Star Trek: The JJJ Review
May 8, 2009

Know the following before we proceed:

I have never loved any geekery more than Star Trek: The Original Series and its accompanying movies.

I am a stickler for and lover of continuity in sagas/universes/stories.

I am generally a great fan of J.J. Abrams’s work.

I hated some of the things I heard Abrams say about his attitude toward original Trek and his intent to re-imagine it.

 

And so today, on my wife’s 35th birthday, we went to an IMAX equipped theater to see…

 

I had nothing to worry about.  Neither do you.

This thing is really good.

In this age of endless, needless horror remakes and TV show reboots, it would have been very easy for director Abrams and company, power players after the success of Lost and Cloverfield, to disregard 40-plus years of entertainment, cast from the A List, turn the Enterprise into a U.N. with engines, and slap the Star Trek label on it to the tune of a sheeple-fueled $80 million opening weekend.

They did none of that and I have a feeling the rewards, both financial and funtastic, are going to be greater than anyone thought possible.

(We’re SPOILER FREE until I tell you otherwise)

An electrical storm in space produces a massive, impossibly-shaped ship with a renegade Romulan in command.  This Romulan, called Nero (Eric Bana), destroys the first Federation vessel he sees and disappears into the ether.  He’s looking for something, for someone, and once he’s found his quarry he has catastrophically deadly plans for the Federation. 

His search will take 25 years.

Meanwhile, in Iowa, James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) bounces from bar to bosom, looking for any reason to avoid responsibility despite his natural born aptitude for Starfleet.  Kirk’s latest bar fight leads him to Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood, more mature and assured than Jeffrey Hunter), who dares the young Lothario to do more, to be more, than he has ever bothered to consider. 

Flash-forward three years.  When Nero threatens Vulcan, the bulk of the Federation armada is otherwise engaged.  So Cadet Kirk, in Big Trouble as usual, is secreted onto the newly-christened Enterprise by his academy pal Leonard McCoy (Karl Urban).  Once there, Kirk finds himself immediately at odds with not only Captain Pike, but the ship’s Vulcan first officer, a fellow named Spock (Zachery Quito), as well.  With fellow fledglings Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov at their familiar stations, the Enterprise blasts off for dangers unknown over Spock’s home planet.

Where Abrams’s Star Trek succeeds best is in its replication of established characters while believably expanding them in settings and situations we’ve never seen them in.  Writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman obviously did their research on who these people are and it shines through in the crew’s actions and reactions in chaos around them.  Chekov seeks to prove himself.  Sulu is gallant and steady.  Scotty really gets off on solving engineering problems.  Perhaps best of all is Urban’s McCoy, who has all the facial ticks and drawling cantankerousness that make me miss, and appreciate, DeForest Kelley all over again.

The casting and characters are great, but at the heart of this trek (and, indeed, now at the heart of the entire Star Trek universe) is Spock and Quinto is up to the challenge of recreating, and continuing, the legacy of one of the most recognizable characters in American popular culture.  Never stilted, never remotely approaching parody or condescension, Quito’s Spock is the conflicted, bottled and, yes, emotional center of the new cast.  Kirk is ostensibly the main character, but the plot revolves around, and is driven by, Spock, both the young and new…and the wizened and original.  Leonard Nimoy’s appearance as "Spock Prime" not only lends gravitas to the project as a whole, but feels like a stamp of approval from what and who has come before, which is something this franchise reboot needed as an in with the fans.  Once Nimoy’s foot is in the door, though, Abrams’s Trek flies entirely, and assuredly, on its own.

Everything is not Romulan Ale and tribbles, though.  There’s a diversion on an ice planet that pads the narrative’s middle needlessly and we don’t ever get more than expository dialog to explain Nero’s motives.  Also, the ending feels a bit too easy.  I was surprised the end was the end when climax climaxed. 

Quibbles aside, this a cracking good adventure, and a great jumping-off point for a new series of cinematic Treks. 

Go see it.

* * * 1/2

-JJJ

(SPOILER LADEN COMMENTS BELOW)

 

 

 

-Continuity nerds take heed; this IS a retcon.  Everything that’s come before will be overwritten by the history this/these movie/s creates.  The beauty part is, everything that’s come before, particularly everything involving Spock, even tangentially, HAS to have happened in order for the new continuity to exist, so the past TV shows and movies are just as "real" as ever.  

-Except maybe for Voyager.

-Perhaps ironically, the one Star Trek series that has NOT been retconned by the new movie is the much-maligned Enterprise, whose captain gets a mention.

-If you want to know more about Nero and his history, read the comic book prequel series from IDW.  Spock in not the only established character involved.

-As I said above, this movie makes Spock THE central character in the Star Trek universe.  

-I could have used more, or any, of McCoy in action.

-Some may be jarred by the romance between Spock and Uhura, but this is not with precedent.  There was some hint at affection, at least from her to him, in the earliest episodes of the Original Series.

