Star Trek


Reviewed by: Chris

Star Trek
"We can unashamedly leave our pointy ears at home to watch this film in the company of regular cinemagoers."

Cocktail party chat on Mission: Impossible III might, at very worst, label you mainstream. But mention ‘trekkie’ interests and the ghetto of a solitary corner awaits, as you vainly gaze across the watered-down punch for a glimmer of like-minded weirdos.

Unless pointy ears and anoraks are your thing, admitting you go to the latest Star Trek movie was generally a mistake. This, the studios, in the name of all that is financially Good and Great, wish to save us from. Star Trek must be lifted from its intergalactic backwater and placed squarely in the multi-million dollar league. Now, suitably high-concept, this 11th cinematic incarnation of the media franchise has become the respectable selection from a dizzying array of multiplex excess.

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What Christopher Nolan (and then Heath Ledger) did for Batman, surely a blank cheque and a few good actors can do for Captain Kirk and his motley crew. That, at least, seems the intention. How well does it pan out?

Our new Star Trek has fewer cult muppets and more action heroes. Chris Pine almost morphs the face of William Shatner’s original and the captain of the 4th TV series. Leonard Nimoy cameos as an aging Spock as we are introduced to the newer model. Simon Pegg (Scotty), Winona Ryder (Spock’s mum) and Zoe Saldana (Uhura) are all a joy to watch.

To establish itself as authoritative (a la Batman Begins), this movie is the prequel, long ago envisaged by creator Gene Roddenberry, and cancelled after its premature birth in the ham-fisted TV ‘Enterprise’ series. We follow Kirk from his earliest days, and also see young Spock grow up. It is an enormous balancing act, executed with a tremendous price tag (more than any previous Star Trek film) and it has to tick many boxes for die-hard fans as well as reaching out to new audiences.

The film opens a few minutes before Kirk is born. During a massive battle, he is shuttled out of harm’s way, a cacophony of explosions submerged by sympathetic orchestra strains. He grows up the pretty boy-next-door with a wild streak. A sort of James Dean with a brain. Or: “the only genius repeat-offender in the Mid-West.” After the most taxing training that Hollywood can devise, he becomes a hardened fighter still in touch with his humanity.

There are nice touches to look out for. Spock becomes ‘emotionally compromised’. We see passion and a moist eye from the lovely Uhura; and futurescapes are glimpsed all too briefly in an average shot length of under five seconds.

As summer blockbusters go, Star Trek deserves to do well. But I would like to have seen some of the groundbreaking moral subtlety for which the original series – famed for the first onscreen inter-racial kiss – garnered high regard among many. One has to search for any underlying dynamic at all. At best, it is the story of brave and fearless white Americans – with the addition of a Russian, a Scot, and a token black woman – facing a terrorist-style enemy (rogue Romulans) that has an unfounded grudge, formidable strike power, and no logical way of being defeated. (Wow! That’s not too hard to follow!) Add familiar tropes about saving mankind, and western ‘compassion’ (before blowing someone up). Then fights between representatives of good and evil on a high ledge somewhere, and it starts to look depressingly derivative. Star Trek here relies on action scenes styled to Tom Cruise completing another impossible mission. But, sadly, Pine lacks Cruise's charisma – or anyone else’s for that matter. And, while MI-III director Abrams was probably a wise choice, the result is more a step in the right direction than a satisfying overall product.

We can unashamedly leave our pointy ears at home to watch this film in the company of regular cinemagoers. But, rather than groundbreaking fare, it only takes us to the happy-land of unthinking entertainment. Its catchline ‘The Future Begins’ came up on the screen only moments after the trailer for the new Terminator, for which, I am assured: ‘The End Begins.’ Seems all you need these days to defeat an undefeatable assassin is a good starter line. May the White House take note. Though not, perhaps, feel impelled to boldly go too boldly.

Reviewed on: 07 May 2009
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Star Trek packshot
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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Read more Star Trek reviews:

Stephen Carty ****

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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