Movie Review: Star Trek

If there are levels of Trekkies, I’m probably somewhere in the middle. I don’t read the novels, go to the conventions, or collect the action figures (although I did have a sweet model Enterprise D when I was a kid). That said, I have been watching Star Trek for as long as I can remember. My Dad and I used to lay down on the floor in front of our family’s little thirteen inch TV that had chrome buttons on the front to change the channels. We would watch Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) when the series was still on the air. Occasionally, we would catch an episode of the the original series (TOS) which my Dad had watched as a kid. I never really got into Deep Space Nine (DS9) or Voyager (although I have enjoyed episodes of both). I also liked, for the most part, the short running “Enterprise” series that was set before TOS. I have also enjoyed the Star Trek movies from both the original cast and the TNG cast. My favorites from the original cast are 2,4, and 6 and I must confess to liking all of the TNG movies a lot (First Contact is my favorite, but I enjoy all the others too).

All that to say that I did not go into the latest incarnation of Star Trek without a fairly good background in the series. Without further ado, the movie review:

What worked:

1. I am very pleased with the casting. My two favorite casting choices were Karl Urban (“Bones” McCoy) and Simon Pegg (Scotty). Urban captured the dry wit and delivery of Deforest Kelly and was his chemistry with Kirk and Spock was perfect. Pegg worked well as Scotty because he captured how I felt Scotty would have been as a young man. He was smart, funny, and a genius about milking every last ounce of warp power out of the Enterprise to keep the ship from coming to an untimely death. Zachary Quinto did well as Spock. Leonard Nimoy is the gold standard for Vulcans and he is still the best, but Quinto gave a nuanced performance that shows a young Spock straggling to come to grips with his human and Vulcan sides. Chris Pine did a good job with the Kirk character, and while I was annoyed with the childishness of the character early on, it was gratifying to see him grow as a result of the events that take place in the movie. Eric Bana also did well as the menacing villain and came across as a genuinely dangerous genocidal maniac.

2. The f/x, editing, and action sequences were flawless. The movies grabs you in the first minute and does not let go until the end. Never before have the ships of Star Fleet been so beautifully rendered. I seriously wanted to put the movie in slow motion as the camera panned across the Enterprise. The detail was phenomenal. I also really liked how the bowels of the ship (i.e. engineering) were portrayed. It was very mechanical and industrial (more like the ship on the TV series “Enterprise” than the other variations of the engineerings section). To me it makes sense that the egineering section would be very mechanical and much dirtier looking than the rest of the ship. I also liked how big the interior of the ship felt. Several times we see the characters literally sprinting through the corridors of the ship. This gave the impression that they had a lot of ground to cover to get where they needed to go.

3. Finally, the story worked for me. I know that some people will see the time travel and thus the alternate history as a cop-out, but I think it was necessary and it worked well. The filmmakers were smart enough to realize that trying to fit their story into an already heavily developed finctional universe (through TV, movies, books, comics, etc.) and get everything to conform would be next to impossible. The time travel allowed them to take the same beloved characters and stick them into new circumstances without disrupting the Star Trek canon.

4. I loved how certain moments/ideas ingrained in Star Trek mythology were captured. Spock raising one eyebrow. Scotty shouting, “I’m giving her all she’s got cap’n.” Bone calling Spock a “green blooded hobgobblin.” Little things like that really made the movie for me, and I suspect they did the same for other Trek fans.

What didn’t work:

1. While most of the casting worked well, Chekov (Anton Yelchin) proved to be a bit much. His accent was played for comic relief, which was fine, but the joke got old. The actor did fine, but the writers should have stopped playing his accent for laughs earlier.

2. One of the things I like about Star Trek in general is the broad mix of actors. I have long appreciated that Star Trek was written for adults, not teenagers, and the age of the actors always reflected that. The reboot obviously required younger actors, but there was hardly a senior Star Fleet officer in sight for much of the film. I understand that the crew of the Enterprise was the best and the brightest, but some senior leadership (Captain Pike was out of the picture for most of the movie) would have been nice. I hope the writers remember that for the sequels that will undoubtedly come. Hopefully the writers will continue to let the characters grow and mature (which they did in this movie) and not feel that they need to make the characters ever youthful in both appearance and personality.

In conclusion, this movie will appeal to a broad audience. The writers succeeded in creating a movie that balanced the demands of long time fans with need to create a movie the reached out to a new audience. The movie has breathed new life into a franchise that had been unable to reach a new audience for some time. I welcome this new Star Trek movie to the growing canon, heartily recommend it, and can’t wait to add it to my personal movie collection.

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