-I preferred Jeffrey Hunter’s take on Captain Pike.

-Ben Cross as Sarek was no Mark Lenard, either

-The nods to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan were welcome.

TAGS:
Jason "JJJason" Chirevas
Jason Chirevas is a toy collector whether he likes it or not (and he often doesn't). This former Would've-Been Action Hero is as interested in the humanity, psychology, and psychosis of collecting as he is in the action figures themselves. Fun guy.
Read other articles by Jason "JJJason" Chirevas.

 

 

 

16 Comments »

  • Darth_Ennis says:

    I couldn’t agree more.

    I thought it was a phenominal film, and I can say this wuith all honesty that I absolutely despise Star Trek.

    This was one reboot I can definately get behind.

    I honestly thought this movie would suck, but I will admit that I enjoyed it more than the last 3 Star Wars films, and I AM a Star Wars fan.

    This is about as high of praise as I can give.

  • Brainlock says:

    “-Except maybe for Voyager. ”

    LOL! I applaud you, sirrah!
    (and poor Porthos 45th!)

    I wasn’t too keen on the Z+Z romance, but I have to agree that Urban’s McCoy was so near flawless to De’s that I kept forgetting it WASN’T De!

    Cross did an ok job at Sarek, as did Noni as Amanda. Too bad we hardly saw more than a few others of the alleged 6 Billion Vulcans when…something spoilery happens. Quinto’s shaved Sybrows turned Zpock-brows were kinda annoying, tho. Not so much Nimoy’s or even Cross’.

    oh, and Uhura’s roommate looked like she had painted skin. Michael Cera in the ‘Year One’ trailer we got looked more realistic in his gold paint. Voyager does trump this movie in that respect , as did YC. ;p
    (ok, I admit I watched that ep to see Wight)

    also, needs more Grunny! His all too brief cameo wasn’t enough! LOL!
    (Jake and his brothers are sure to be hating their father’s character in a few years!)

    I’m going back tomorrow! Too bad we don’t have IMAX out here. :(

  • Jeff Cope Jeff Cope says:

    Uhura’s Orion roomie is played by Rachel Nichols who’ll next be seen as Scarlett in GI Joe.

    Glad you liked it Commish!

  • Jeremy SpyMagician says:

    Just to be a total Star Trek Nerd:

    All the past series’ events are NOT necessarily overwritten IF you accept that the Star Trek Universe operates under the theory of Quantum Reality, as illustrated in the TNG Episode, “Parallels.” According to that theory, “…all the infinite number of possible outcomes of all events that occur happen in alternate quantum realities.”

    http://memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/Quantum_reality

    Thus, the events of the new “Star Trek” film are basically the introduction of a new Star Trek Quantum Reality created by the time travel actions of “Ambassador Spock” who appears to be from the previously established Quantum Reality depicted in the previous series.

    Spy

    • Sidewinder says:

      As a long time Trek fan, this is what I originally thought about this movie…that the timeline was split off and a new one was created that runs parallel with the Prime timeline.

      But after thinking about it more, that can’t really be the case. Thinking back about it:

      - City on the Edge of Forever established if you go back into the Prime timeline and change something, it destroys the future of that timeline (Edith died, the Federation didn’t exist in the future). Oddly enough, Spock was obsessed with correcting the timeline then, but in this movie he doesn’t seem to care. Which is odd, because he knows how to timetravel thanks to the Slingshot Maneuver.

      - Yesterday’s Enterprise showed that if someone come from the past into the future (thus not being around in the past anymore) the timeline will change.

      - The Mirror Universe isn’t really a good example, because it is an alternate universe, much like I would suspect the timelines in Parallels were.

      I must be getting old…it just hurts to think that something that I love can never continue forward storywise past the point of Romulas’ destruction. And while characters like the crew of DS9 did exist at one point, their ultimate fate is that one day they simply disappeared and a new history was written for them.

      I would have been so much happier if Prime Spock had a throwaway line that said that he went back in time to an alternate universe. That way, there really could have been two distinct timelines.

  • Its says:

    I know I am not going to like this film. Just by the way the new characters vs. the old ones, its going to take time to adjust. This isn’t just something you do, walk into a theater and BAM! I’M GOING TO LOVE THIS THING!

    This isn’t Michael Bay’s Transformers which is clearly a different entity and alternate universe. I would’ve preferred an alnterate universe.

    Its good to see some of the old continuity will continute to exist but once they move forward and do spinoff shows the old shows are no longer going to hold any water. They will get re-run on basic cable and other places but who can take them seriously anymore? Even TNG is in danger with the Spock crossover episodes is in danger.

    I just wished they do a DS9 style movie for once that is not focused on Kirk/Spock and the continuity of everythiing.

    Sorry for the rant. I’m still not seeing this movie.

    • Brainlock says:

      Its / Sangreal -
      Go in with an open mind and you might just like it.
      I saw it again today, wound up sitting behind some friends, and she wants a sequel NOW.

