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Friday, May 08, 2009

Star Trek - A Review

Starring: Chris Pine ... James T. Kirk

Zachary Quinto ... Spock

Leonard Nimoy ... Spock Prime

Eric Bana ... Nero

Bruce Greenwood ... Capt. Christopher Pike

Karl Urban ... Dr. Leonard 'Bones' McCoy

Zoe Saldana ... Nyota Uhura

Simon Pegg ... Scotty

John Cho ... Hikaru Sulu

Anton Yelchin ... Pavel Chekov

Ben Cross ... Sarek

Winona Ryder ... Amanda Grayson

Chris Hemsworth ... George Kirk

Jennifer Morrison ... Winona Kirk

Rachel Nichols ... Gaila

Synopsis: WARNING! Contains spoilers

The film opens with the Federation starship USS Kelvin investigating a "lightning storm" in space. It turns out to be a black hole, and the Narada, a Romulan mining vessel, emerges from it and attacks. The Kelvin's captain, Richard Robau (Faran Tahir) is captured and killed by the Romulan captain Nero (Eric Bana). First officer George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth) takes command and sacrifices himself and the Kelvin by ramming it into the Romulan ship in order to allow the rest of the crew to escape. During the escape, George's wife Winona (Jennifer Morrison) gives birth to a son: James Tiberius Kirk.

About 22 years later, Kirk (Chris Pine) grows into an intelligent but reckless young man. He meets Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) in a bar in Iowa, where Pike convices Kirk to enlist in Starfleet Academy and follow in his father's footsteps. During his eventful education on Earth, he is suspended for cheating on the Kobayashi Maru designed by the half-Vulcan, half-human Spock (Zachary Quinto). Despite this, Kirk is smuggled onboard the USS Enterprise by his friend, Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy (Karl Urban), as it is sent on its first mission to investigate a distress signal originating from the planet Vulcan; Captain Pike commands the ship, with Spock as his first officer, and Uhura is also assigned to the ship. En-route, Kirk realizes that the situation is similar to the one 25 years ago when his father died and, with the help of Uhura and McCoy, manages to convince Pike and Spock that the Enterprise is heading into a trap. When the Enterprise arrives, they find the rest of the Starfleet ships destroyed and Nero's ship, the Narada, using a drilling apparatus to tunnel to the planet's core. After promoting Spock to captain and Kirk to first officer, Pike surrenders to Nero, giving Kirk and Hikaru Sulu (John Cho) a chance to destroy the drill. Nevertheless, Nero destroys Vulcan with a small amount of "red matter", dropped into the planet's core, which creates a black hole that consumes the planet from within. Six billion of the Vulcan people die, including Spock's human mother, Amanda (Winona Ryder).

Nero puts the Narada on a course for Earth with the intention of destroying it. Kirk wants to follow Nero immediately, but Spock insists that the Enterprise should regroup with the fleet as per their orders. Spock has Kirk forcibly removed from the Enterprise and stranded on the nearby ice planet Delta Vega, only for him to be rescued by an aging Vulcan who reveals himself to be Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy). This elderly Spock explains that, 120 years in the future, he tried to save the Romulan planet from being destroyed by a nearby supernova, using the red matter in his ship to create a black hole that would neutralise the threat. Though Spock did not complete his mission in time to save Romulusresulting in Nero's vow to take revenge on Spock and the Federationhe stopped the supernova, and the resulting black hole transported Spock's ship and the Narada into the past. Spock takes Kirk to a nearby Starfleet outpost and introduces him to Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg), a master engineer and pioneer of transporter technology. Scott and Kirk are transported back to the Enterprise and, taking Ambassador Spock's advice, Kirk goads the younger Spock into attacking him and demonstrating that he is "emotionally compromised". As a result, Spock relieves himself of command; because Kirk is the next-highest ranking officer, he becomes the new captain of the Enterprise.

Captain Kirk takes the Enterprise to Earth, intending to stop the Narada on his own. Spock, Scott and math-whiz Pavel Chekov (Anton Yelchin) figure out a way to lie in wait for the Narada and beam aboard, allowing Kirk and Spock to stage a surprise attack. While Spock steals Ambassador Spock's captured ship and lures the Narada away from Earth, Kirk rescues Pike. With the assistance of the Enterprise, Spock then rams Ambassador Spock's ship into the Narada, detonating the red matter and creating a black hole that, aided by a full barrage of the Enterprise's weaponry, destroys the Narada completely. Kirk, Spock and Pike are rescued by the Enterprise via transporter, which is in turn saved from being pulled into the black hole by Scott. Back on Earth, Kirk is commended, promoted to captain and given permanent command of the Enterprise from Pike, now a Fleet Admiral. Ambassador Spock visits his younger self and explains that he helped Kirk directly because he wanted to ensure that the young Spock and Kirk would come to an understanding of each other and become friends. The younger Spock, convinced to stay with Starfleet, requests to be posted to the Enterprise as first officer and Kirk accepts.

