For as long back as I can remember, Star Trek has been around in my life. I remember the first time seeing The Next Generation way when I was about nine years old, and since then, in some way shape or form, Trek has been around. So when the series seemed to die off a few years ago, it seemed like something was missing. Despite the decline in quality since the end of Deep Space Nine, the affection for Kirk, Spock, Picard and all the rest still remained. So it was with a sense of trepidation I sat down to watch J.J. Abrams’ reimagining of the origins of the most famous of the varied Trek casts, with Star Trek, the eleventh movie in the series.
Star Trek opens with the birth of James T. Kirk, a birth literally under fire. Kirk’s parents are crew members of the USS Kelvin which has come under attack from a gigantic Romulan vessel that has emerged from a special anomaly. Kirk’s father is killed and we jump a few years ahead. The young James Kirk is a man seemingly without a purpose. He’s a smart and capable young man, but lacks direction. After a bar room brawl, Kirk is approached by Captain Christopher Pike, a man who served with his father. He challenges Kirk to do better than his father. Something Kirk initially rejects, but then signs up with Star Fleet. Meanwhile, on Vulcan, a young Spock has gained entry to the Vulcan Academy. He has achieved this, despite what his elders view as his deficiency. Spock is half-Vulcan, half-Human. Rejecting his elders, Spock also joins Star Fleet. Three years later, the cadets are due to graduate. However, Vulcan is attacked by the same Romulan ship that destroyed the Kelvin. Kirk, Spock, and eventually all the familiar faces board the Enterprise to rescue Vulcan.
First off, a trend is broken. Star Trek, which is the eleventh in the series falls into the category of the odd Star Trek film. Throughout the series, the odd-numbered films have been the poorer of the series, but despite this trend, Star Trek manages to break free and become one of the best of all the Star Trek films. It seems unfair to put it up against the others, however. Firstly, the film features only one member of the original cast, or even the Next Generation cast. Leonard Nimoy makes an appearance as older Spock. But that’s all that will be mentioned about that. Also, the film sets in motion an alternate universe featuring familiar names, albeit with different faces. So to put this film alongside the others seems redundant.
J.J. Abrams has yet again struck gold with this film. It is by far one of the most purely entertaining films of this year. From the opening battle to the closing credits, there is barely a moment wasted. Abrams fills every frame with a high attention to detail and plot point after plot point. The film is packed full of sly references to the original series, but while these moments are put there for the legions of fans, the film is still totally accessible to the newcomer. It’s a delicate balance that Abrams has managed to pull off magnificently. The only real complaint I have with his production is his choice of composer. Michael Giacchino creates the music for the film, having worked on Abrams’ highly successful television series, Lost. There are moments when the music seem to have been lifted straight out of the show and dropped into the film. For someone who has watched both Lost and Star Trek, it takes you out of the film for a moment. However, this is a minor complaint is an otherwise excellent film.
The most decisive element to the film, which would either alienate or draw in audiences, was the choice in casting. And once again, Abrams has nailed it. Chris Pine takes over the iconic role of James Tiberius Kirk from William Shatner, who has defined his career as the Captain of the Enterprise. It’s a tough and unenviable job for Pine to do, but he really is excellent as Kirk. He nails every nuance of the character, and is extremely watchable. The other iconic role is that of Spock. And in Zachary Quinto, Abrams has found an actor eerily similar to Leonard Nimoy’s early performance. These two characters are the most essential to get right, as they are the foundation of the series. And both Pine and Quinto are perfectly cast in their roles. Eric Bana plays the villain, Nero. Along with Bruce Greenwood, who plays Christopher Pike, Bana is one of the most experienced actors in the cast. But neither of these actors ever overshadow the younger cast. They do enough for the other cast members to showcase their talents and provide ample support. To go through each cast member would take forever, so I’ll just say that they’re all excellent in their roles. Each of them takes enough of the characteristics from the original characters so that we know for sure who they are. But they never descend into charicature.
The only other complaint I would have with the film is that it doesn’t seem ‘big’ enough. What I mean is, I kind of expected a more epic threat to the Federation than one man, his ship and his cronies. When it comes down to it, it was a film about two ships going head to head, rather than a large-scale encounter between two forces. Although, it does make sense to keep things small. Like a great many prequels, this is an introduction film, and as such must concentrate on characters over plot. But this is not to say the set pieces aren’t entertaining. The special effects are top-notch, the action sequences are exciting and the pace is relentless. After seeing a dreadful prequel in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, it’s good to see that when a bit of care and attention is put into a film, the results are fantastic. It’s a damn shame George Lucas couldn’t have let someone like Abrams take the reins on The Phantom Menace. Star Trek shows how it should be done. The saga is in good hands.