Saturday, December 16

Movie Review: Star Trek (2009)

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Director J.J. Abrams and his crew build the “Star Trek” franchise into a truly glorious enterprise. Interestingly, amidst the many clichés and formulaic characterization, it actually turns out fresh, funny, and emotionally engaging. The reinvention has a good mix – and it works!

Reinventing a classic sci-fi series is prone to becoming victimized by the blackhole of franchise re-openings, but what this new “Star Trek” presents is a flaring shine of a supernova from start to end. The plot may be preposterous, but the way the film is constructed provides a genuinely rollicking adventure – a fine escapist entertainment that has just validated the tagline, ‘Live long and prosper.’

From the first stunning visuals of a pre-Enterprise time to the final iconic sweeping space shots, the film easily grabs the audience by mixing warp speed action and tongue in cheek humor. It’s a witty, light-on-its-feet prequel with an unbridled enthusiasm.

“Star Trek” maintains a nostalgia play that manages to have enough reverence to its source material. At the same time, it carefully adapts to the needs of a 21st Century version of such a classic. It invigorates without destroying the original. It’s like warping to the contemporary while still respecting the past. And for the brave new universe Abrams and his crew explore, the film passes its obstacles with dazzling, time-warping colors by being a clever, campy, and endearing form of warp-speed/sci-fi entertainment.

This new adaptation has some significant flaws and missteps, but on its own merits, its creative precision in telling the story still makes itself a skillfully constructed studio picture. It’s not the type that engages the viewers as intellectually or emotionally as the best prior movies and TV episodes of the franchise, but Abrams breathes enough energy to this offer to make it hugely satisfying in its own right. Youthful, fast-paced, jaunty, and savvy, the swift storytelling keeps up with the needed momentum and celebrates the sheer joy of having the characters back on the big screen. And his approach for this latest revamping validates a playful and unpredictable mix of special effects, an involving story, a good script, and fine ensemble acting. And for the rightful fun it needs, he truly goes full speed ahead.

Fueled by adventurous spirits, scriptwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman maintain a kind of ‘final frontier nostalgia’ for Trekkies and newcomers alike. The pacing races well with Abrams at helm. He moves the plot at breathtaking speed; yet, he is still able to provide time to feature heroic acts from all the original show’s key players and make the characterizations blend well with the story. It boldly opens a new chapter in the series while giving it a fresh shot of life during the process – and the whole thing feels fully realized. Moreover, it effectively conceives Kirk and Spock as two rebels looking for a cause. And with the occasional philosophical underminings to discuss love, friendship, duty, family, and pride, this ‘Star Trek’ essentially turns out to be a fiery dynamo.

“Star Trek” could please a wide cross-section of viewers. It is smart enough to be accessible to everyone while retaining enough respect for the franchise’s legacy. It’s a pretty good example of pop culture demands crafted by good hands – proving that commercial cinema can still deliver a sledgehammer punch of quality entertainment. And perhaps, this can be a new populist benchmark on how to rebrand and relaunch a classic, or any franchise for that matter.

Another strength for this new “Trek” is its cast. The performances are superb – all bristling with energy and excitement from start to end. Chris Pine as James Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock make the journey worth taking; while the appearances of Leonard Nimoy as Spock Prime and Eric Bana as Nero take the tale even further. The rest of the supporting cast are equally strong: Karl Urban as Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy, Zoe Saldana as Nyota Uhura, Bruce Greenwood as Capt. Christopher Pike, John Cho as Hikaru Sulu, Ben Cross as Sarek, Winona Ryder as Amanda Grayson, Simon Pegg as Scotty, Anton Yelchin as Pavel Chekov, Chris Hemsworth as George Kirk, Jennifer Morrison as Winona Kirk, and also Jimmy Bennett as the young James Kirk.

With a snappy direction, strong cast, great effects, strong story, big action, comic touches that work, and respect for the material, Abrams’ “Star Trek” is a truly bold, entertaining reboot. It is brilliantly watchable with near perfection – a “Trek” that beams bright enough as a supernova.


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