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  Star Trek

Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Leonard Nimoy

Directed by: J.J. Abrams

Produced by: Bryan Burk, Damon Lindelof, J.J. Abrams

Written by: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

     Normally, I’m not into sci-fi and/or action movies that don’t contain any social commentary that fuses all the hopping, skipping, and shooting together, but J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek is so well conceived and assembled that I couldn’t help but simply marvel at its technical adroitness. There isn’t a shot out of place—including that lens flare that seems to have bothered some of you—and such preciseness is a near-extinct art in Hollywood today. In Star Trek’s case, function follows form: the viewer becomes engaged in the characters and their histories because they’re presented in a manner that’s engaging. In this sense, it’s tempting to see the film as a full-fledged auteur piece for Abrams. But doing so nearly defeats Star Trek’s purpose: yes, Abrams anchored everything—against the odds, too, given the series’ sordid recent past—but a behemoth movie like this would never exist if it weren’t for thousands of tech workers. And let’s also not forget that the cast, made up of a diverse and talented range of performers, may not be the initial draw of the film, but once the style sucks you in, they sure do a good job of holding you there.

     Screenwriters Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, best known for their work on Transformers, made the important realization that the Star Trek series as we knew it wasn’t headed anywhere good, trashing many of the cheesy, extraneous elements of the former films. But that’s not to say that this new take on the franchise, not so much a reboot as it is a reentry (I’ll spoil it if I say more), will alienate lifelong Trekkies. Abrams’ Star Trek does not pretend like the other films never happened (again, I’m providing no details to avoid spoilers) and, as such, stands faithful to those beloved films that starred Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner. This seamless integration of old and new is just another component of the skillfulness of the filmmakers, which is not only technical but narrative in nature. Never is this truer than in a second-act appearance that will surprise and elate at least the half-dozen series fans that didn’t read up on the plot beforehand.

     Star Trek takes the franchise’s saga way back to before James T. Kirk and Spock were names in the Star Fleet world. The film opens showing Kirk’s father (Chris Hemsworth), Captain of the U.S.S. Kelvin, die in combat with an aggressing Romulan ship, commanded by Nero (Eric Bana). Nero has come from the future to kill his not-yet-in-power Vulcan nemesis Spock and the entire Vulcan race, but he will have to wait 25 years for his chance. In fact, Spock’s future-partner, Kirk, has just been born in an emergency vessel escaping the explosions. The film then takes the audience through the childhoods of Kirk and Spock, until they fatefully meet at the Starfleet Academy and go on to man the U.S.S. Enterprise. Old characters occupied by new faces—Bones (Karl Urban), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg), Sulu (John Cho), Chekov (Anton Yelchin), et cetera—each make their respective entrances and join the crew. Soon enough, Nero is back for a showdown with his future enemies.

     There isn’t anything more substantive about this Star Trek than the rest in terms of story—traditional in-jokes for fans are about as deep as it gets—but I would argue that a movie can be complex in the way that it tells a story. This is what distinguishes Star Trek from, say, Wolverine – both films contain the same amount of hollow action, but in Trek the viewer is actually invested in this action. The picture moves with stylistic importance and inventiveness, thereby providing the story the necessary sense of gravitas. (After all, this is essentially a soap-opera in space.) And everybody runs with it. The exhilarating actors, particularly Zachary Quinto as Spock and Anton Yelchin as Chekov, see these roles as a chance to reinvent characters by fleshing them out, not completely changing them. The special effects wizards will likely win an Academy Award for depicting semi-fictional space as we’ve never seen it before. Composer Michael Giacchino hits soaring crescendos that keep the audience enveloped. Star Trek is old Hollywood storytelling at its finest, coupled with the visual wonder of modern filmmaking – the best work of mainstream science-fiction I’ve seen in a long time.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 5.28.2009

Screened on: 5.7.2009 at the ArcLight Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, CA and 5.19.2009 at the Edwards San Marcos 18 in San Marcos, CA.


Star Trek is rated PG-13 and runs 127 minutes.

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