“STAR TREK” (Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Eric Bana & Leonard Nimoy)
When I heard about this ‘prequel’ idea of starting ‘Star Trek’ over from scratch, I hated it. Being alive when the original series aired (& being a kid, a fan of it) those characters & the actors portraying them had been intertwined for most of my life – the thought of having a different cast taking over the roles seemed ludicrous. After seeing the preview, I became even more determined to avoid it – I hated the idea from the beginning & the trailer made it look more like a ‘Star Wars’ type of ‘kiddie’ flick, rather than the more character driven ‘Trek’ style that I grew up with. Then the critics started raving about it; the prominent line being ‘You don’t have to be a ‘Trekkie’ to enjoy this movie’.
Well, I liked the show, I liked movies #2-3-4, but I’m not a Trekkie. I laughed when Bill Shatner told the goofballs dressed up like Vulcans & Klingons to ‘Get a life!’
I felt it important to reveal my background so you would understand where I was coming from before starting my review – Which is – this is a spectacular film. With one minor complaint, which I won’t reveal due to it being a bit of a ‘spoiler’, this movie started strong & gained momentum with practically every scene.
The plot involves a villain from the future named Nero (Eric Bana) a Romulan who travels back in time to alter the future destruction of his home planet & seek revenge against the Federation Ambassador who promised to save his world & failed. Said Ambassador being an elderly Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy)
Since time travel isn’t new to the franchise (both the TV series & ‘Voyage Home’ enlisted that ‘impossible’ plot device) it was easy to buy into the concept of using a time traveling bad guy to alter the lives of the original ‘Star Trek’ characters. People & planets that existed during the run of the series & movies are at risk when Nero ‘alters’ their lives with futuristic weapons.
I liked ‘Star Trek’ because it also pays homage to what I call the ‘best’ Trek’ movie – “The Wrath Of Kahn”. Heck, it doesn’t just pay homage - it practically steals the entire plot! But in hindsight, I believe that is what makes it work – even when they give fans obvious ‘winks’ in tribute to the cream of the crop; Bana’s Nero screaming ‘Spock! Spock!’ imitating Shatner’s Kirk bellowing ‘Kahn! Kahn!’
Kahn was the perfect villain – a returning character from the series that seeks revenge against Kirk / Nero seeks revenge against Spock. Kahn gained control of the ‘Genesis’ device which could create life on a dead planet; which Kahn threatened to use on planets where life already existed / Nero brings a device from the future that can implant a black hole into a planet, thus eradicating it from existence (Once a deep enough hole has been drilled)
If you want to rag on it for being a ‘copycat’, I can’t argue that point, but... probably due to the new cast, it worked for me.
As for the cast, I didn’t have a problem with any of them (With again, one minor complaint) The biggest surprise to me was Bana – other than doing a decent job in ‘Troy’ I have not been impressed with his work. A good villain makes or breaks a series & Eric doesn’t hit any sour notes – he isn’t given the complexity of a Kahn, nor does he quote Melville; but his character is bent on revenge, with a preconceived plan as to how it must be doled out. In displaying this side of Nero, Bana delivers an impressive performance. Going down the list – Chris Pine as James Tiberius Kirk; the one actor that was the least similar to the original portrayer, it obviously took a little longer to warm up to Pine, but in the end I had to admit that I couldn’t find anything negative to say about his ‘take’ on Kirk (After all, the story opens with his birth being altered by Nero’s invasion into the past, so we are dealing with a whole new Kirk in a sense)
Zachary Quinto as (Young) Mr. Spock; I liked the way they explored his childhood of being ridiculed by ‘full’ Vulcans for being a half-breed – It immediately put you on the side of this pre-robot-to-all-things-logical being. My friend Chris wondered how they could show Spock totally flipping out in the preview & expect ‘Star Trek’ fans to buy into this. Chris, go see the film – You will understand why that scene was necessary & made sense – In fact, it’s a ‘highlight’. Old time fans should see enough of the Spock we knew & loved in Quinto’s performance to accept him as the new Spock without a single complaint.
Karl Urban as Dr. ‘Bones’ McCoy; everyone should at least smile, if not chuckle out loud when Kirk meets young Dr. McCoy & the reason for his nickname coming into being is revealed – It has nothing to do with his profession, as we all would have surmised. Urban may be the best of the lot here – he probably comes the closest to capturing the essence of the original portrayal (DeForrest Kelley) & does a flawless job – You’d think the guy was a direct descendant of Kelley.
John Cho as Sulu; Plays him just like the original – no flashy personality – a no nonsense guy that keeps a stiff upper lip even when he makes a major boo-boo.
Anton Yelchin as Chekov was the ‘supporting’ cast member that I expected to have the most trouble accepting; I liked Anton in the short-lived series “Huff” & in “Charlie Bartlett” (Where I’m sure working with Robert Downey, Jr. was an enlightening experience) But Anton isn’t Russian, nor does he possess a manly set of vocal cords. So, yes, Anton had to grow on me after a rocky start of impersonating Walter Koenig’s Chekov’s way of pronouncing vessels as ‘wessels’ & Vulcans as ‘wulcans’ – He endeared himself to me with his mumbling of “I know how to do this, I know how to do this” as he races thru the Enterprises corridors to save Kirk & Sulu.
Zoe Saldana as Uhura; Well, looks-wise, she’s a major improvement (Sorry, Nichelle) but Zoe is the one character I had a bit of a problem with – However it had nothing to do with her acting ability, it had to do with the new direction they took her character – I didn’t approve.
& that leaves last but not least, the one actor I knew well going into this ‘re-structuring’, Simon Pegg as Montgomery Scott; Scotty is the last ‘regular’ to join the team in the film, but he makes up for it by being the most welcomed change – Simon is a comedic actor, so he easily makes Scotty his own while delivering ‘standard’ Scotty lines at the same time.
Now, as all die-hard Star Trek fans know, Kirk is supposed to take command of the Enterprise from a crippled Captain Pike, & Pike(Bruce Greenwood) is involved as a major character, but remember, you Trekkies that can’t accept change, the future for all of these characters is altered when Nero appears – so Captain Pike’s fate is altered as well.
Each character is introduced in a way that reminds you of the original – You’ll find yourself thinking, ‘Oh yeah, that’s ‘Bones’ all right’ – or whatever character is being spotlighted – So credit is to be given to the entire cast for making the transition not only acceptable, but welcomed. I will be looking forward to the next Star Trek film, & that’s something I haven’t said in 23 years!
Great job done by everyone involved, & I have to go along with the ‘sheep’ on this one – Even if you’re not a ‘Star Trek’ fan – if you like your films fast paced & action filled, while still taking some time for character development - I think you will walk out of the theatre saying, “Wow, that was a damn good movie!”
I walked out calling it ‘Spectacular’.