A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 332 – Star Trek (2009)

Star Trek (2009) – January 26th, 2011

I have been thinking about this movie all day long. After we watched Wrath of Khan we put this in just because we wanted to see it. We’ve watched it several times. We saw it twice in the theaters. We took my mother to see it. We gave it as a gift. It was so much fun to watch tonight that if it wasn’t so late I’d start it again. And while we have three more movies in our two weeks of Trek, I feel like this is a particularly good way to end the true Star Trek feature films. It’s a great place to be sitting and I am eagerly awaiting the sequel. I like that. I like having something to look forward to.

On my review of Nemesis a friend of ours commented about not being ready to say goodbye to the TNG crew at that point and wanting them to live on in his imagination instead of getting such a “lackluster” send-off. And it got me thinking about how TNG ended with an episode planned to be a finale, and that episode leaves us with a possible future trajectory for the crew. And then the TNG movies just veered in another direction altogether after we’d really already been given our goodbye. So really, a reboot of the entire franchise is a fascinating direction to take here. It’s a transition, really, like what I was looking for in Nemesis and obviously wouldn’t have found. Using Leonard Nimoy’s Spock and an alternate timeline creation plot, there is a clear transition here from the old timeline to the new. It’s a transition on a grander scale than just changing over the crew. It’s changing the history. Letting us begin again. And while I do hope do eventually see a nod or two to TNG, I think the reboot of the original crew has plenty of mileage left before we get there.

I will admit, when I heard about the reboot I was nervous. After all, this is my childhood here. This was my introduction to science fiction – something I love dearly. This wasn’t casual for me. This was risky. And every casting decision made me arch a brow, Spock style, somewhat hesitant and more than a little skeptical. Much as I like Karl Urban and Simon Pegg, I had a hard time picturing them pulling off McCoy and Scotty. I enjoyed Zachary Quinto in the early episodes of Heroes but Spock? A superficial likeness wasn’t enough. Okay, I was totally on board for Zoe Saldana because she rocks and I knew she’d make Uhura just as kick-ass as she needed to be. But I was uncertain. And then in the bar near the beginning Chris Pine as Kirk patted a wall-o-muscle cadet on the cheek and called him cupcake and I was sold. Urban’s speech on the shuttle had me staring at him in awe and well, I should have known Simon Pegg would make Scotty his own. All John Cho had to do to convince me he was Sulu was pull out that sword and oh, Anton Yelchin as Chekhov is so earnest, I can’t help but like him. And then there’s Quinto. I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to not see Sylar. And instead I think were I to go back and watch Heroes I wouldn’t be able to not see Spock (and yes, that is a bizarre concept in my head). The cast is brilliant. They are everything I could want and nothing that I expected (except Saldana, of course).

And really, that’s the heart of the movie. The plot is a little ridiculous but the cast carries it all off effortlessly, so I’m willing to buy every single thing they’re selling. So what if the red matter is ridiculously overpowered? Who cares if Romulan mining ships could apparently totally annihilate the entire Federation if the Romulans ever sent them out instead of war ships? I find myself thoroughly ignoring all of that. It’s a combination of the cast being perfect and the writing working them in together as a team so that they’re all able to play off each other perfectly. If they’d been more split up, had less time on screen together, not been working as a crew, I don’t know if it would have felt right and without the right tone the whole thing might well have fallen apart. After all, this movie had to capture the spirit of the original show and movies with a great deal changed between them and it. There had to be a unifying tone to it all that kept it together. And with the fantastic interactions between Kirk, McCoy and Spock, plus Uhura and Kirk, Uhura and Spock (I’ll get to that too), Scotty showing up and immediately working with Kirk, Sulu and Chekhov slotting themselves right into the team, with all of that? It is a thing of beauty to watch.

But okay, I’ve waxed rhapsodic about the cast enough now. Let’s talk plot, because there are some key elements here that play into the reboot-as-transition thing I mentioned. Some time in the regular timeline, a sun near Romulus goes supernova and threatens the planet. Spock vows to try to save it using something called red matter which can apparently create black holes. But he fails, arriving too late to save the planet. Angered by the loss of his planet (and wife), Romulan miner Nero attacks Spock and both his ship and Spock’s ship end up going through a black hole and ending up in a new timeline. By arriving in the past and destroying the ship James Kirk’s father is on, Nero alters history. He vows revenge on Spock and on the Federation and plots to steal Spock’s ship when it appears and use the red matter to destroy every Federation planet, one by one, starting with Vulcan. Now, the changes here end up meaning that Kirk grows up without his father, which alters his course significantly. But things still come back. Pike captains the Enterprise. Kirk cheats the Kobayashi Maru test. Spock is first mate on the Enterprise. Uhura is there along with Sulu and Chekhov (who is only 17 at the time). Things all line back up. The timeline is trying to re-assert itself. There are tons of little callbacks and references (spot the tribble on Scotty’s desk when Kirk and Spock meet him) and Spock says ‘fascinating’ and Bones talks about being a doctor and Sulu’s got a sword and it’s all just so well choreographed without being a copy.

After all, there was no Uhura and Spock romance in the original series, but I love how it was done here and I think it adds some necessary character development for Spock and a little more material for Uhura to work with (plus it means Kirk so isn’t getting the girl in the end). Chekhov wasn’t on the ship at the beginning, but he’s right there in this movie and I think he belongs there. It’s good to see him right from the start. Kirk doesn’t start out as captain, Scotty needs to be retrieved from snowy exile after a wee transporter accident and by the end of the movie there are two Spocks and no Vulcan. And it’s that original Spock who makes this the transition. Ushering in a new era while simultaneously returning us to everything that was fantastic about the old one. It is a wonderful way to end the movies. For now.

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January 26, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Hey.
    Let me start with saying that I have not watched the old movies and I only went along to see the new one because my boyfriend so wanted me to.
    It is brilliant, even when you have no idea of what came before. It works. And it is funny. I was laughing my way through it, which hardly ever happens.
    Okay, I know a little, but I have never watched the series, simply because every time I tried I have quit quickly with a strong desire to kick Spock. I can’t take his emotionless behavior and yes I get that he is half Volcan, but still… I like him better in this movie although I had hoped that Uhura could get a bigger response from him that she does.
    So all in all, thumbs up, I might even go back and give the series and old movies one more chance at catching my interest after having seen this one.

    Comment by stenfalk | January 27, 2011 | Reply

    • If you’re going to go back and give the older stuff a try I highly recommend being picky about what you watch. If Spock’s lack of emotion grates on you, find non-Spock-centric episodes. There’s one where Kirk goads him into fighting on the ship. And there’s always The Trouble With Tribbles, which is amuses me every time I watch it. As for the movies, Wrath of Khan, Search for Spock and Voyage Home are fun and while Search for Spock might sound Spock-centric, he’s not in it much. We watched them earlier this week, so the reviews are a few days back if you’re interested.

      I’m so glad to know that the movie works even for people who aren’t big fans of the original show. Whether you go back to the old stuff or not, I’m glad you like the new stuff.

      Comment by ajmovies | January 27, 2011 | Reply


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