james debate
james debate

Wednesday 13 May 2009

Directed by JJ Abrams
Written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman
Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Leonard Nimoy, Eric Bana
Release date(s) 8th May 2009
Running time 127 minutes

star trek
It isn't often that you come home from a movie and immediately can't wait to a review the film you just saw, but that's how I feel tonight having seen Star Trek.

I used to be a Star Trek fan when I was younger, but after the recent suckiness, and the increasingly dated look of the camper older versions I really felt I was past it all. This was not just me, this was the case with many former Star Trek fans. It's worse when you consider that Star Trek was never the most popular show franchise anyway. Fans have long been stigmatized with preconceptions and stereotypes, and many of them were even warranted.

Considering this, JJ Abrams must have felt he had the hardest job in the world when he took the helm for this franchise reboot. How to resurrect a dead franchise that was beloved by a passionate minority, hated by everyone else? And how to make it popular, accessible at the same time?

As such it is nothing short of a miracle that the man has pulled this off. Abrams has an already impressive track record, with Mission Impossible 3, Cloverfield and Lost already on his resumé. Seemingly everything he touches turns to gold, and this is no exception.

Shortly put, this Star Trek film features a Romulan who is accidentally sent back in time after his planet is destroyed and decides to wreak a terrible vengeance on those who wronged him. At first it seems that this is just a clever ploy to enable the writers to proceed without having to consider the consequences, but let's just say that events in the film make it clear that there are far bigger consequences as a result of this.

So what else is new? This Trek is grittier, more realistic looking and less camp. But at the same time there is present a sense of pure fun that simply hasn't existed in the franchise recently. There is humor here and character development and I can't remember the last time I watched Star Trek and cared as much about the characters as this.

The film starts off detailing the young lives of Kirk and Spock, the two people on whom the main focus of the film is placed. Consider this the story of how Kirk and Spock become who they are. This follows them through the academy and how they meet each other as well as the other Enterprise crew members. This early segment in the academy was, for me, the highlight of the movie and far too underdone, they could have spent much more time here.

Then things get a bit haywire. The action in this film is simply stunning. It's not just that Star Trek has never featured such good special effects and choreographed action sequences, it's that I don't think any film ever has. Some of the space battles here are simply mind blowing.

But as I mentioned, it is the 'character' here that really makes the film, and this is all dependent on having a good cast. Fortunately this film has a GREAT cast.

Chris Pine has Kirk's swagger down to a tee and is a far more capable actor than I'm sure anyone ever gave him credit for for all the crappy movies he's done so far. Zachary Quinto is a revelation as the conflicted Spock, torn between his Human emotions and Vulcan logic, he's wasting his time on Heroes, seriously. The others are equally capable and lovable, especially Simon Pegg as Scotty, who deserved far more screen time than he got.

Also worthy of particular note is Karl Urban as Bones. This for me was the biggest surprise of the film, as pre-film it was he who I thought was the most miscast in his role, and yet he captured the essence of the character so perfectly that he was simply a joy to watch every time he was on screen.

The cast is great, and so is Abrams's distinctive visual style. As mentioned the action set pieces are all stunning, but pretty much every scene is given such tender loving care and presented in a style that lies somewhere between old style Trek and Minority Report styled realism. From the opening scene onwards, it is very obvious that this is no ordinary Star Trek film. The musical score is also perfect in every way, scribed by the awe inspiring Michael Giacchino, who also did the equally top notch score for Lost.

However this film is not perfect. The choice of a time travel plot line was ill advised, as these things almost never work well on screen. The worst bit is the scene with Leonard Nimoy's old spock and young Kirk, where he has to explain in detail everything that has led to that point. You just felt like they realized they had to cram all this exposition in somewhere, and that's always where sci-fi movies like this struggle, this is no exception.

And despite this, the backstory of the villain Nero was also only lightly touched on, creating a villain that struggles for credibility in my view. Considering his backstory, they could have made him an almost sympathetic, multi dimensional villain, instead he just ends up being a touch too cartoony and cheesy. Not awful, mind.

However, simply put, Star Trek has never ever been this good. And now, for the first time, the franchise has achieved a level of quality where fans and non-fans alike will enjoy this film. But what's even more exciting is the potential now for the future, for sequels, a new tv show, videogames, the franchise has monster potential when in the right hands, and right now it most certainly is.

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