Star Trek (2009) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Star Trek (2009) Directed by J.J Abrams. With Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Leonard Nimoy, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, Bruce Greenwood and Eric Bana.

Star-Trek-2009-2

There are two perspectives to look at J.J. Abrams’ reboot of Star Trek from. This is a unique property that has endured for decades, collecting loyal fans across its many incarnations from television and film. Outside of that bubble, its vast collection of titles and series’ had grown almost stale and inaccessible. For some, Star Trek is something you might channel-hop over to for a quick trip down memory lane (Star Trek:TNG was ritualistic teatime viewing for me on BBC2 in the early 1990’s). Many of the fans prefer it tucked away in its cult corner. It possesses a certain comfort-viewing quality that doesn’t demand too much of you. It’s like meeting up with old friends after a hard day at work. Abrams’ reboot refuses to be the comfy old pair of carpet slippers. This is shiny (very shiny…and flashy) and new. This is Star Trek with sex-appeal. This is Star Trek on steroids. This is Star Trek for the next generation.

The film is barely 30-seconds-old before we’re plunged head-first into a dizzying battle sequence – the like of which has never been seen in Trek. It’s a statement of things to come as a dramatic and significant birth occurs between epic explosions and volleys of red laser fire. Although it’s impossible to deny the breathtaking scale, there remains a distinct feeling that the film needs to settle down and get its bearings. This is not going to be one of those films.

The idea behind the film is a very good one. Alternate realities and time paradoxes have been a mainstay of the Star Trek universe. Written by Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the story follows Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) and their battle with a vengeful Romulan warrior (Eric Bana), intent on flying round the universe (and time holes) destroying planets. With the alternate reality McGuffin in pocket, Abrams has an open-road of Star Trek to play with; allowing him the freedom to introduce his fresh, exciting cast.

What I like about many of the performances, is that they manage to strike a balance between giving us things we recognise about iconic characters like Kirk and Spock, but without falling down the manhole of parody. Chris Pine channels just the right amount of Shatner, but still makes it his own, while Zachary Quinto looks like he was born to play Spock. My favourite is perhaps Karl Urban’s ‘Dr McCoy’. Other aren’t quite so successful. Simon Pegg’s Scotty is a bit of an attention grabber. I wouldn’t go so far as to call him the ‘Jar-Jar’ of the piece, but his stand-up comedian delivery seems out of step, especially when he’s sharing scenes with the great Leonard Nimoy. Eric Bana is sadly forgettable as the lead villain of the piece. His character isn’t fleshed-out, or given much identity beyond his tattooed, angry face. It’s a shame to waste such a fine actor.

During the manic rush to impress, the plot does get a little lost in the noise. It looks like Abrams is being encouraged to make Star Trek popular again. If spectacle, action and adventure is what you’re looking for, this delivers. Its action sequences are many, and most of them are ridiculously over the top. As always with modern blockbusters, there are monumental amounts of destruction happening everywhere. So much so, that it does begin to feel repetitive. That said, Abrams and his teams have put in enough design thought, fun and enery to satisfy the mainstream and win over a wide legion of new Star Trek fans. It’s warp-factor 9.9 throughout, and the Enterprise still doesn’t have seatbelts. 3.5/5

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About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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4 Responses to Star Trek (2009) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

  1. cevans1982 says:

    Great review Gareth. The first Abrams Star Trek is probably my third favourite of all Treks after Wrath of Khan and First Contact, I really don’t get why a lot of the hardcore fanbase (which I’d easily consider myself part of) didn’t like it or Into Darkness.

    Agree with you about the casting, Pine, Quinto and Urban were perfect choices and Bruce Greenwood was excellent also. Banner acquited himself fairly well but Benedict Cumberbatch made for a superior villain in Into Darkness (which addresses your point about seatbelts on the Enterprise).

    • garethrhodes says:

      Yes, it seems there is a split in the Star Trek fan community over the Abrams films. It’s very interesting. A lot of people don’t like change, especially when it comes to something they love. I see it as Abrams injecting life into something that had passed away. Star Trek was a dead duck until he came along. It could have lazed around in TV-repeat hell for year. I think he’s put it back on the map.

      That said, I do prefer it as a televisual experience. I long for it to return to its original format. Perhaps it will get a TV spin-off again soon.

      • T Martin says:

        As somebody who’s not a fan of the Abrams movies (even though I did like them before I became a more critical viewer), I would enjoy them if I found them to be well-made action movies, but they’re too flashy and senseless for me to care.

        On my most recent viewing, I liked the first forty-five minutes of this one; it builds up the characters pretty well. And then the plot stops making sense whence Nero uses red matter to transport to Vulcan (shouldn’t that have sent him back in time again?) and Captain Pike assigns stowaway Kirk as first officer. Star Trek Into Darkness takes the pacing and the nonsense so far that it feels to me like a two-hour-long movie trailer.

        I really hope that the flaws are in the writers more than Abrams because I want to see a good Star Wars VII. I also hope for a better Star Trek Beyond now that a new behind-the-scenes crew is onboard.

      • garethrhodes says:

        I completely understand your viewpoint, and I agree with much of it. I get the feeling that J.J was tasked with making Star Trek sexy and mainstream, in the way he won’t attempt to do with Star Wars. I expect the studio will have looked back on the recent history of Trek and demanded a huge adrenalin shot of action and sci-fi madness – and on that level, he delivered. I agree that the film is too hyperactive for its own good, though. It’s like giving a kid way too much sugar and getting frustrated that they won’t settle down.

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