Well, it looks like the curse is broken. The theory goes that the odd-numbered installments of the Star Trek franchise are significantly worse than their even-numbered brethren. Of course, the original Trekkie theorists never factored the skills of director J.J. Abrams into the equation. Before you can shout “ye canne change the laws of physics”, this, the 11th picture in the series, has broken free of all superstitions and given us one of the most electrifying space operas the genre has ever seen.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should state that I am only a casual Star Trek fan. My knowledge of creator Gene Roddenberry’s universe is limited to the 10 feature films and not the vast back catalogue of the various television series. However, I am a fan of science-fiction, space battles, time travel, extra-terrestrial life-forms, intergalactic mining ships, robotic patrol cops and sexy green alien ladies, which, thankfully, are all featured in this Star Trek: The newer generation.
Star Trek begins with one of the most spectacular space battles ever committed to film. An enormous, calamari-looking Romulan ship emerges from what seems like a giant thundercloud in the middle of space, led by the intense Captain Nero (a show-stopping Eric Bana). Nero forces the U.S.S Kelvin to surrender the one known as Spock, although they might be a couple decades early. As the Kelvin valiantly, and hopelessly fights back, the captain evacuates his wife and newly born son, but not before giving him a name: James T. Kirk.
Jump forward 20 years to Starfleet Academy 90210, with rebellious young dropout Kirk (Chris Pine) hitting, unsuccessfully on vivacious language specialist Uhura (Zoe Saldana). After getting into a scrap with some of graduates, Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) of the U.S.S Enterprise dares Kirk to re-enlist, and do better than his deceased father. No extra marks for guessing what he decides to do. Kirk makes quite an impression at the Academy; especially on the half-human/half-Vulcan Spock (Zachary Quinto). Seems it’s not quite friends-at-first-sight. You can expect that eventually all the characters we know and love will find their way aboard the Enterprise. You can also expect that Nero won’t be far behind.
As you would expect, a significant portion of time is spent (re)introducing beloved characters like Bones (Karl Urban), Chekhov (Anton Yelchin), Sulu (John Cho) and Scotty (Simon Pegg). Thankfully, Abrams doesn’t go the cute route, getting on with the space-action as quickly as possible. The cast are perfectly capable of arousing the fans excitement based on their own performances. Pine is as close to capturing the essence of William Shatner’s iconic performance without mirroring it too closely. Urban and Pegg give faithful recreations of Bones and Scotty, and are sure to emerge as fan favourites (once again). Sadly, Yelchin, Cho and Saldana aren’t really given much to work with here. But hey, that’s what sequels are for. Only Quinto seems to struggle; trying to find the balance between emotion and extreme logic and not really succeeding at either.
Abrams has emerged as one of the premier action directors currently working today. The film is full of brilliant action set-pieces; some funny, some haunting, all riveting. The cinematography is also jaw-dropping. I cannot remember the last time space looked so vast; full of endless possibilities, both terrifying and hopeful. Set to Michael Giachhino’s beautiful, nostalgic score, seeing The Enterprise traverse Abrams’ cosmos might be the closest a Trekkie gets to a religious experience. I honestly cannot imagine any other blockbuster of the American summer toppling Star Trek as the most enjoyable popcorn flick of ’09.