Movie Review: Star Trek

Star Trek 2009
3.5 Lloyds – Cautionary Family-Friendly
PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, and brief sexual content.
Running Time: 2 hours 6 minutes

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To boldly go where no man has gone before!

It’s a re-imagining of the ever popular Star Trek franchise. This time around the greatest adventure of all time tells the story of the young crew’s maiden voyage on-board the most advanced starship ever created – the U.S.S. Enterprise. The journey through space is filled with action and of course cosmic peril.

As with many Star Trek flicks that have gone before, the fate of the galaxy once again rests in the hands of bitter rivals. One, James T. Kirk, played by Chris Pine, is a delinquent, thrill-seeking Iowa farm boy. The other, Spock, played by Zachary Quinto, was raised in a logic-based society that rejects all emotion. As fiery instinct clashes with calm reason, their unlikely, but powerful partnership, is the only thing capable of leading their crew through unimaginable danger.

Some Big Shoes To Fill

Star Trek fans can be very unforgiving. Whether they’re trekkies, trekkers, or a combination of both, die-hard Star Trek fans are very picky when it comes to messing with the Star Trek franchise. Personally, I held off for two seasons before checking out Star Trek: Next Generation. As a trekkie – a huge fan of the original series – I did not think anything good could come from a new Star Trek series. While the Next Generation crew seemed afraid of using any kind of fire power, it did eventually develop well.

Of course a number of sub-series’ have come and gone in the franchise as well. There’s been Deep Space Nine, Voyager and of course, Enterprise. The later Scott Bakula series was an attempt at a prequel as well. However, instead of looking at the early days of Captain James T. Kirk, it went back even before then to when Kirk wasn’t even born!

With such a glorious history, director J.J. Abrams, along with writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci have some pretty big shoes to fill. Gene Roddenberry has a big shoe size when it comes to the Star Trek franchise. But, not only do the behind the scenes people have big shoes to fill, those on the big screen have even bigger shoes to fill. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy cast a very long shadow when it comes to the characters of Captain James T. Kirk and Spock. There is the temptation to continually say – “That’s not Kirk! That’s not Spock!”

How Does Star Trek 2009 Stack Up Against…
What’s Gone Before

Star Trek 2009 accomplishes what I’m sure filmmakers wanted to do. It provides a wonderful re-launch and re-imagining of the long running Star Trek franchise. It’s obvious this is an attempt to re-launch the long-running series to a not only the original Star Trek fan base, but a brand new, younger fan base as well. I’m happy to say, Star Trek 2009 bridges the gap between two very distinct fan bases, very well.

Heading into the movie most of the hype concerning the production of the flick was around director J.J. Abrams. However, I believe the applause is misplaced. The biggest round of applause should go to the writers, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. Abrams readily admits he is not and has never been a Star Trek fan. It’s been well publicized that he’s a fan of Star Wars. That caused concern for me, and others who are Star Trek fans. There is a big difference between Star Trek and Star Wars. But, if it had not been for the writing brilliance of Kurtzman and Orci, Star Trek 2009 could have been a total loss.

I’m happy to report that as a result of the writers, Star Trek 2009 does a great job of maintaining the substance and credibility of the enter Trek franchise.

Obviously the writing duo did their homework on Star Trek lore. While there are some new twists tossed in along the way, for the die hard Star Trek fan, there are numerous connections to what’s gone before to keep you smiling too. The downfall of some earlier Star Trek movies revolved around too many insider lines and jokes. Many times those new to the series were left wondering why people were laughing. If you didn’t know the background, you wouldn’t get the jokes. Such is not the case with the latest Star Trek offering. As a matter of fact, even some of the insider material and jokes have enough of a set up that pretty much the entire audience will get the laugh.

