I kind of hate it that my first “real” post coming back from my hiatus is for a live action movie, but that’s how it is. Now, on to the review…
Star Trek is a sequel/prequel/reboot/whatever/all of the above of the Star Trek franchise which has been dead in the water since Star Trek: Nemesis flopped in 2002 and Enterprise ended prematurely in 2005. This 4 year span was the longest stretch without any new Trek episodes or movies since the end of The Original Series in 1969 and Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979 (unless you count the animated series, which aired in 1973 and ’74).
J.J. Abrams decided to go back to Star Trek roots for this movie, ditching the tendency to extend Star Trek‘s legacy by extending the story further into the future (obviously Enterprise is a rather significant exception to that) and by exploring the origins of the original Enterprise crew. However, to do this he decided to do something that no one had done before, and which probably wouldn’t be possible for virtually any other franchise but Star Trek: make a movie which is simultaneously a sequel, prequel, and reboot all in one.
What results is an overall exciting and action packed movie which should satisfy a good number of original Star Trek fans, but is still palitable enough for those who may be new to the Star Trek universe.
Special Effects: A+
Stop reading if you don’t want spoilers. If you want the full review with spoilers…see below the fold.
Now that you’re decided to go into spoiler land, let’s get the big and heavy stuff out of the way:
Yes, Vulcan is destroyed. Permanently. This has the obvious effect of altering any future episode or movie which includes or involves Vulcans or which the planet Vulcan is either seen or mentioned. Of course, there are ways to get around this. We don’t know who survived the destruction of Vulcan, but it would seem that the odds are against seeing characters such as Saavik or Tuvok in this universe, given that the number of Vulcans existing dropped from about 6 billion to an estimated 10,000 in this universe. Obviously scenes in movies such as Star Trek III and Star Trek IV and episodes such as Amok Time are altered, though I supposed they could take place on Vulcan II or whatever the new Vulcan homeworld is to be called instead.
Yes, this Enterprise and this Kirk exists in an alternate universe which has been altered by the appearance of Nero from the “prime” universe, so this isn’t a true “origins” story, at least for the purposes of all the Star Trek series and episodes that already exist.
The big shocker to me was that they killed off Spock’s mother, Amanda, thus obviously erasing her from any episode or movie she had been in (Journey to Babel, Star Trek IV).
And, of course, the Federation knows about the Romulans and knows that they are related, both biologically and culturally to Vulcans by the time the primary events of the movie take place – probably due to communication between Star Fleet and Romulus in the aftermath of the USS Kelvin incident. This obviously blows away episodes such as Balance of Terror in this new universe.
Now, let’s evaluate each of the five areas I scored above:
I gave the story a B/B-. There are two reasons for this. The primary reason is that the movie felt very rushed to me. It maintained coherency, which is good, especially for a fast paced movie, but it did feel rushed. Part of this might be due to the fact that it was my first time watching the movie, but there were some instances where things just happened too quickly. Kirk realizing that the distress call from Vulcan was a trap came too quickly I think, as did the crew’s acceptance of this fact. Spock concluding that Nero came from the future also seemed to have come, and been accepted, too quickly and easily as well. The saving of Earth also seemed to happen to quickly and easily to me.
The second reason was that the plot was kind of thin. However, I don’t think it necessarily hurt the story too much. However, it did has a rather sizable back story which had to be explained, resulting in at least 2 rather lengthy expository scenes where people were just explaining what was going on. However, to keep the pacing of the movie up, these scenes seemed to be edited in a way to speed up the dialogue, once again making it look almost too fast.
The plot’s thickness pretty much consisted of getting from point to point, which acting scenes getting us from one point to the next. We had the Start of the movie, with the initial battle with Nero linking us to Kirk’s childhood, with the car ride linking us to modern day Kirk, with the bar fight linking us to Kirk at the academy, with the distress signal from Vulcan linking us to Kirk on the Enterprise, and so on. I guess what I”m trying to say is that, while it was still told reasonably well, it probably could have been a little more fluid.
