JJ Abrams’ Star Trek, a reboot (of sorts) of the franchise with the same name, releases nationwide today. I was lucky enough to see one of the limited early showings last night on IMAX. I could go into the whole “you need to see it in IMAX” discussion, but that’s true of any action and FX-heavy movie, and Star Trek is no exception. As a Trekkie, there is only one thing I can say about the new Star Trek: Wow. Abrams has done it again, and even better, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman have redeemed themselves as writers after the debacle that was the Transformers script. Read my full (spoiler-free) review after the jump.
Let me start off by saying if you are interested in Nero as a character, the comic book ‘Star Trek: Countdown’, which I reviewed last month, is a great read. You don’t need to read it to understand the movie as a whole, since they address the prevalent information adequately within the film, but it does give you some insights (as well as a head start).
Alright, now for the actual film. Abrams’ Star Trek portrays how the famed crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise came together. The twist is that a mysterious Romulan from the future, named Nero, has come back to reek havoc, and the Enterprise has to stop him, with the help of an old friend from the future. The film centers on James T. Kirk, currently a brash Starfleet cadet, and Mr. Spock, a Starfleet Commander and instructor. Each has their own hang ups. Kirk is living with the fact his father died to save his life, while the half-human, half-Vulcan Spock has issues controlling the dueling natures of his mixed heritage.
The opening sequence between Nero’s ship, the Narada, and the U.S.S. Kelvin captures the essence of the entire film. It’s full of great visual effects, action, and emotion. You really feel for the characters in their struggles, a feature for which Abrams is known. The action sequences were much better than the original series, and about on par to most current action films. There is also great comedy in the film, usually involving Scotty and/or Kirk.
Speaking of the crew, we are introduced to each character in pretty natural and memorable ways. Sulu is badass with a sword, Urban plays McCoy dead on, and there is just the right amount of Scotty as comic relief. An interesting relationship among the crew might raise some eyebrows, but I found it refreshing. And I can promise you, Chekov’s Russian accent is just the right amount of comical. I imagine Scotty and McCoy might be featured more in future sequels given their minimal but impressive roles. I really liked how each character is really good at their jobs. I felt like the original series didn’t showcase that enough. This is the flagship of the Federation, so only the best should be in command.
The visuals are what most people are going to come with as the biggest upgrade in Star Trek. All the space scenes were exquisite. The camera movement, while a little shaky for my taste at times, gave the sets a very natural feel. The scenes on the Enterprise bridge would have felt stagnant if not for that. There was also an abundant use of camera flares, especially on the bridge, to make the camera feel more like part of the set. For space scenes, it looked almost as though someone actually went out in space and shot footage.
I only had a few quibbles. First, while in action the Enterprise looks great, when it’s still, the nacelles look wrong. They are too big and too close to the saucer. It’s nitpicking, I know, but I noticed it. Also, a little more Nero would have been nice. There’s definitely some holes in his story leading up to the encounter with the Enterprise, though nothing that seriously hindered the storytelling. Lastly, I think there might have been a little too much going on in the space scenes. I was having a bit of sensory overload, though the fact it was on IMAX may have contributed. Lots of people will argue that a lot of convenient things happened, but my rebuttal is what the film implies: It’s the crew’s destiny to be together.
Finally, let me address the ‘baggage’ of the film. I promise you that you really don’t have to know ANYTHING about Star Trek to enjoy this flick. Sure, being a fan makes it even better, with lots of famous lines and references making their way into the film. But those are just add-ons. It’s like the difference between winning an NBA Champion Series 4-0 vs. 4-2. Either way, you win. Also, there is an extremely low amount of the so-called ‘technobabble’, so don’t be afraid!
After watching this film, I felt like this is Star Trek at it’s fullest potential. The original series and even movies had the heart and soul, but the technical stuff wasn’t there (dynamic visuals, FX, technology, etc.), whereas the later films and TV shows had the technical stuff down pretty well, but lost some of the spirit of the original. JJ’s Star Trek combines the best of both generations, creating a dynamic, entertaining, and emotional thrill-ride that I can’t wait to see again.
My grade: A