It’s possible that all the introduction makes the film lag a bit; it takes time to get used to new faces in old roles. Still, the fact that I revisited this review months later to award three-and-a-half stars means this trek left an impact.

Star Trek 2009-U.S. 126 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof. Directed by J.J. Abrams. Music: Michael Giacchino. Cast: Chris Pine (James Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Leonard Nimoy (Spock), Eric Bana, Bruce Greenwood, Karl Urban… Zoë Saldana, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, Winona Ryder, Chris Hemsworth, Tyler Perry.

Trivia: Russell Crowe was allegedly considered for the part of Nero. Followed by two sequels, starting with Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013).

Oscar: Best Makeup.

Last word: “I looked at a lot of the episodes of all the series that came after the original ‘Star Trek’ but because we are focusing on the original series I didn’t really need to know every episode of ‘Deep Space Nine’ or ‘Voyager’ or even ‘Enterprise’. But, yeah, I watched episodes, I read up a lot, I watched the movies, I talked to people, whether it was our ‘Trek’ consultant or one of the two writers [Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci] about what it would mean to do what we wanted to do. We have one producer, Bob [Orci], who is a complete Trekker and another in Bryan Burk who had never seen an episode of the show ever. And it was a great balance. We could make sure it passed the test of the ultimate fan and the ultimate neophyte and make sure that it was equally entertaining to both parties.” (Abrams, L.A. Times)


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