May 7, 2009, - 1:28 am

“Star Trek” Review: Fun, New Big Screen Installment Marks Refreshing Rebirth of Aging Franchise

By Debbie Schlussel
*** review bumped up from Midnight ***
Stardate 2009.05.07. (Okay, I promise, this is the last stardate . . . until the next “Star Trek” movie.)
Though I’m no Trekkie, I liked the “Star Trek” TV series re-runs and movies as much as the next person (and my mom taught Leonard Nimoy’s son in the New York Public Schools–see my Schlussel Star Trek Trivia post
). But it was getting a little old, like its stars, and tired and haggard. Heck, the original Scottie, James Doohan, is long dead. And the last couple of sequels and TV spin-offs were just not all that.
But “Star Trek,” the latest installment of this late ’60s TV series turned movie franchise, breathes new life into it. And it’s a fun, engaging update, which not only pays homage to its past, but even includes one of the past–Leonard Nimoy as original Spock–in a significant role. His presence is a nice handing off of the proverbial baton, and I’m sure William Shatner is regretting his decision to have himself killed off as the original Kirk, preventing any plausible return in this incarnation.

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The movie begins tonight in limited release, with full national release Friday. I saw it amidst a Trekkie audience that consumed it like junkies on crack.
“Star Trek” isn’t so much a “sequel” as it is a reboot with a modern update. We learn how James Tiberias Kirk became Captain of the U.S.S. Starship, and how the half-Vulcan/half-human Spock got there, too. We see both of them as young kids, and that’s fun and interesting. It’s always fun to see a young Vulcan beat up other Vulcans who mock his half-humanness. And it’s fun to see the robot cops on flying motorcycles apprehending a wayward young daredevil, Kirk.
There’s somewhat of a confusing flashback/flash-forward to get us through this and bring back original Spock. But it all gets straightened out and tidied up eventually, amidst terrific special effects and battles with Romulan aliens.
Yes, there is the usual beaming up (and down) of the crew of the spaceship, which is in space amidst a threat from the surviving Romulans (led by actor Eric Bana), out to destroy some important planets. And there are the lines we’ve all come to remember from Montgomery Scott a/k/a “Scotty,” Nimoy’s Spock, and the like.
And the resemblance between the old and new cast members with some modern snarky updates is incredible. The new Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy character, played by Karl Urban, reminds us of the original, DeForest Kelley, getting his mannerisms and hyper-seriousness exactly on point. Ditto for Zachary Quinto’s Spock, who looks just like the younger Nimoy, after make-up, eyebrow transplant, and ear-plasty (or whatever you call an “ear job”). And, of course, main star Chris Pine (whom I liked in last year’s excellent “Bottle Shock”–read my review) is a good casting choice as the funny, restless and slackerish yet smart James Kirk. He’s got spunk, and he’s funny. And I like the new Scotty, as well as learning how he learns to transport members of the Enterprise while the ship is moving. You hardly notice he is the usually goofy comedic actor, Simon Pegg, even though he’s, well, goofy.
If there were any characters I thought were over the top or who added nothing, that would be Chekov and Sulu. Anton Yelchin overdoes Chekov’s Russian accent, extending a stupid joke from a previous Star Trek movie, about being unable to pronounce the “v” sound (which is actually a sound quite common in Russian and easily pronounced–Vasily, Vladimir, Vanya, etc.). The role of Hikaru Sulu is wasted on John Cho, whom we’ll forever see as the stoner in the Harold & Kumar movies. He seems to be there only because he shares George Takei’s Asian visage. Cho adds nothing and is barely noticed. Takei has nothing to worry about in terms of a Star Trek legacy because his “replacement” is like the invisible man.
The beautiful Zoe Saldana, too, adds nothing as Uhura and is more supermodel than Nichelle Nichols’ race-barrier-breaking original. But she is cute and adds the chick factor and mini-skirts to lighten things up.
The always handsome and charismatic Bruce Greenwood as the mature Captain Pike, teacher to both star pupils Kirk and Spock, is a better fit. On the other hand, it was weird and jarring to see the aging Winona Ryder as Spock’s human mother. Shoplifting at Saks makes you look old, apparently, in addition to a good make-up artist on the set.
In case you were wondering, there is “interspecies erotica”–sort of–in this movie. Not the vile, disgusting kind as in “Clerks 2″ (read my review of that depraved flick), but very tame romance between humans and aliens . . . and half-aliens (don’t worry, parents, it’s just some kisses and a scene in underwear).
Sad to say, there are no Klingons in this installment (though there is one passing reference). They need to save something for the next sequel.
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Old Spock, New Spock

