Star Trek (2009 film)


Rating 3¼

Directed by J J Abrams

Written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, based on characters created by Gene Roddenberry

Starring Chris Pine (James T Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Karl Urban (Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy), Zoe Saldana (Nyota Uhura), John Cho (Hikaru Sulu), Anton Yelchin (Pavel Chekov), Simon Pegg (Montgomery ‘Scotty’ Scott), Eric Bana (Captain Nero), Chris Greenwood (Christopher Pike), Ben Cross (Sarek), Wynona Ryder (Amanda Grayson), Chris Hemsworth (George Samuel Kirk) and Leonard Nimoy (Spock)

When Starfleet receives a distress signal from the planet Vulcan, cadets are mobilised for active service on awaiting starships. Commander Spock is assigned to the starship USS Enterprise, which is captained by Christopher Pike. A junior Starfleet physician, Dr Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy, smuggles aboard his friend James T Kirk, a rebellious cadet who has been suspended from active duty following a charge brought against him by Spook. As the Enterprise travels at warp speed towards the stricken planet, Kirk realises that something is seriously wrong and it is somehow connected to the death of his father many years earlier.


Development on ‘Star Trek’ began in early 2005. The last Star Trek film, ‘Nemesis’, had been released in December 2002 to generally unenthusiastic reviews and grossed a little over $67 million at the box office against a production budget of $60 million. The last (to date) television series, ‘Star Trek: Enterprise’, ran for four seasons, but suffered from sharply declining audience figures before coming to an end in May 2005. ‘Star Trek’ was intended to “re-boot” the franchise, going right back to the beginning to tell the story of how the original characters first met and became the crew of the starship USS Enterprise.

The “re-boot” was placed in the hands of ‘Lost’ co-creators and producers J J Abrams (who directed the film) and Damon Lindelof. The screenplay was written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who, alongside Abrams, are the co-creators of the television series ‘Fringe’. The film utilised extensive state of the art special effects and had a production budget of $150 million. It grossed a little over $385 million at the box office. Its domestic gross a little under £258 million placed it at No.7 in the yearly list for 2009.

I am not a devoted fan of Star Trek. I watched the original iconic late-1960s television series as a child and teenager and loved it. There was a time when I watched ‘Next Generation’ regularly, but that is many years ago and I am perhaps not as keen on it in retrospective. I can take or leave ‘Deep Space Nine’; I don’t mind watching the occasional episode, but it is not something I would wish to watch regularly. I didn’t like ‘Voyager’ very much and missed out on ‘Enterprise’ altogether. I have seen most, but not necessarily all of the various feature films and oddly the one that probably stands out most for me is ‘Nemesis’, which was not universally well received.

There are all manner of ways in which ‘Star Trek’ could have been a monumental disaster, but it proved to be anything but; not only performing well (if not spectacularly) at the box office, but also garnering good reviews from critics. 279 reviews collected at Rotten Tomatoes result in a 94% fresh rating. I don’t know what reaction was like amongst “Trekkers” (or “Trekkies”), but while the nature of fandom dictates that there was probably plenty of criticism, I am not aware of any widespread backlash against the film.

It’s not perfect. The special effects are extremely impressive, but an over-abundance of effects and constant in-your-face frenetic action sequences are not to all tastes. It can become exhausting and the depiction of Kirk as almost super-human, apparently able to withstand any amount of punishment, does wear out its welcome after a while. The film tumbles into extreme schmaltz on several occasions, but this is actually quite affecting, more so than nauseating, which it so easily could have been. I wasn’t sure what to make of the relationship of Spock and Uhura. I don’t know where that came from, but I guess I must have forgotten something from the original television series.

What most struck me was the near-perfect casting of the main characters, with one notable exception. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, in particular, give performances that, while they are not impersonations, are scarily accurate. Pine, without attempting to duplicate William Shatner’s inimitable acting style, is sensational, although ultimately it is perhaps Quinto who steals the film. Each actor, it seems, was free to take elements from the performances of the original actors and incorporate these into their own interpretation of the role. It works superbly well. The one exception, I thought, was Simon Pegg as Scotty, which is a pity because I like Simon Pegg a lot.

I must admit I did struggle with the film during the first twenty or thirty minutes. It was slipping into boredom for me and the two-dimensional portrayal of Kirk as a troubled and rebellious child/teenager/young man almost had me reaching for the off button. However, things improved as soon as they were on the Enterprise. Leonard Nimoy’s appearance as Spock is beautifully incorporated into the story, although as the film closes and we hear those famous words, “Space... the Final Frontier,” I just think they should have been spoken by William Shatner, not Nimoy.

I wasn’t sure what to expect and I was very pleasantly surprised.

Review posted 20 April 2010


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