Sunday 17 May 2009

Movie Review: Star Trek

Let's get this out of the way first. I'm not a Trekkie. If anything, I'm a Warsie. This isn't to say that I don't like Star a matter of fact, I was very into Star Trek between the ages of nine and eleven, when the BBC re-ran the original series. I have seen all of the movies, probably more than half the episodes of the original series and The Next Generation, and a few episodes of those other shows that no-one really cares about. I know my Romulans from my Vulcans and my Sisko from my Janeway...but the franchise has never quite excited my passion like Star Wars has. Truncated: I like Star Trek, but I don't love it. I'll watch an episode if it happens to be on TV, but I'm not programming my hard-drive to record it all.

The new Star Trek movie - titled simply Star Trek - is that dreaded thing: a reboot of a franchise. Or is it? Well, sort of. Kind of. A little bit. Maybe.

"Rebooting" a franchise is an often done thing these days. Personally, I hate it. It's basically Hollywood's way of saying "All that shit that we were doing before? All that stuff that inspired us? Fuck that shit. Batman jumped over the shark in the Batboat one too many times, and now we want it fucking dark and early-twenty-first century. You got it? Cool. And make sure the logo on his mobile phone is in focus.".

Having now seen Star Trek , I'm still not a hundred per cent certain whether or not it's technically a re-boot. I suppose that the answer depends upon your perspective. If you're wondering "Will I be able to enjoy this film without any prior knowledge of Star Trek?", then the answer is "No". If you're wondering "Does this film destory everything I ever loved about the world's second-best science fiction franchise?", then the answer is again "No". By pure coincidence I re-watched Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan two days before seeing this movie, and I'm glad I did, because it references a few things I would otherwise have forgotten.

For obvious reasons, all of the members of the original crew have been re-cast. In fact, one of the movie's shining achievements lays in its casting direction. Every single casting choice was perfect. Chris Pine (The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement) is an excellent younger Kirk, still brash, still snogging up green alien women, and even more impetuous than the way William Shatner (Dodgeball) plays him. Zachary Quinto is a perfect younger Spock, stricter and more adhering to the codes of logic than the one we know from the TV show. Karl Urban (Ghost Ship) manages an excellent Bones McCoy, and John Cho (American Pie II) is a great Mr. Sulu. The only misfire, tragically, is Simon Pegg (Guest House Paradiso), who's performance as Scotty is as pointless as...well, as pointless as the character of Scotty ever was anyway, to be honest.

Does this movie feel like a Star Trek movie? Hell, yes. And a very good one at that. The movie moves at the correct pace, and delivers action, comedy and hard science fiction in the perfect measures to make the Star Trek cocktail. If there'd been too much comedy, it would have felt like a parody; too much action, it would have felt like Star Wars; too much hard sci-fi, and it would have lost the mass appeal that Star Trek has.

Unforunately, it's not all roses for this film. Anyone who has a passing familiarity with science fiction will feel a twitch in their gut if I mention the words "parralel universes, alternate timelines, time travel". Casual movie goers, and occasional sci-fi dabblers will go "Yeah, that's okay. Seems quite clever actually.". Those of us in the know will go "Oh. The writers have basically given themselves an out, in order to write whatever the hell they want with no regard for continuity, consistency or respect for previously established canon.". And the really strange thing is...they're both right. There's no doubt in my mind that the second perspective was the reason for doing it, but the execution falls into the first. It's dumb, and they probably should have just tried a little harder and not copped out; but it's done so cleverly, that it's really not that big a deal.

