Review: Star Trek (2009)

Director: JJ Abrams

****

Realistically, there should be something embarrassing about any studio’s attempt to relaunch a tired franchise. In recent years, they’ve had a chequered history; for every Batman Begins, there’s a Superman Returns. Star Trek should really fall into the latter category; based on a campy ‘60s TV show, which was followed by films of ever diminishing quality. Insurrection? Nemesis? No, thought not. However, director JJ Abrams and screenwriters Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci do a tremendous job of reducing the various stories and history of the Star Trek franchise down to an exciting and heartfelt origin story, accessible to both die-hard Trekkies and complete newcomers.

When a Federation starship is attacked by a vengeful Romulan warrior (Eric Bana), the captain’s pregnant wife is evacuated at the cost of her husband. 25 years later, the child grows up to be James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine, cocky), who is a rebel in his rural Iowan home. Federation Commander Pike (Bruce Greenwood, dignified) then comes to persuade Kirk to train to become a member of the Federation. If this doesn’t reek of standard origin story by now, it will by the time Kirk meets the classmates who will eventually become his crew on board the Starship Enterprise, such as Uhura (Zoe Saldana, short shorts), Bones (Karl Urban, goofy) and Spock (Zachary Quinto), the Vulcan who bases all decisions on logic and seems to lack emotion.

As you can probably guess, the first hour or so of the film is setup for the rest of the film and the prospective franchise. However, that’s not altogether a bad thing. There are clichés, there are obvious character arcs and relationships and build-up to an inevitable mano-a-mano between hero and villain. However, there is also a tremendous amount of energy and verve here. Indeed, there is one element that is alack in many origin tales, and sets this film apart from the likes of Batman Begins: fun. Star Trek is fully aware of its campy origins and nonsensical premise, and embraces them. The characters are drawn quickly, but Pine and co. give them enough depth to make them distinct and likeable. In particular, Quinto is eerily reminiscent of Leonard Nimoy, capturing the essential dignity of Spock. Even smaller roles, such as John Cho’s Zulu, Anton Yelchin’s Chekov and Nimoy himself as a future representation of Spock (it makes more sense when you watch it) are excellently handled; only Simon Pegg disappoints as a loud (that is to say, annoying) Scotty. Beam him up, indeed.

Humour comes thick and fast, with one-liners bandied back and forth, and the action is on the grandest scale CG can provide. It’s a zippy two hours, and should leave any action hound sated. It’s clearly got an eye on starting a franchise, and is unrepentant in the sheer silliness of the whole endeavour. However, if the next Star Trek is as purely entertaining as this one, we should be willing to embrace our sillier side.

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