Movie Review: Star Trek (2009)

If you've been reading this blog you've probably realized that I'm a huge Star Trek fan. But since I heard this new movie would be a bit of a departure from the Trek norm, I took some time before I saw it to define what I consider to be "great Star Trek". The best I could come up with is that "great Star Trek" features likable and respectable characters using cool technology in a thought-provoking situation. (By "thought-provoking" I specifically mean that either the story is a metaphorical commentary for some aspect of society, or it explores new and interesting scientific theories.)

Let's start with a plot summary courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes:
The greatest adventure of all time begins with Star Trek, the incredible story of a young crew.s maiden voyage onboard the most advanced starship ever created: the U.S.S. Enterprise. On a journey filled with action, comedy and cosmic peril, the new recruits must find a way to stop an evil being whose mission of vengeance threatens all of mankind.

The fate of the galaxy rests in the hands of bitter rivals. One, James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), is a delinquent, thrill-seeking Iowa farm boy. The other, Spock (Zachary Quinto), was raised in a logic-based society that rejects all emotion. As fiery instinct clashes with calm reason, their unlikely but powerful partnership is the only thing capable of leading their crew through unimaginable danger, boldly going where no one has gone before!
So let's break down the new movie using my ideal of Star Trek greatness above as a guide.

Likeable and respectable characters ...
I was afraid of a BSG-style reboot, with characters that bear little or no semblance to their original counterparts. But that was not the case.

While there are stylistic differences between Christopher Pine and William Shatner, I felt that Pine captured the essence of Kirk quite well. I was nervous about Kirk being yet another annoying "I was meant for more than this" hero (which is so ubiquitous in movies these days, but that's a rant for another time), but I was cool with the character because [spoiler] his ascent to the rank of Captain was earned rather than given[/spoiler].

Spock (Zachary Quinto) was the most changed of the main characters, but for the better. [spoiler]He was given more of an emotional range (including a romantic interest) and more angst driven by his half-human heritage.[/spoiler] While messing with an iconic character like Spock is dangerous, "new Spock" still maintained much of what made the character such a great personality, while expanding him into more than just a Vulcan stereotype, as he was often depicted previously.

McCoy was the least altered of the bunch, and Karl Urban's portrayal was spot-on. And it was nice to see some of the secondary characters get roles that were important to the adventure. Uhura in particular got a expanded role, as did Scotty and Sulu. Many of the characters also exhibited some effective comic relief which did a good job of humanizing them in this sterile futuristic environment.

using cool technology...
The interior of the Enterprise was awesome. The bridge, interior halls and turbolifts were clean, bright, and shiny, and their designs were cooler than any of the sets from the other Star Trek movies and series. Frequent viewers of the Dork Dimension know my primate-like fascination with shiny things, so of course I loved these set designs.

However, I found that the engineering room was a bit too "realistic" as there wasn't much that was particularly futuristic or interesting about it. I did like the fact that it was visually distinct from the rest of the ship and the design does make logical sense. Why would they cover up the pipes and wiring, which are frequently accessed, with walls?

The exterior design of the ship looked great and played well in the movie. That said, after seeing it in action it is not my favorite Enterprise design; both the Enterprise-D and Enterprise-A still seem more photogenic and dynamic. But it's certainly cool enough to maintain my interest.

in a thought-provoking situation.
Here is where the movie falters from Trek perfection. The plot doesn't include any sort of stimulating metaphor for society, nor does it adequately explore an interesting aspect of science. That said, few of the other movies did either (probably I and IV are the only examples). And I found that Star Trek didn't really need to go there to be enjoyable. But this is science fiction that is definitely more adventure (like Star Wars) and less cerebral (like Planet of the Apes).

The plot was solid with few blatant plot holes, which is impressive given the complicated nature of time travel movies in general. [spoiler]The one plot hole that got me was that Nero could have just waited until the future and saved Romulus himself instead of going on a blind rampage against Spock.[/spoiler] There are a few other loose ends, but nothing that was truly distracting.

Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.
If you're a hard-core Trekkie, there are some aspects of Trek continuity that you'll need to let go of in order to truly appreciate the movie. My friend Jason pointed out that some fans have complained about continuity problems: the insignias for one (which were apparently designed only for the Enterprise in The Original Series, but are Starfleet-wide in this movie), the absence of Finnigan (Kirk's Starfleet academy bully) for another. But I find these complaints to be largely minutiae and truly unimportant both to the movie and to the Star Trek universe as a whole.

There are other things that you'll have to let go. The Temporal Prime Directive is blatantly disregarded, like in Star Trek IV. And you'll have to let go of the design of the Enterprise from The Original Series, as [spoiler]the new design of the Enterprise cannot be logically explained by Nero's alterations of the past[/spoiler]. Keep in mind that neither bother me as they both work well within the movie; they just don't work within normal Star Trek continuity.

Rotten Tomatoes ranks this new Star Trek as the highest-ranking of the Star Trek movies on the Tomatometer. The inference is that it's also the best of the Star Trek movies, and I'd agree. Is this the best that Star Trek's ever been? Probably not; I'd say TOS and TNG win out overall. But this is a fantastic first step into a new frontier. How's that for a cheesy finish? ;)

DISCLAIMER: All items reviewed on Dork Dimension were purchased by the reviewer unless otherwise noted. The opinions expressed on Dork Dimension are solely those of the author and are presented for entertainment purposes only.