Aside from the mobile phone advert twenty minutes into the movie, one other thing really ground my gears. There was an overabundance of what I call "punch moments". "Punch moments" are those moments in a film where there's a little fore-shadowing, geeky in-joke, or other set-piece that's designed for you to turn to your friend, punch them playfully in the arm, and you both mutter, "Yeah, that's cool." Here are some examples of punch moments:

X-Men: Cyclops makes some crack about Wolverine wanting to wear yellow spandex
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones: Obi-Wan says to Anakin "Why do I get the feeling you're going to be the death of me?"
Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade: "That's the Ark of the Covenant." "You're sure?" "Pretty sure."
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles - John Connor realises he's met a young Kyle Reese

Star Trek has several of these moments. The problem is, though, it doesn't just slip them in. It feels like the director is actually sat next to you in the cinema punching your arm going "It's Chekov! Get it! He's Chekov! He's awesome? Right?", or "Ha-Ha-Ha! The Kobayashi Maru test, remember? Yeah? Good thing you watchee Wrath of Khan two days ago, right? Ha-ha-ha! Look! It's Captain Pike!".

After an hour of that, it starts to grate.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence: Several explosions and space battles. One bar room brawl. One instance of someone being incinerated. Several Star Trekky type blaster and grapping fights - 8/10

Swearing: A few bastards and a bullshit. Disappointing. 3/10

Sex/Nudity: Kirk's involved, of course there's women. Unfortunately, most of them keep their clothes on. - 3/10

Other points in favour:

As mentioned earlier, the cast are fantastic.

It's nice to see Romulans in the lime-light again.

Special effects are excellent.

Winona Ryder is still lovely.


OVERALL: Is this movie good? The fact is, once they euphoria of Star Trek's return wears off, and all the media hype dies'll realise that it's just an average Star Trek movie. Better than Final Frontier and Insurrection, but nowhere near First Contact, The Wrath of Khan or The Undiscovered Country. - 6/10

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  1. Although the review is sound, and indeed coming from someone 'in the know' / in the Sci-Fi Circle, i think this film WAS deliberately rebranded for people outside of such circles in order to gain new fans. Star Trek was on a downward slide, the number were dwindling and the revenue returns on the more recent movies were poor..

    But poor because the were crap films, or poor because the legions of fans simply either stopped caring or grew out of it / grew tired of watching an aging TNG crew?

    The other franchises (DS9, Voyager and Enterprise) were not strong enough for thier own movies, TV movies / Feature length.. yes.. but full blown cinematic approach.. no.

    Im sticking my neck out here; and im glad too, i have done before with stating that Death Magnetic is better than Master Of Puppets (but thats my opinion), and posting this on the internet could have be ousted from the entire online community; but I believe this to be the best trek film yet.

    Its updated appeal allowed new people to discover the franchise and what it was essentially about; "Boldy Going..."

    My sister; hated Trek (simply cos i put her thru it when i was growing up), loved..LOVED this film. My friend Amy, who HATES Sci Fi (although got a little lost over transwarp beaming) actually didnt mind this film.. I wanted to see what her reaction to this film was, as a mere mention of star trek to her before we saw this film ended in vomit.

    And this was the aim of this film. Theyve been caught in the franchises' gravitational well and have been pulled in.. the hype alone of this film was enough to raise a few eyebrows (no Spock pun intended), and indeed the snowball effect this film has had with audiences has been a great success.

    Ok, the injokes, these were the rewards for the fans, but people outside of these circles would not be aware and will discover them IF they go back to watch earlier films. In this way, this new film sows good seeds.. It has enough past references to connect with the old original series fims.. but not too many to completely lose people.

    for example;

    The Kobayashi Maru test could be seen in two ways;
    1. For Fans - Where Kirk defeats it and how he did it. Something i'd wanted to see since seeing Wrath.

    2. For New People - Where Kirk uses his arrogance and his natural flair for bending rules to beat the test.. for this he must gane a few personality points.. Points fans of the franchise already knew existed (and hence covering it backs and develops characture)

    Whats great about this film is that it doesn't take audience knowledge for granted, but at the same time, throws in enough titbits to keep those in the know happy. Why the other films before this fail, is beacuse you had to be cluded up to appreciate it. The number of times I had to explain to someone why Geordie has a 1950's car bumper on his face has made me cry.

    Scotty merely provides some comic relief for the last 1/3 of the film, which is what it needed.

    Also, the fewer original cast members in the next film, the better!!! There old style of 'Trekking' and fancy sci-fi dialog doesnt match this new, quick, sexy uptempo performance we have been given. I think 'old' Spock merely slowed the film down, and i shudder to think what Shatner (Airplane 2) will do to it.