There isn’t a lot of suspense or excitement to the story, but that’s typical of the “Star Trek” genre, both on TV and on screen. Some of the best scenes include one in which Kirk trying to escape giant beings chasing him on a wintry planet. It’s reminiscent of a young Luke Skywalker running from beings in “Star Wars.” And a cool bar scene toward the beginning is also reminiscent of Star Wars’ “Cantina,” with aliens drinking and partying side by side with human space crew members. Both scenes were fun, light, and escapist, the way you want your sci-fi adventure movies to be. I want one of those cool Starship Enterprise salt shakers.
Another bonus: The movie is fine for kids, other than some four-letter words and one frisky, relatively tame brief scene between Kirk and a green woman. It’s not very violent. There are a few fighting scenes between Enterprise crew and alien Romulans, but it’s not bloody or disturbing in the least. It’s basic Star Trek-esque stuff. Also great, the movie is devoid of political sentiment and statements. Very welcome.
If anything, this movie is brighter and more optimistic, plus more humorous than I remember the other “Star Trek” movies. The cast is mostly fresh and a welcome update.
With this new, young cast amply comprising the updated Enterprise crew we know and love, you can be sure the “Star Trek” series will live long and prosper.
Don’t beam me up just yet, Scotty. There’s actually some tiny modicum of intelligent life in Hollywood, after all.
THREE REAGANS
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***
BTW, there’s sort of an homage to this scene in the new “Star Trek” movie (and I’m not talking about that weird man-bra Kirk is wearing):

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13 Responses

Thanks for your review, Debbie. I can’t wait to see this film. I was a huge fan of the original series when it was on NBC TV in the 1960’s. I was influenced by Spock’s use of logic to analyze and solve problems. It helped to put me on the right intellectual track. Logic is something that is lacking in the thought process of most humans. Live long and prosper.

FreethinkerNY on May 7, 2009 at 1:17 am

I’ll be seeing this tonight at 10PM! :D
As for the original series, I highly recommend the cleaned and graphically-updated Star Trek Remastered. It was done very respectfully and the changes/redone parts enhanced rather than became the centerpoint.

eforhan on May 7, 2009 at 3:10 am

Wonderful review… if any one had doubts J.J Abrams could make the transition from TV to the big screen – he delivered. Its just pure escapist fun. The reason us fans liked the original show was that it didn’t take itself seriously. And this one gets it exactly right. I look forward to watching it when its released on DVD.

NormanF on May 7, 2009 at 3:26 am

Star Trek is not your usual pop-culture franchise, it sometimes has surprisingly deep messages, even in some it’s lesser flicks. Star Trek V – The Final Frontier is a good example, it was savaged by both public and critics yet it does contain a very important message of not surrendering your very being for a murky promise of salvation.
As for spin-off series, I liked TNG best.

Witch-king of Angmar on May 7, 2009 at 3:38 am

B”H
First off, thanks for the review.
Second, it’s “Trekkers,” not “Trekkies,” which is what non-Trekkers often mistakenly call us.
Third, I must disagree with you about the additional Star Trek series. With the exception of much of Voyager, TNG, DS9, and Enterprise all had great latter seasons. It just takes a few seasons for the crew to get in sync and the script writers to get it together.

Ben-Yehudah on May 7, 2009 at 10:06 am

I have a cousin who lives in Maryland and is a MAJOR Trekker. Never was into Star Trek myself, but will watch an ep should it pop up.

