The eleventh Star Trek film, simply entitled Star Trek, is a genuine experience. Saying that they got it right is like saying that the sky is blue. Star Trek is the best Trek film – but that’s only half the story. It is a blockbuster in all the right ways: fascinating characters; robust action sequences; a relatable villain; stuff that gets blowed up real good [and yet, not gratuitously], and even some romance [between two of the least likely characters – one of the film’s bigger risks…].
Director J.J. Abrams and writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci have produced a film that is set up in such a way that it does not need to navigate through forty-plus years of continuity – a film that can [and does] take chances. Instead of having to worry that any situation might rile Trekkers by flagrantly violating Trek continuity, Star Trek shuffles the deck with a unique twist on time travel paradoxes that allow fresh adventures within the positive core of creator Gene Roddenberry’s original concept. That it is “real” cannot be denied. It has the blessing of the Roddenberry family and Leonard Nimoy – and if Spock says it’s Trek, then it’s Trek. Plus, there’s no Big Red Reset Button [though there is the traditional red-shirted casualty-in-waiting…].
What makes Star Trek such a joy, though, is that it’s a terrific movie. Trekkers will love learning stuff like how Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy [Karl Urban] got his nickname, while non-Trekkers will enjoy a genuinely fun ride. James Tiberius Kirk [Chris Pine] is a character who is smart, impulsive and very aware of the ladies [his dalliance with an Orion woman – she’s the green one – is a nice homage to the series, but plays just as well for non-Trekkers. Mr. Spock’s [Zachary Quinto] arc is one that hits all the right notes – logically and emotionally. These are compelling characters that will draw any audience in.
The supporting characters, from Bruce Greenwood’s Captain Christopher Pike to Simon Pegg’s enthusiastic Montgomery Scott, fill in the spaces that require them without seeming self-conscious, or precious. Even Nero [Eric Bana] works because, he’s not some megalomaniacal would-be conqueror but a man who has suffered the most devastating loss imaginable and seeks vengeance against the person he perceives [however unfairly] to be responsible – we see his pain as well as his anger. His weapon may be exotic, but he travels in a slightly souped-up mining vessel.
Star Trek zips along at a terrific pace and yet, it provides a number of extremely fine character moments – some even prior to the opening credits – especially George Kirk’s [Chris Hemsworth] twelve minutes as a starship captain. The effects are brilliant, as are the sets and props [which make it easier to buy into the action]. There are even sequences that take place in the silence of space – which give rise to some great juxtaposition of scenes on a ship and in space. The sound editing on this movie is astounding.
Abrams has taken a script that dares much and produced a truly magnificent film. The audience burst into applause as the closing credits began to roll and that included a number of jaded critics, including me. It just happened. I don’t know how. All I know is that there were scenes that made me laugh ‘til tears rolled down my face, and scenes that moved me to tears [two of those moments being during the two biggest changes from previously established canon]. When I can honestly say, “I laughed; I cried; it became part of me,” then I’ve seen a helluva movie. Star Trek is a helluva movie.
Final Grade: A+