    KEEP TREK NEW (Actors are spot on btw, thier mannerism right down to Checkov's 'No Neck' style of running is perfect, only his OVER accent is the pick up here).. AND KEEP THE OLDIES OUT, THEYVE HAD THERE TIME!!

    6/10 was a little low, worth at least.. AT LEAST 7.5.. IMDB curretly rate this as an 8.2.

    Ive been a Trekkie since I was 6 years old so you may call me a little biased, but a star trek film my sister sees without being forced to watch, and THEN end up enjoying IS something special!

    James Black, Trekkie since 1991.

  2. Personally, I feel COMPLETELY cheated!!! I am fucking OUTRAGED!!!

    WHERE, I ask you, WHERE THE FUCK was the DICE-ROLL RATING for this review???

    GODDAMNIT, HARMER, YOU SOLD OUT!!! You just make me fucking sick.

    Paul Selman, Trekkie since 1979 (so James Black can bite my shiny, Trekkie arse).

  3. Im sorry Paul, but unless its possible to be a Trekkie whilst unborn, you will always win that one, you old man ;-)

    Secondly, did you like the film? Theres alot of shoutingand weapons firing here in the form of capital letters, but due to there being some kind of in joke, im unaware if you actually liked it!

  4. Yes, James, you young whippersnapper; all joking aside, I absolutely LOVED the new Star Trek movie! I've given up rating movies out of ten, but this one gets my highest recommendation. The only thing that annoyed me EVER so slightly, was the casting of Simon Pegg as Scotty. I just can't help but think of all the Scottish actors who could have been cast in the role crying softly into their whisky... (Don't get me wrong; I normally love Simon Pegg, but he's completely wrong for this role.)

    As I mentioned to Brad the other day, I was just SO relieved to have another Trek franchise that I can enjoy and actively look forward to the next installment of (like The Next Generation or Enterprise), rather than another pointless (to me, anyway) dud that I have to try and ignore and pretend doesn't exist (like Deep Space 9 or Voyager).

  5. Fantastic! I was indeed hoping for a higher rating from the E14 team; I was alarmed at the fact that the special effects side of the film were completely unrated! Something which is a key feature of the film.. as its a Sci Fi.. In space!

    The SFX should be a 9/10, theres this one scene where the Kelvin gets attacked, a corridor / bulkhead gets taken out and the poor redshirt gets sucked out of the ship.. That entire sequence from the explosion, then to be ejected out the ship into complete eerie silence really REALLY worked well and was a nice touch.

    As i mentioned earlier the original crew and TNG crew have had thier gallop around the galaxy, im glad new blood has entered the franchise, relaunched it as something cool giving it new lease of life. And they should keep many of the origianl crew out, their outdated acting style only go on to slow the film down.

    I agree with scotty, a very odd casting, although Pegg's comic timing is very good, the accent wasn't really right, and he seems to be probably the only Brit conquoring America by storm.. "Fuck it.. He's Bri'ish.. He can do a Scottish accent" seemed to have been the thinking.

    This aside, I challenge E14 to re-score this review.

  6. I think you'll find that the E14 team have a particular set of comedic criteria that they judge any movie by, regardless of genre. I think they're only really interested in all things gratuitous... mainly 'swears', 'gore' and 'boobies'. Living up to their name, quite literally, in the name of comedy. I think that if you asked either Brad or Rob for their ACTUAL take on any of the movies reviewed in this way on this site, you'd get a rather different picture than the one given by their E14 'characters'.

    I could be wrong, of course... perhaps they actually ARE that immature! (I doubt it, though... I've actually managed to have intelligent conversations with them in the past. Not many, admittedly, but the odd one or two.)

  7. This therefore leaves me thinking.. Are Brad and Rob always in 'character'?

    Anyway, 'nuff said mate, the Trek film is awesome. Deserves more than a 6/10.. but we are up agaisnt the word and review of a Star Wars kid... NEEEVER gunna win that one!