Sunday, May 10, 2009

Movie Review: Star Trek

The new Star Trek was, in a single word, flawless. Over my life I've seen maybe a dozen different episodes, give or take, of the original Star Trek series. I've also seen the first two movies in that series. I was always more of a Next Generation fan (I think I've seen probably all, or very nearly all, of the episodes, and all of the movies). But after seeing this movie I want to go watch all of the original series. It was that good.

This film does a fantastic job introducing us to the characters. Having some familiarity with the original cast I appreciated how true this movie stayed to the essential characteristics of the roles. What I knew of the characters showed up in this film, but at the same time I didn't need to bring any background with me in order to get who these people were. The movie brought it all to the audience and introduced us to the protagonists with a knowing wink that served as tribute to the history laid out in the original franchise's extensive cannon. Some of the inside nods I got. Some I didn't. I loved the ones I was able to catch and the ones I wasn't left me wanting to explore the series more fully.

The acting is terrific. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto might even surpass their predecessors in the roles of James T. Kirk and Spock, respectively. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy are iconic in those roles, yet these two young actors turned in spectacular performances that more than did the originals justice. I'd like to think that Nimoy's presence in the film is an indication of his strong approval. The supporting cast was equally up to task. From Bones to Sulu to Uhura to Scotty there wasn't a single missed note, a single flat performance, a single character I didn't want to know better. The casting was fantastic, the acting superb.

Star Trek was full of amazing action. This was a sci-fi movie but I found myself pleasantly surprised at how clean and unencumbered much of the action was. Rather than rely on special effects for all of the action we got to see real people doing real stunts and fight choreography. The scene was set with special effects - a giant drilling rig miles above the planet's surface for example - but the action was real. George Lucas should take note. This is the film that science fiction fans have been waiting to see for 10 years; ever since the anticipation of The Phantom Menace fizzled into that awful, forgettable mess. The reintroduction of Star Wars was a disaster. The reintroduction of Star Trek is quite the opposite.

It has been a full day since I saw the film. I wanted to give it some time before putting up this review, to see if I felt as strongly as I did immediately after seeing the movie. If anything my estimation of the film has only grown. I'm already trying to find room on my calendar to go see it again. With movie prices being what they are, that certainly says something. It is with eager anticipation that I hope for a sequel staring this same cast. In fact, the Star Trek franchise has gone 4 years without a single new episode on television; after seeing this movie I've been entertaining wishful, and admittedly ridiculous, dreams that J.J. Abrams could somehow convince this group of actors to commit to a weekly show for the small screen. After all, Abrams did get his start in television...

I would be remiss if I didn't say a little about J.J. Abrams here. A tremendous amount of credit needs to be given to him for having the courage to tackle such an iconic and beloved show, to have the insight to make it true, and the creativity to make it fresh. I mean for this to be the ultimate compliment one can give a filmmaker.

Finally, let me just note one personal hope that this movie gives me. I have always been a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation. After seeing how capably this reimagining was handled I look forward to the day, maybe a dozen years from now, when that franchise is also reborn. I never would have thought it, but after the brilliance of this film I can't help but think of it as a mere eventuality.

Let me close by saying that this was easily the best film I have seen in a long time. It was a fantastic movie on its own, it stands as a marvelous tribute to what came before, and it lays the foundation for a future filled with potential. Not only do I want to see this movie again, I want to go back and watch all of the original episodes and am simultaneously giddy with anticipation for a sequel to this film. I hope that the new Star Trek is a franchise that will live long and prosper (Well you didn't honestly expect me not to use at least one lame line, did you?).

I give it an A+.

Like a pinch on the neck of Mr. Spock


Nate said...

You tell it like it is!

Mike said...

I've almost worn the fact that I've seen maybe two total episodes of all the Star Trek series combined as a badge of honor (even though I've seen all the movies). However, you summed it up best: "after seeing this movie I want to go watch all of the original series". I've actually been considering that. So yeah, I mostly agree with your review here.

Anonymous said...

I am not a trekkie, per se, but I would say I am not all that far from such a designation. I have seen ALL the original TV series probably in excess of 20 times each. I grew up in the 70s watching the reruns. I have to say that you have to watch ALL the original series. I agree that the NEXT GENERATION was a great series and worthy of the Star Trek franchise...but you have to see why there was something to live UP TO.


Andrew said...

Nice review.

FYI, the original series is available for free viewing online at:

Though, personally, I think Next Generation and Deep Space Nine (and even Voyager) are all better than the original series.

patric said...

hear matt and i discuss trek

Anonymous said...

when you go to law school to you get trained to talk about something for very long amounts of time when you really don't know anything about it?

AGJ said...

How many people stood and cheered when Spock said "Live long and prosper"?

It is the first Trek movie that I actually want to see. If I can find a baby-sitter this weekend I may actually take Jill to see it (the first time that we have gone to see a movie in over 3 years!)

That is unless Year One or Transformers is not out yet.

Man I am old.

And I enjoy it.