Star Trek

Star Trek

****

Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

Star Trek is just for pure geeks, right? Nowadays, you might be able to get away with Star Wars or Lord Of The Rings (just), but even the merest mention of Vulcans, warp-drives or final frontiers will have you instantly pegged as a forum-dwelling saddo. However, in a day and age also obsessed with reboots, relaunches and re-imaginings, the refreshingly creative JJ Abrams was chosen to breathe new life into Gene Rodenbury's Sixties sci-fi classic.

Following the heroic death of his father, James T Kirk (Chris Pine) ends up a lost and rebellious young man searching for a future. However, after advice from Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) of the USS Enterprise, he enrols at Starfleet Academy where he meets half-human/half-Vulcan Spock (Zachary Quinto). Then, when a Romulan rebel (Eric Bana) causes havoc, the pair end up on the Enterprise and it falls to Kirk to assume control.

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It turns out Abrams was a wise choice. Pulling off the near-impossible task of pleasing both the hard-core Trekkies and - perhaps most impressively - the average cinemagoer who wouldn't be caught dead at a convention of any sort, JJ rescues Rodenbury's creation from the pop culture scrap heap and produces a very likeable romp. Despite boldly going where countless others have (Shatner and co featured in 79 TV episodes as well as seven feature films), Jeffrey Jacob brings a freshness which - wait for it - makes Star Trek cool. Seriously, did you ever think The Beastie Boys would go hand in hand with Jim Kirk?

As you'd expect, it's also action-packed with a pace that rarely lets up. However, though there are more than enough set-pieces to keep the braindead happy (we get sky-dives, space-battles, exploding planets, etc) it’s also importantly human. From longtime fanboys Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the script is happily more M:I3 than Transformers and the movie's key dynamic - much like the Sixties show - is the friendship between Kirk and Spock. While the former is all rebel without a purpose and the latter is internally conflicted between emotion and logic, they both share a search for life-defining purpose.

And of course, there are plenty of in-jokes concerning the original series (known by the initiated as TOS) peppered throughout. Thankfully, while Orci and Kurtzman litter proceedings with copious references that range from familiar dialogue (“Dammit Jim, I’m a doctor not a physicist!”) to subtle touchstones (the death of a 'red shirt'), the majority of hat-tips will go unnoticed to those who don't speak Klingon.

Character-wise, the cast also does a good job of doing justice to their predecessors while providing their own spin. While the Nimoy-a-like Quinto is predictably spot-on and Karl Urban steals nearly every scene he’s in as the highly-strung ‘Bones’ McCoy, it’s Pine who deserves the most kudos. Though the ‘big’ moment where he takes the chair for the first time doesn’t live up to the trailer, Pine’s boozing womaniser has charisma and soul while channeling a young Shat (Although. Sadly. Without. The. Pausingthenquicktalking. Speech. Pattern.)

Making up the famous seven, Zoe Saldana is a sexy Uhura, Anton Yelchin does a decent Russian accent as Chekov and John Cho does his best despite still being Harold from Harold & Kumar. While Simon Pegg’s Scotty is merely utilised for comic relief and Bana’s brooding bad-guy is largely marginalised, Diora Baird makes the most of her few screen moments as a curvy green-skinned Orion slave girl. Altogether now, tawit-tawoo.

So what's wrong with it then? Well the CGI beasties on the ice planet are unnecessary and you could argue that Kirk landing on the same planet as future Spock (played flawlessly by Leonard Nimoy after 18 years away) is too coincidental, but it’s the time-travel (which is used to modify continuity with an "alternative timeline") which over-complicates matters. Furthermore, while lacking the dubious effects of TOS is no loss, it’s a shame we don’t get any of the overriding philosophical or moral quandaries that went hand in hand with the TV version.

Though there’s still a lot of cinemagoers who wouldn’t give this type of movie the time of day, it’s undeniably impressive how JJ and co have restored credibility to one of popular culture’s most geek-tarred properties. Like the phaser guns used, Star Trek is set to stun.

Reviewed on: 14 Jun 2009
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James T Kirk joins Starfleet and meets a tormented Spock threatened by a vengeful Romulan in this reboot of the Star Trek franchise.
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Chris ***

Director: J J Abrams

Writer: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman

Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Leonard Nimoy, Eric Bana, Bruce Greenwood, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Ben Cross, Winona Ryder, Rachel Nichols

Year: 2009

Runtime: 126 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US, Germany

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