For the die hard Trek fan, the set up serves as a possible reminder of what went before. For the new fan, the set up provides the foundation for the laugh. Then, on top of the brilliant scriptwriting, I also applaud Kurtzman and Orci for their attention to detail. Those who have followed the franchise from the beginning will be thrilled at the inclusion of just how James T. Kirk beat Starfleet’s notorious Kobayashi Maru test!

As for Abrams, he’s simply getting too many kudos on this movie. After all, Abrams is a TV producer, not a movie producer. I have a feeling he was picked because of his love for Star Wars. The producers probably thought since he has a love for space, he would do well with the Star Trek franchise. While the production is done well, for the most part, Abrams really appears to be treading water at best at points throughout the movie.

There is a big difference between directing for the small screen and directing for the big screen.

At some points in Star Trek 2009 it appeared Abrams was falling back on his poor directing techniques displayed in the motion-sickness-flawed-flick Cloverfield. That poorly done 2008 movie only had a production budget of $25 million. Someone should have told Abram that with the duties as director for Star Trek 2009 he firmly moved into the big leagues. Apparently he did not get that memo.

While the motion sickness scenes were few, they are still there and it’s apparent Abrams really didn’t know what to do with space action. As for other out-of-place portions of the movie. It’s obvious Abrams does not know the groundwork for Star Trek. There are simply too many aliens in this movie to hold true to the Star Trek narrative of boldly going where no man has gone before. If this is supposed to be the story outlining how the crew of the Enterprise came together, there are simply too many aliens running around earth. An early bar scene looks like it’s taken straight out of the Star Wars playbook. Yes, I understand that the writers were playing with the whole time-travel space continuum aspect of sci-fi. But, as for aliens, I think they went too far.

Let The New Chapter Begin

While Star Trek 2009 has issues, over-all, this is a great movie launching an entirely new chapter for the Star Trek franchise. Kirk comes off a little too edgy at times, and Spock shows too much emotion. But, those character flaws are forgiven as Karl Urban who plays Bones nails the part! Anton Yelchin is a wonderful Chekov, and Simon Pegg who comes along during the course of the movie as Scotty is a great asset too. While the original Star Trek series was all about William Shatner and his James T. Kirk character, it appears as though the crew of the Enterprise will be more balanced with this re-launch of the series.

Aside from the new cast, it’s also nice to see Leonard Nimoy in his ever-popular role as Spock. He makes a great connector between the old and the new. Of course the plotline which brings him into this movie, also provides a clean slate for the crew of the Enterprise to continue their mission of exploration.

As for length and rating. Star Trek 2009 clocks in at a little better than 2 hours. It could have been shorter as there seems to be too much set up time at the beginning. While the scene of a young James T. Kirk joyriding in a classic Corvette is cute, it really did not add anything to the plotline. Some trimming at the beginning of the movie could have rolled the time back to about an hour 45 minutes. That could have safely been done, without losing any of the important context. The new Trek carries a PG-13 rating. I must admit I waffled back and forth between saying this is a family-friendly movie, or a cautionary family-friendly movie. In the end, I opted for cautionary, but I must admit it’s a tame cautionary family-friendly rating.

Star Trek 2009 is a sci-fi flick and they are certainly not afraid to fire phasers. But, as far as some of the earlier Star Trek episodes, this could be considered tame when it comes to violence. Yes, there is violence, but it’s not over the top violence. As a parent, keep in mind this movie carries a PG-13 rating. It’s not for the really young kids. However, as a parent who grew up with the original Star Trek, go see this new installment with your kids. That way you can introduce your kids to a great series and an incredible sci-fi franchise.

Star Trek 2009 is firmly establishing the Star Trek franchise back into the big screen line up. I’m sure Abrams will improve as time goes on. As long as they keep the scriptwriters, the already confirmed 2011 sequel should make for another incredible Star Trek adventure.

Enjoy the show!
Dr. Rus

About the Author

Dr. Rus has 30+ years experience in the field of communication. He takes this experience, and his passion to encourage others to positively effect their environment, when providing insight and movie reviews.