On DVD: Star Trek


In a decade of reboots comes perhaps the most daring and challenging: the Star Trek franchise. With 40 years of history including a total of around 15 movies and/or TV spin- offs, a database of hardcore fans and a recent history of trailing off into oblivion, Star Trek has been on life support for about the last quarter of that time. Then came J.J. Abrams, a producer/director whose respect and credibility in the business had been entirely created in that 10-year span — and suddenly Star Trek is getting the makeover that Trekkies might have feared, but that it definitely deserved. The new “Star Trek” is a true 21st-Century Star Trek (how fitting): explosive, exciting, character-driven and a miraculous spectacle to behold. It is surely 2009s first critical and box office success.

“Star Trek” follows the great action reboots before it in returning Star Trek to its origins: how the U.S.S Enterprise, the golden ship of Starfleet, protectors of the universe , came into being and how its characters forged their relationship on board its deck. Although there is a time travel element to the plot that declares this is an alternate reality and not the true story (to cleanse the creators of any mythos sins they elected to commit), it’s a darn fine story that really establishes its characters and shows a maturing process.

The catch is that in the future — a long time after the U.S.S. Enterprise formed — a Romulan aboard a mining ship named Nero (Eric Bana) watches as his home planet is destroyed by a supernova, an event that arguably could have been stopped ahead of time. The person he blames is Spock — yes, the one we’ve come to know played by Leonard Nimoy. When Nero’s ship is sent back in time by a black hole technology to the time when Star Trek heroes Spock and James T. Kirk are born, he decides to take his revenge by plotting the destruction of planet Vulcan and making Spock watch his home get destroyed.

In the meantime, we witness the growth of Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) and learn how they join Starfleet, as well as the rest of the crew. The evil plot against Vulcan is what brings them aboard the Enterprise for the first time and under these altered reality circumstances, their friendship becomes quite rocky as they try and stop Nero.

“Star Trek” is an epic story of character development. Vulcans are notorious for being emotionless, but Spock is tested as a half-human whose planet is under attack. Kirk is a farm boy with all the leadership skills but too much of an ego who must learn what it takes to really become a leader.

Abrams and writers Orci (“Transformers”) and Kurtzman (who writes with Orci on Abrams’ newest TV show “Fringe”) decide to focus their attention on this and ways to cook up exciting visual sequences, spending less time on what made Star Trek a cultural force back in the ’60s: the diversity, the belief in peaceful coexistence and the incurable optimism. “Star Trek” isn’t a dark or pessimistic re-imagining at all, but it’s distinctly more modern and with that comes intensity and more introspection. It’s a different optimism, one that’s much more … informed.

The mostly unknown cast is excellent. Abrams always seems to get great small-budget actors in his projects, “LOST” being a fine example, or more significantly that he made Jennifer Garner’s career by casting her in “Alias.” Quinto (from NBC’s “Heroes”) is fantastic as a Spock wrestling between emotion and reason and Pine is a really terrific find. Rarely do you find someone with leading man looks and presence who fits himself perfectly into a role as esteemed as Cpt. Kirk. He earns your respect very quickly, even though he’s a wise guy. Zoe Saldana as Uhura, Simon Pegg (“Shaun of the Dead,” “Hott Fuzz”) as Scotty are excellent choices as well. Even John Cho breaks the stoner mold that “Harold and Kumar” created as Sulu.

This is a visually striking film. If nothing else, the action will blow away anyone from the biggest Trekkie to the person who thinks Klingons actually cling onto things. There is no lack of imagination on Abrams’ part, from the space jump suits to the 2009-style phasers and shuttles. In terms of staying true to the source, Abrams gets a passing grade. The best way to go into the film, however, is to be knowledgeable and mildly aware of the Trek lore. People with no idea will be thoroughly entertained, but the more educated yet open-minded you are, the more “Star Trek” will blow your mind. This will be an exciting new series of films for this incredible franchise.

4.5/5 Stars

“Star Trek” (2009)
Directed by: J.J Abrams
Written by: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Eric Bana


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