Review: by Scott Weinberg, Cinematical WARNING! Contains spoilers

When it comes to a franchise as beloved as Star Trek, I suppose it's important to let people know where you stand, right at the beginning: I never was able to get into the original Star Trek series (probably because I'd already been indoctrinated into the Star Wars religion), but I knew enough to become a big fan of the first three cinematic adaptations. I think The Motion Picture is a fine (if slightly overlong) re-awakening of the franchise, and I'm a big fan of both The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock. The rest of the features are slight and forgettable (at best) or drearily familiar, which is slightly annoying because I absolutely adore The Next Generation on the small screen. On the big one? Not so much.

But beyond the impact and popularity of a lone franchise, I'm just a huge science fiction fan. Anything that can delve deep into the future and dazzle me with something flashy or fascinating is a good thing indeed. But what makes Star Trek such a long-lasting and rabidly adored franchise is that it goes beyond simple "alien adventures" and touches upon ideas, questions, and issues that we always contend with in the "real" world. If you have to travel 100,000 miles and deal with purple aliens to make a clever point about, say, racism, then let's hear it for basic-yet-admirable subtext. So yes, Star Trek has always been a smart, insightful, and topical space adventure, but this time out ... it's mostly just fun.

Yes, it's an all-new reboot of one of the most beloved series of all time. Which means director J.J. Abrams and his filmmaking crew are walking on very thin ice. True, it's not like the Star Trek series has never seen a bad film, but when you're retro-fitting a mega-franchise in very loud and expensive fashion ... the fans take notice. And they're not afraid to call bullshit at the drop of a hat or a crack in the canon, which is part of what makes the new Star Trek such a pleasant surprise. Not only did they "pull it off," but they've done so in rather grand fashion: This is the best Trek since Khan got all wrathful and such.

It's an origin story, which is normally snooze central, but in this case ... well, do you actually KNOW how Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, etc., all met up at the start? I'd assume that only the hardest of hardcore fans know that stuff, and the "flashback" approach allows us to accept an all-new cast as a simple part of the equation. The story of young Kirk, who lost his father only one second after being born, turning away from a rebellious streak and enlisting in Starfleet, only to slowly acquire a rather eclectic crew of friends while battling a mercilessly evil villain ... yeah, this stuff is just plain old fun.

And what a entertaining film this will be for the movie geeks to dig through: Shot like a dream, cut real tight, scored with majesty and power, packed with dazzling sights and sounds and sly little pieces of banter. We've also got the requisite chase and escape stuff, a few nifty creatures, a sweet dash of romance, and even some time-travel twistiness that all but demands repeat viewings. Hell, you could know nothing about the words Star Trek and still find a lot to enjoy here.

Any of the old-school Star Trek fans can tell you: It's the cast that makes or breaks a series. And while it's way too early to tell if this new gang will make a fan-friendly impact, going only by one fine film, this ensemble is aces across the board. So while we don't have that friendly sort of familiarity that we normally have with Star Trek, it's replaced with the sensation of meeting interesting "new" characters who might be a little bit younger (and, yes, a lot prettier) but are still just as likable. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto excel as Kirk and Spock (respectively), but big chunks of the film are stolen by the likes of Uhura (Zoe Saldana), McCoy (Karl Urban), and good ol' Scotty (Simon Pegg). Compliments also to Eric Bana's brooding villainy, Bruce Greenwood's classy authority, and Ben Cross' overt Vulcanosity. (And was that ... Winona Ryder? Nah, couldn't be.) No, this is not the Enterprise crew we know and love, but I know enough to crave a few more adventures with the new guys.

As Star Trek is character(s) first and plot second, it's understood that we spend a lot of time getting reacquainted with everyone, but of course there's just enough of an adventure story to keep the flick cooking. Eric Bana stars as a horrific Romulan with a massive grudge, one who's not afraid to leap back in time to satisfy his lust for revenge. But the real arc of the flick is Jim Kirk, and his journey from Enterprise stowaway to captain. The screenwriters run through a whole lot of road-blocks and temporal contortions to give the Star Trek faithful a reboot to remember, and I'd say they've done one heck of a job.

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