NEPatriot on May 7, 2009 at 10:36 am

Of the spin offs from the TV series. I liked Star Trek Enterprise the best and TNG was a close second. Thanks for the review Debbie and informing us that it’s okay to take kids. Now, it’s unnecessary for me to view it first to see if my kids could see it. And my son (11 yrs old) really wants to see this one. May we all live long and prosper…except for the muslims. They need to be eradicated.

Tenn Scholar on May 7, 2009 at 11:30 am

Weren’t Sulo and Chekov the Rosencranz and Guildenstern of Star Trek anyway.

Jack Bauer on May 9, 2009 at 11:40 am

Just saw it. My wife and I both loved the film. I am a big fan of the series all the way back to the original and it was well worth the bucks we shelled out to see it on the IMAX screen.

vasportsman on May 9, 2009 at 7:26 pm

Just saw the movie for my mothers day gift from my 3 children. They are not fans of Star Trek and were wary of the movie, but went with me anyway. They all said they would love to go again with their dad when he gets home from some new military training he is having to go to. Yeah another missed holiday for him. We are all used to it. Highly recommend this movie. By the way Debbie, I have learned to trust your reviews. We think alike.
[B: THANKS. GLAD YOU LIKED IT. DS]

bnab on May 10, 2009 at 6:25 pm

Debbie, we saw it last night and loved it. We consider it worthy of Gene and Majel’s legacy. Yes, it is refreshing to not have political content in a sci-fi movie. This was supposed to be fantasy and action and it delivered. Went to the Star Trek website discussion board and the 5 commenters didn’t like it. We all have opinions. Some will like it, some not. My only complaint with the franchise is their killing off of Tripp at the conclusion of Enterprise. The final ep sucked. Abrams needs to revisit Enterprise and do a “second ending”. I’ll bet he’d do a bang-up job! A very good “reboot” of the Star Trek “journey”! BTW I’ve been a fan since the fall of ’66 and the debut of The Original Series. Yeah. I’m old…LOL!

Floyd R. Turbo on May 11, 2009 at 10:27 pm

Well, here I am disagreeing with Debbie again (as well as every single comment from every single commenter on this site). What’s going on with that? Sorry to admit this, but I did NOT like this movie. If the film had been a half hour, it might have been bearable, but at close to 2 1/2 hours, it was torture.

At first it was half-way amusing to watch a young Captain Kirk and Spock and Sulu and the rest mimic the mannerisms of the original crew. That grew stale, though.

One thing I realized by the end of the film is how much I hate the character Spock. It turns out he’s a smug, annoying, liberal prig.

The social commentary in the film (concerning terrorism and the evils of war) was, in my opinion, hollow and shallow, but that was just one problem of many.

Here’s how I rate the Star Trek movies:
Star Trek 3 (the one with the whales and time travel): B-
Star Trek 2009 (the first prequel): B-
All the others (including the Next Generation films with Patrick Stewart) I would give a D or less.

Actually, there were two movies based on Star Trek that I did like: “Galaxy Quest” (the 1999 parody of Star Trek with Tim Allen and Alan Rickman) and “Trekkies” (1997 documentary). Those were fun.

Final note: I loved the original Star Trek program and have watched each episode many times over as reruns. Weird, huh?

B: So how did we disagree? DS

Burke on May 18, 2013 at 1:06 pm

We didn’t disagree. Not one bit.

I made the incredibly stupid blunder of reading your review of the first prequel from three years ago and thinking that was your review of the second prequel which just came out.

Now I realize my mistake and I’m upset at myself for being so stupid.

BOTH your reviews–for the first prequel and this recent second prequel–were spot on and perfect. I also loved your review of “Company We Keep.” It dumbfounds me that a film about Weather Underground radicals, treating them all so sympathetically, could attract such an amazing list of powerful Hollywood stars to act in it. I’m glad you destroyed the film in your review. These kinds of movies make me sick and you’re the only one out there with the common sense to name these movie what they are, which is total trash.

Burke on May 19, 2013 at 5:31 pm

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