Born while his father died during an attack from a Romulan rebel named Nero (Bana), James T. Kirk (Pine) grows up as a lost and rebellious delinquent who’s searching for a path in life. On planet Vulcan, meanwhile, half-human Spock (Quinto) suffers discrimination due to his mixed heritage in a society which prides logic while rejecting emotion. Both ending up at Starfleet, Kirk and Spock find themselves on the USS Enterprise when it’s scrambled as Nero reappears…
Star Trek is just for geeks, right? While nowadays you might be able to get away with Star Wars or Lord Of The Rings (just), even the merest mention of Vulcans, warp drives or final frontiers will have you instantly pegged as a forum-dwelling saddo. As such, it’s all the more impressive how TV showrunner-come-filmmaker JJ Abrams has managed to reboot Gene Roddenberry’s camp sci-fi series so successfully for modern audiences. Of course, close-minded viewers still won’t give anything with the name Star Trek the time of day, but Abrams deserves credit for rescuing this classic property from pop culture’s scrap heap in a way which should please both hardcore Trekkies (a huge task in itself) and your average action fan.
Action being a key word here, as JJ’s reboot places the emphasis on adventure and fun. Shiny, bright and playful, it’s an action-packed summer movie with an impatient tempo which rarely lets up, and the results are occasionally thrilling. Importantly though, while the character work is consistently ace (having both Kirk and Spock searching for a path in life is the perfect re-introduction for their characters), Star Trek 2009 doesn’t offer the high-minded, underlying ideas that the show was known for. Undeniably, it has heart and emotion (see the surprisingly affecting pre-title sequence which Lost scorer Michael Giacchino swells to teary effect), but some will miss the cerebral undercurrent.
Still, Abrams and his writers (Trek fanboys Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman) get so much right that, overall, the movie is an unquestionable triumph. Walking the line well, Orci and Kurtzman’s script contains plenty of well-placed references, familiar dialogue and subtle touchstones, but does so in a way that won’t (ahem) alienate or confuse newcomers. Plus, the decision to create an alternative reality (a time-changing event means that the crew are now off on a new timeline so they won’t go on to experience all the adventures from the show), ensures that rabid fans can’t nit-pick over continuity. That said, they probably will anyway.
The cast are mostly pitch-perfect too, with each of the principles capturing the spirit of the character they’re portraying from The Original Series (or TOS as it’s known) without merely mimicking them. Indeed, it’s tough to know who to praise most, as Chris Pine puts his own spin on the impulsive Kirk, Zachary Quinto is predictably spot-on as Spock and Karl Urban steals every scene he’s in as the highly-strung Leonard “Bones” McCoy. Completing the seven, Zoe Saldana is given more to do as Uhura than Nichelle Nichols ever was and John Cho even gets a swashbuckling moment as Sulu, while Anton Yelchin’s Chekov and Simon Pegg’s Scotty are mainly onboard for comic relief. Elsewhere, Eric Bana makes for a brusing and threatening (if slightly underused) villain, while Bruce Greenwood, Ben Cross and Leonard Nimoy impress in small roles.
While close-minded viewers still won’t give anything with the name Star Trek the time of day, JJ Abrams deserves credit for rescuing this classic property from pop culture’s scrap heap in a way which should please both hardcore Trekkies and your average action fan. It lacks the cerebral edge of the series, but there’s enough heart, emotion and pacy thrills to prove enjoyable.