- 10 May 2009
- By John Howell
Although I had doubts that director J. J. Abrams could pull it off, even with all the positive reviews the new movie has been receiving, a third of the way into watching the new Star Trek movie any doubts I had were cast aside. Abrams’ revitalised Star Trek movie is an instant classic. Gone are the camp, cheesy elements that made the old Star Trek at times hard for a wider viewing public to respond to (especially all those deluded souls uninterested in science fiction) and in its place Abrams has crafted a spectacular production that captures the spirit of Gene Roddenberry’s original Star Trek television series from the 60s, while making it accessible to a wider, modern audience. From the sound and the costumes, to the ship’s design and lighting, there is little that Abrams has left untouched and unimproved.
Star Fleet Academy on Earth, the planet Vulcan, and the interiors of the Enterprise appear more believable and vivid than ever before. Gone is the endless techno babble that seemed to play such a large part of the later movies and TV series, in particular Star Trek: The Next Generation: “Remodulations”, “subatomic fluctuations” and "focused tachyon fields" are not inserted into the dialogue whenever there is a pause in the action (there’s a rumour that writers on The Next Generation and later series would add the tag "<tech>" to portions of the script where they needed jargon inserted).
As well as dispensing with pseudoscientific gibberish, Abrams has jettisoned the original theme music too. In its place is a wonderful new sound by Michael Giacchino. The rousing score lifts the movie to another level. I’ll be picking up the soundtrack soon. For fans of the original theme music, it does appear in the new movie, but only as the end credits roll.
The movie’s casting is spot on. The young Spock and Kirk, equally important and prominent, shine. Chris Pine’s portrayal of Kirk’s transition from a brash, directionless youth, to a stubborn and energetic Star Fleet graduate is excellent. As well as benefiting from a physical similarity to the original Spock, Zachary Quinto as the inexperienced and untested younger Spock is great, especially when he must come to terms with his half human, half Vulcan heritage. Which side will dominate? What side will he choose? Quinto is most famous for playing the sinister Syler in the science fiction TV show Heroes.
If the casting of Spock and Kirk is excellent, the casting of Karl Urban as Dr. Leonard McCoy (Bones) is superb. He captures the essence of the original actor, the late, great DeForest Kelley, while stealing every scene in which he appears. When Bones first meets Kirk on board a Federation shuttle, the exchange of dialogue is humorous, sharp and sets up his character perfectly. The only thing that really bugged me about his performance was that we didn’t see enough of it. He seemed to play a large role in the early stages of the movie but appeared all too briefly later. I guess with all the character introductions from Kirk to Spock, to Scotty, Uhura and beyond, there’s only so much screen time available. Hopefully this will be rectified in future movies.
Eric Bana as Nero, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, John Cho as Sulu, and Simon Pegg as Scotty were all good, although their performances never reached the heights of Kirk, Spock and Bones. As the villain of the piece, Nero’s motivations and character in particular appeared especially undercooked.
By far the most impressive achievement in the entire movie though, is Abrams’ ability to include a scene where Kirk goes to bed with a bright green-skinned alien woman and not have it appear totally silly (only mildly silly in this case).
The only real major failing of the new movie (and I grant you that some may see this as a critical one) is a script that loses its way half way through and appears at times held together by pieces of string easily cut. Without giving too much away, a series of convenient coincidences that introduce characters and move them from one place to another are at times highly implausible. When Kirk meets the original Spock (Leonard Nimoy) for the first time, for instance, or Scotty comes onto the scene and gives them an all too easy and convenient way to make their way back to the Enterprise, you get the feeling the writers were trying too hard to join the dots. If everything else hadn’t been working so well, it would have been hard to forgive these implausibilities.
Still, Paramount is sure to be pleased with this new movie and audiences too (I just heard it has already made 76.5 million in the US alone). The Star Trek characters of old have been reborn, re-energised, and the scene set beautifully for a series of future adventures and hopefully a new Star Trek TV show with J. J. Abrams’ at the helm. Everything old is new again.
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