- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Paramount Pictures
Reviewed by Will Harris
othing gets the fanboys more geared up to spew abuse than when the idea of a complete reboot begins to circle over the head of their favorite film franchise, not unlike a vulture. “Why would you even consider such a horrible thing?” they cry. “There’s nothing wrong with (INSERT FRANCHISE HERE) that a good screenwriter couldn’t fix!” That fallback position doesn’t work with “Star Trek,” however. The film, “Star Trek: Nemesis,” was written by John Logan, a self-described Trekkie who was also responsible for the scripts for “Gladiator” and “The Aviator,” and yet it still managed to be the worst “Trek” film not directed by William Shatner.
There’s no getting around it: “Star Trek” was getting old in the tooth, and it desperately needed a swift kick in the ass. Thankfully, that’s exactly what director J.J. Abrams has provided, warping “Trek” into the 21st century and onto the radar of the next generation. Almost inconceivably, however, he has managed to do so in a manner which will please the cinematic standards of current audiences while offering up a sci-fi loophole which allows the movie to exist without affecting the sanctity of any of the previous “Star Trek” films and series. The loophole will not be revealed here, of course, though it’s less because it’s a spoiler and more because it’s not really what you want to know about, anyway.
What you’re most curious to learn, no doubt, is if the new actors are able to fill the highly iconic shoes they’re stepping into, and it would be more than fair to say that they do. Zachary Quinto has the look, but he plays Spock slightly darker than his predecessor in the role – though given the events of the film, he’s got good reason to do so. Karl Urban is the most successful at channeling the actor who previously held the role of Dr. McCoy (the late DeForest Kelley), but more impressive is Chris Pine, who manages to capture the essence of James Tiberius Kirk without aping William Shatner. Granted, there are moments when the combination of Pine’s age and his disconcerting resemblance to James Van Der Beek will make you feel as though the Enterprise is under the command of Captain Dawson Leery, but by the end of the film, you’ll completely buy him as Kirk. At heart, he’s the same cocky lothario who doesn’t believe in the no-win scenario, but by playing Kirk at such a young age, Pine gets to show both Kirk’s intensity as well as his occasional uncertainty. The most telling moment of Pine’s performance comes at the end of the film, when he lets slip the confident façade just long enough to show an expression that clearly says, “Oh, my God, what did I just do?” It’s quickly replaced by one that adds, “And how completely awesome was it?” But it’s too late by then: we’ve already confirmed that, once upon a time, even the legendary James T. Kirk didn’t always know what he was doing.
As for the other actors, it’s sad but true to say that Zoe Saldana gets more of a chance to make an impression as Uhura than Nichelle Nichols was given in 40-plus years of playing the character, including a romantic subplot that will completely blindside the old-school fans. As Scotty and Chekov, both Simon Pegg and Anton Yelchin make the most out of their respective accents, and John Cho manages to show off Sulu’s legendary fencing abilities before it’s all over. Now that all of the characters have been re-introduced, let’s hope they get more of a chance to shine in future installments beyond just the token line or two that they tended to receive in the earlier films.
The villain of this “Star Trek” – since you knew there had to be one – is Nero (Eric Bana), a Romulan who emerges from the future, pursuing a quest for vengeance which involves changing the past to save his family and, indeed, his entire homeworld. In short, he’s an ordinary guy driven to extraordinary measures, which makes his motives understandable, if not exactly excusable. Trekkies will also enjoy the appearance of Spock’s parents, Sarek (Ben Cross) and Amanda (Winona Ryder), and Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), who had been established in the series as having preceding Kirk as the captain of the Enterprise. And for the first time in the history of the franchise, we actually get to meet – albeit briefly – Kirk’s parents, George (Chris Hemsworth) and Winona (Jennifer Morrison). And, of course, there’s Leonard Nimoy, reprising his role as…what shall we call him? Original Spock? Spock Prime? Whatever his designation, his presence will bring a smile to your face and, no doubt, inspire cheers and applause from the audience.
J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” succeeds across the board because it is steadfast in its desire to forge its own direction without dismissing its origins. Tributes to the original films and TV series, ranging from offhanded references to exact lines of dialogue, are scattered liberally throughout the proceedings, and yet there are many events which boldly underline the fact that this is not and can never be the “Star Trek” you remember. It is as successful a reboot of the franchise as anyone could have asked for, and it opens up a universe of possibilities for the future.
Special Edition Blu-Ray Review:
Fans of “Star Trek” are going to have a field day rummaging through the hours of bonus material on the new Blu-ray release. Along with a commentary by director J.J. Abrams, writers Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman, and producers Damon Lindelof and Bryan Burk, the three-disc set also includes ten production featurettes (five of which are Blu-ray exclusive), a gag reel, and a NASA news feature that gives you access to updates on new mission developments and images from around the universe. Though the commentary can seem a bit crowded at times, everyone involved has at least a few cool stories to tell about the making of the film. For a more in-depth look, however, there’s a dedicated featurette about nearly every aspect – from the casting process to designing the starships, aliens, planets, props, sounds, and score. Heck, there’s even a featurette about some of the cost-saving camera tricks used, as well as a short profile on Gene Roddenberry. Rounding out the set is a handful of deleted scenes that are admittedly hit-and-miss, but nonetheless worth sitting through for the Klingon prison scene alone.