      They make it clear in the movie that they know what has happened to them is completely different from what Old Spock knows happened originally. They accept that fact and move on after discussing the fact Nero can’t anticipate their moves because they are different people than what he has read about in the Romulan history books/holo’s/whatever.

      Think of it more as a time loop, not a retcon if you must, but the shows we all know and love ARE STILL CANON.

      Yes, even Voyager.

  • sangreal says:

    I don’t plan on seeing this in theaters either. I’ve been anti retcon since dc’s got so ridiculously out of control. I’ll probably buy it on dvd (not blu ray) because of nimoys appearance and as a bookend and/or tombstone for star trek as a whole. but I really don’t see the point of wasting any more money than that on this. not to be personal but It’s interesting that you consider yourself a continuity buff and yet are so comfortable with the casual tossing away of the history that most of us have invested 40 years of attention and emotion in. oh well, in 20 years or so, someone else will be raping the icons of this generation.

    • Jason JJJason says:

      This movie doesn’t throw away or rape anything. See it first, then form an opinion.

    • Hourman says:

      At the rate things are getting remade these days, Sangreal, I doubt it will take 20 years.

      I would have been happier if they had left Nimoy out and just made a straight up reboot without all the quantum shenanigans. If the old Star Trek was so broken, they should have had the balls to just throw it all out and start from scratch. I would have respected that. The whole “well it sort of is and it sort of isn’t” approach is a little wussy.

      Regardless, I still think that new Enterprise is ugly :)

      Also, Uhura was always a bit of a hoochie. She kissed Kirk, flirted with Spock, prickteased Mirror-Sulu, and practically climbed on top of Scotty. She’s got to have it!

    • UncleMarsellus says:

      The writers, who are fans, were very clever in protecting the existing canon. It wasn’t cast aside. Like JJJason said, the existing canon had to have happened in order for the events of the movie to take place. Like so many Trek episodes before it, it posits the question of how our heroes, and even the universe, would be different if one time altering event occurs. How would Kirk be different if he grew up without a father, for instance? All this is valid and has precedence.

      Yes, it’s a reboot of sorts and a new vision. But it is completely respectful. I even appreciated that all time alterations were purely incidental and not part of some grand plan on the villain’s part to change history. I was concerned about all of this stuff too but now that I’ve seen it, I’m perfectly fine with it. Trek has new life and is relevant again. Any fan should be proud that their beloved franchise is now being watched by people who didn’t give it any credence before and giving something we love new life.

      It’s always easier to be cynical and say no, than to give something a chance.

      • Jason JJJason says:

        Wow, where’ve they been hiding you? :-)

        Needless to say, I agree with everything you said, particularly when it comes to this movie making Star Trek “big” again. Without even commenting on their quality, Enterprise and Nemesis reduced Trek to a footnote. Maybe that was inevitable, but it’s now over, and we have J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci, and Alex Kurtzman to thank for that.

      • Hourman says:

        “Any fan should be proud that their beloved franchise is now being watched by people who didn’t give it any credence before and giving something we love new life.”

        That people are watching a movie based on our beloved franchise does not mean they’re giving credence to what the movie is standing on the shoulders of. The movie is J.J. Abrams’ sexed-up, action movie, Cliff Notes take on Star Trek, nothing more or less. If that works for you, then more power to ya. I thought it leaned toward the cliched and predictable. That whole ‘motorcycle ridin’ rebel without a cause’ schtick was creaky when my grandparents were dating.

        • UncleMarsellus says:

          Sexed up? Seen TOS lately? Big budget and the eye candy that comes with it is a bad thing? Cliff Notes? What did you want? Action movie? Like First Contact or “Picard as Rambo out for revenge for something he’d already gotten over in ‘I Borg’?” Rebel without a cause? Kinda like the farmboy who is compelled to leave the safety of home for the big adventure out there. Or the billionaire genius who uses his resources for the betterment of his city or the world. Or the aimless youth struggling to live up to the legacy of his father. Or maybe the old “wizard” who guides the hero through their journey. Or the lovable rogue who plays the cynic. Maybe the hero who is so traumatized by an event that he/she is compelled to ensure the same thing never happens to another innocent. Or the child born under unusual circumstances who is destined for greatness. The chosen one. I could go on and on. One man’s archetype is another man’s cliche. Or maybe they’re all cliches.

          It’s okay not to like it. I know a couple of fans who despise it too but at least they don’t hide their puritanical (and I mean that kindly, really) view of Trek behind tired key words.

          • Hourman says:

            “‘Sexed up’ refers to making something more sexually appealing. Since 2003 it has been used in the sense of making something more attractive than it really is by selective presentation; a modern update to the phrase ‘hyped up’. Variants include ‘sex it up’. The implication is that no actual lying is taking place, but that spin is being placed on certain parts of the message.”

            Sorry you missed the context, Unc.

  • batguy1966 says:

    For anyone who is curious as to Neros motivation read the prequel comic. It is very very good.

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