The acting was, overall, solid. Chris Pine as Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, Karl Urban as McCoy, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, Bruce Greenwood as Pike, and Eric Bana as Nero all get solid As with their acting. Pine and Quinto did especially well with their roles.
I’d give Leonard Nimoy as Spoke Prime and John Cho as Sulu Bs with their acting. For Nimoy, I don’t know if it was rustiness or editing or both, but it seems like he didn’t do quite as good a job as I expected (though it was still good).
I give Simon Pegg as Scotty a C, and Anton Yelchin as Chekov a D. Part of the problem with Pegg is that I just don’t think Scotty got enough screen time – and definitely not enough screen time as anything other than a gag character – to really build on the character of Scotty. Meanwhile, Yelchin just tried too hard to be Chekov, I think. His accent was too fake and too thick, I think. I’ve never had problems understanding Chekov before, but Yelchin’s Chekov was very difficult to understand.
If I do some GPA calculations, I have 6 As, 2 B, 1 C, and 1 D, that averages out to a 3.0, or a B.
I’m not sure how much I can say about this, but the sound editing was excellent as far as I could tell, from all the sounds in the starships, to the lack of sound out in space (for the most part), something which most people are afraid to do in space movies. I can remember several instances where I was impressed by the sound, and I cannot recall anytime when I thought that the sound was odd, so this gets an A.
Wow, just, wow on this one. From start to finish, the special effects are off the charts on this movie. Star Wars Episode III, which might be this movie’s closest cousin in this department, has nothing on Star Trek. Even watching the effects in this vs. the special effects for some of the upcoming big movies I saw previews for, perhaps Terminator was the only one which might compete with the level of effects Star Trek presents.
Frankly, I could hardly tell that the score existed in this movie, and when I did notice it, it was a little underwhelming. The score should boost the film, not disappear in it, so that right there is a sign that something might be amiss in that regard.
While this has no impact on my review, I thought I’d note some things about the theater. The showing I was at (7:00 pm) was clearly sold out, and I know the 9:50 show after ours was, and thus the 7:30 and 8:00 shows probably were (I don’t know about the 10:30 and 11:00 shows). I’d say 3/4 of the theater was full no later than a half hour before the scheduled movie start time. There was some pretty good applause at the end of the movie and, something which I have never seen before, probably 2/5 to 1/2 of the theater stayed all the way through the ending credits.
I think the biggest weakness of this movie is it’s pacing. Someone elsewhere described it as “a three hour movie crammed into 2 hours” and they’re probably right. This movie probably would have been served being a full 2 1/2 hours rather than just 2 hours, even though movies that go beyond 2 hours tend to start seeing a drop off in their attendance. As long as you’re not a Star Trek fan that was expecting a true prequel or who find any reboot of any kind blasphemous, there is a good chance that you’ll at least find this movie appealing, if not greatly enjoy it.
As for my comment about it being a sequel/prequel/reboot all in one. It’s clearly a reboot as the universe that this movie leaves behind is, as I’ve described, significantly different from the one that exists in the pre-existing series and movies. However, it’s a prequel of sorts, as it explores the origins of some of the characters, some of which may or may not be different, and we still get to roughly the same place at the end of this movie as we are at the start of The Original Series. However, it’s a sequel as well as the events of this movie cannot take place without events occurring in the “prime” timeline that already exists, so think of it as your standard time traveling, time altering movie and/or episode except…the timeline doesn’t get restored as it usually does.
However, having said all this, considering that it is a reboot, it is overall well done. I wouldn’t describe it as the best sci-fi movie ever or even the best Star Trek movie ever, but it does avoid the curse of the odd numbered Star Trek movies. It is a very competent and entertaining movie which, unlike most of the recent Star Trek movies (say, anything that doesn’t have the TOS cast in it), can be enjoyed by just about anyone.