Throw out all that you think you know about the Star Trek universe because screenwriters Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman have loaded their script with a few surprises. Basically, the history of the Trek Universe gets a facelift; every movie and series has pretty much - been rendered as negotiable (or subject to happen in a slightly different manner) by the events in the first few minutes of the film. Yes, Orci and Kurtzman are playing with fire here, but their gamble pays off. A Romulan mining ship appears from the future and immediately attacks the U.S.S. Kelvin. The bitterly betrayed Captain Nero, effectively captured in a non-Shakespearean manner for a Trek villain by Eric Bana, has led his mining ship into the future seeking revenge for the destruction of the planet Romulus. His ship attacks the Kelvin and, once the Kelvin has been effectively silenced, Nero demands to speak with an Ambassador Spock. It is quickly understood by Nero's crew that he is 25 years too soon for the revenge he seeks upon Spock. Instead, he must wait in deep space in total silence - for Spock to appear (or reappear as it were) and for his revenge to be enacted; what and why he seeks it is revealed mid-way through the film.
What events transpire due to the attack on the Kelvin will not be revealed in this review, but know this simple fact: everything known about the history of the Trek timeline goes up in smoke or is rearranged because of the appearance of Nero's mining vessel. That is to say, that the screenwriters and even director J.J. Abrams are working with a tabula rasa (or a blank slate) self (and maybe selfishly) created by following Trek's own rules of time travel. That's right, folks, in classic Trek fashion we have just entered into an alternate reality which can never be set straight again. Sound too complex for a summer film? Too much of a strain for the old noggin? Relax, you can still eat your popcorn and follow the film's storyline, besides this film has plenty of heart and brawn behind its brain, too. Arguably, with a film this strong in action and character development, you will not grumble with the logic behind such a smartly devious story. It's as if the screenwriters were bracing for the emails of complaint that would (and did) follow news of a reboot of the classic era of Star Trek, so decided to justify their own screenplay by using Trek's own rules with which to set it off with something even the most dedicated fanboys would think twice about before arguing against. But those same fans who complained about the idea of rebooting the classic Trek years all but two years ago are going to absolutely love this movie. It's that good.
Abrams has done the once-thought impossible here: there is a new cast playing the beloved characters we all know and love. We get to see Kirk, Spock, Bones, Uhura, Sulu, Chekov, and Scotty again. Hell, we even get to see Captain Pike, played solidly by Bruce Greenwood, sans wheelchair. It's impressively ambitious and it incredibly works well on every single level. And, as an added bonus, we get to witness just how these characters met and how they became associated with the personalities now used in psychological evaluations. As mentioned earlier, Trekkies and Trekkers alike rebelled at this very idea of a reboot; they gnashed their teeth and wrote letters of protest. There were doubts. There were concerns. There were jokes about this movie being something akin to Trek 90210 or, as a friend once put it, Dawson's Trek. And, after the knee-jerk reactions to the Star Wars prequels, no one could blame them. But somehow rising above all the droll and naysayers Abrams flexes his directing knowhow and casts this film perfectly. Allow me to repeat that: perfectly. Chris Pine's version of James T. Kirk is as reckless and as lustfully arrogant (think Han Solo injected with a high testosterone serum) we always suspected a young Kirk to be, but it isn't until the end of the film when Kirk dons the yellow Captain's shirt when the true Kirk (from the original series) is fully realized and it is a jaw-dropping moment of dÃ©jÃ vu in Trek history if ever there was one.
Communications Officer Nyota Uhura, adoringly captured by actress Zoe Saldana, has a meatier role than ever suggested by the original series and becomes an interesting thread between Kirk and Zachary Quinto's Spock, a fully fleshed-out role for the young actor (who also gets the challenge of acting in front of the character's originator, Leonard Nimoy, in one sequence). Uhura's presence on the deck of the U.S.S. Enterprise makes for a surprising twist of events for the two leads to tangle over one, clumsily in his confidence, while the other is as smooth as silk. Some Star Trek purists will be put off by this slight PDA surprise (no spoilers here, folks) while others will acknowledge, because of the presence of Nero's ship and the sudden unpredictability of all future Trek events depicted in the classic series, that this chain of events is perfectly... ahem..fascinating and logical.
Some fans have argued over the role of Hikaru Sulu going to John Cho (previously of Harold & Kumar fame), but it works and it works well; check out the space jump scene and the ensuing fight on the drill if you need more proof of his Sulu-type abilities. Pavel Chekov, played by Anton Yelchin, is finally realized on camera for the youngster he was originally conceived as and humorously saves the day in a memorable sequence involving the transporter. Montgomery Scott or â"Scotty" is realized and accented by Simon Pegg, from Hot Fuzz and Shawn of the Dead, and is thrust into the midst of the action as his introduction happens halfway through the film, but Pegg's timing and classic Trek phrasing is impeccable and adds to the whole jovial affair. But it is Karl Urban's take on Dr. Leonard â"Bones" McCoy (originated by the late DeForest Kelley) that deserves special notice by fans. Once on-screen, there is no doubt as to why he was the perfect casting for this role. His acting especially alongside Pine's Kirk - is impeccable and his phrasing hits every note perfectly. Quite simply, it would make Kelley proud.
The action of the film is quick and full of tense danger; it is a grand spectacle of deftly intense space battles shown at a level only hinted at in previous Trek flicks and full of adventurous locales as well. The aliens are strange and, at times, everywhere; the hand-to-hand fights are intense and recall classic moments in Trek lore. Ultimately, Star Trek is what the Star Wars prequels should have been had there been any serious thought behind Lucas' glossy but eerily disconnected visuals and trite storyline. There is a great energy at work in Star Trek almost as if the film is daring you not to like it; it's a monumental energy not witnessed in a film of this nature since Speilberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark. And in that energy, there is a love and a respect coming from behind the camera, courtesy of J.J. Abrams, for a franchise that dithered and finally sank into a dark and cosmic abyss nearly 12 years ago.
Star Trek is, once again, beautiful in its bravado and poetic with a sense of purpose. J.J. Abrams has given the sci-fi geeks their nirvana and invites all the doubters to witness the birth of their own interest into a franchise they once only joked about. The film is a constant charmer. There are heroic moments that are bombastic in idea and yet, handled with humor making it a frighteningly good experience; better than any expectation you might have had for the film. And, to quote one of my friends as he excitedly exited our screening of the film, â"now, that is why you go to the movies!" Amen to that.
Thank you, Mr. Abrams. I know it's not enough it could never be enough but thank you for making Star Trek bold again.
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles: English; French; Spanish; Closed Captioned
Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1
Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; director's commentary; audio commentary; behind-the-scenes featurette; bloopers..
- Feature length commentary track with by JJ Abrams, Bryan Burk, producer Damon Lindelof, and writers Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman.
- A New Vision (20 min)
- To Boldly Go (17 min)
- Casting (29 min)
- Aliens (17 min)
- Score (7 min)
- Gag Reel (7 min)
Deleted Scenes: With Optional Commentary by JJ, Bryan, Alex, and Damon (14 min)
- Spock Birth
- Klingons Take Over Narada
- Young Kirk, Johnny, and Uncle Frank
- Amanda and Sarek Argue After Spock Fights
- Prison Interrogation and Breakout
- Sarek gets Amanda
- Dorm Room and Kobayashi Maru (Original Version)
- Kirk Apologizes to the Green Girl
- Sarek sees Spock
Number of Discs: 1 + digital copy with Keepcase Packaging
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