Director: J. J Abrams
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Eric Bana, Bruce Greenwood, Anton Yelchin, Winona Ryder, Ben Cross
Plot: An impulsive out-of-town rebel (Pine) is tempted into joining Starfleet where he bumps heads with a stubborn Vulcan (Quinto).
Revisiting Star Trek must be one of the scariest jobs in the world for any budding director. It is one of the biggest franchises out there and as soon as production begins, the world is scrutinising every movie with critical cynicism. Cast Spock wrong and the fan base rebels. Take away the soul of the original series and you have totally misfired your reboot. At the same time, the original series of Star Trek is in need of a serious update. Probably boasting the most iconic characters, especially in the form of Shatner’s cocky, brilliant captain and the one-of-a-kind Vulcan First Officer, Nimoy’s Spock, it could be argued that these characters are let down by some of the weakest episodes in the canon. Filmed in a time, where narrative wasn’t pushed by competition on the heels and a lack of special effects to truly hammer home the mystical nature of deep space, the original Star Trek is fuelled by a sense of whimsy, rather than full-blown spectacle.
Thankfully that is exactly what J.J Abrams does with his first Star Trek movie. He simply puts the pieces in place, writes up a story that could act out as a individual episode of the series (Starfleet is assembled to investigate a natural disaster on a planet), and lets the flame of the past do the heavy work. There is a sense that Abrams is merely orchestrating the events from afar, confident that Star Trek as a whole will do most of the work. The addition of this film even fits nicely into the canon, but acting as a prequel to the show. Seeing as the original season threw us into the adventures of the Starship Enterprise without any prior knowledge to what made any of the characters tick, this reboot works as a great way to fill that gap in the story. The writers get to explore the more human side of Spock as we see his character before the cold, logical side of him took over with Nimoy’s performance. Of course, we are hardly going to see Spock as a dancing, singing compassionate soul, but we do see him struggling with the burden of emotional turmoil (there is a great sequence of Spock’s school years), while he overcompensates with the cold, efficient Vulcan side of him. He goes from the smartest guy in the room to the smarmy know-it-all, quoting rules and regulations like a code of honour. You both love the character and, at times, realise he could easily be the antagonist in Kirk’s story. His see-sawing morality also gives way to Kirk claiming the title role. Spock is such an iconic part of Star Trek, both Shatner and Pine had to work doubly hard to make Kirk stand out in the show. Thankfully, this is Kirk’s playground, as the story focuses on how his unique rule-breaking, impulsive behaviour made him the perfect Starship captain. Always flashing a Shatner smile and preferring to stick to cheeky quips rather than professional cool, Pine’s Kirk is just as easy to love as Shatner was all those years ago. In fact, the entire cast fit the old show perfectly well. I never would have thought to cast Karl Urban as Leonard Bones McCoy, but for the first moment, he walks on screen, mumbling and complaining, always hovering around Kirk while the chaos kicks off, he fits the role like a glove. Saldana and Cho update their characters very well, bringing Uhura and Sulu out of the 60s pigeon-holing they often found themselves in. Abrams does the perfect job of bringing Star Trek into the 21st century.
But soon the movie evolves into more than a prequel. Abrams breaks some eggs to make this omelette and comes up with a very clever, creative way of updating the series as well as leaving himself wide open to some canon-breaking sequels. The villains are fairly Star Trek levels of tame, Eric Bana having fun as a scene-chewing, megalomaniac Romulan, but their job is to facilitate the carnage that puts these characters on the path they end up on. The midway point introduces a plot point that few expected. We are used to shock character deaths in our movies, but Abrams tears up a whole side to Star Trek in a jaw-dropping revelation that brings the shocks and emotional scarring that brings a lot of the emotional resonance in the movie. What follows is a ‘thankfully-not-as-complicated-as-it-sounds’ plot development which not only brings Abrams Star Trek to levels of greatness, but also gives a perfect excuse to bring in one of the greatest movie cameos we could have hoped for. Abrams not only reinvents Star Trek, but gives it the fuel to ‘engage’ viewers for many more movies to come.
Final Verdict: Abrams brings Star Trek back to life with a fresh coat of paint. Perfectly cast, well-told and shocking. I hope the series lives long and prospers.