Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Star Trek

directed by J.J. Abrams

Star Trek poster  
In the wake of a number of touchy-feely spin-offs, the Star Trek franchise has been flagging a little. This movie gives it a much-needed shot of adrenaline and returns to the things that made it popular in the first place. That's to say, Kirk and Spock.

However this movie is more than a retelling of the early story of the USS Enterprise with updated graphics. For one thing, it's not exactly the same story at all. From the moment of Kirk's birth, when his father heroically saves the crew of the USS Kelvin, everything is slightly different. The Kelvin comes under attack from a massive Romulan ship under the control of captain Nero (Eric Bana). Nero is insane. He's bent on exacting revenge for the destruction of his homeworld, for which he holds Spock (Zachary Quinto) responsible. His ship, a dark and gothic monstrosity of curved spikes that looks like some kind of space kraken, is vastly in advance of anything the Federation owns.

James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) grows up a tearaway, fond of picking fights and disinclined to obey rules. In spite of his obvious intelligence he doesn't seem to have any kind of direction in life. Meanwhile on the planet Vulcan Spock gets into a few fights of his own, in spite of his species' well-known disdain for emotional responses. Spock is half-human, and his mixed heritage makes him something of an outsider. Rather than following the career path that's expected of him he chooses to join Starfleet, where his logical approach is regarded as an asset at the Academy.

Kirk also enlists, but in spite of having the aptitude for space he lacks the attitude to match. He's far from a model cadet. Spock and Kirk clash over the results of a test designed by the Vulcan, and Spock accuses Kirk of cheating. Kirk's reputation is about to be trashed, but pretty soon they all have much bigger fish to fry when the planet Vulcan is attacked. The cadets are mobilised on their first mission.

Hair-raising action is high on the agenda. There are some striking aerial scenes, and a chase involving a large ant-like creature packs in the thrills. But one of the most unexpected pieces of action comes when Mr Sulu (John Cho) gets out his sword. It may be a high-tech retractable blade rather than a crude medieval weapon, but that only serves to reinforce the similarities with the lightsabre duels of Star Wars.

With Star Trek's cosmopolitan crew and its universe populated with countless races, it's arguable that Gene Rodenberry got there first in terms of depicting a space adventure that teems with all kinds of alien life. But there are scenes in this movie that seem to owe just a little debt to the vision of George Lucas: in the Iowa bar, for instance, in the cultural melting pot found at the Academy, and on the frozen world where we find Scotty (Simon Pegg). Part of the ongoing mission of the Starship Enterprise is "to seek out new life and new civilisations", but when there's such a richness of life already in their doorstep it's hard to imagine why they would need to go risking life and limb to look for still more of it in space. Still, it looks good.

The plot relies on a time paradox, which robs the movie of any chance of realism (not that Star Trek was ever very fastidious about that) but also gives Leonard Nimoy a chance to reprise his role as a much older, wiser Spock.

The film relies a little too heavily on the attraction of reintroducing all of the characters from the original TV series. Although this might spark a twinge of nostalgia in older audiences, it's hard to imagine it having much impact on anyone who hasn't watched anything else in the franchise.

Having said that, this isn't a bad movie by any means. It's verging on a space opera, with a cheeky vein of humour that cuts through the tension of the battle with Nero. Eric Bana makes a scary and implacable villain, and the characters of Kirk and Spock spark off each other, giving the story the vigour it needs. Star Trek is visually sumptuous, with a cast and a script to match.

Film Details

Year: 2009

Categories: Films

  Science fiction

Classification: 12

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4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson


Max     21st June, 2009 21:44pm

This was actually better than I thought it would be. I'm glad they let Kirk be the arrogant, un-PC guy we know from the original series, instead of turning him into one of those sappy, touchy-feely characters we've been subjected to from The Next Generation and onwards.