Star Trek

June 7 2009 at 4:58 pm (Cinema reviews)

StarTrek2009PosterThe number of people who say Star Trek when they mean Star Wars (and vice versa) is remarkable. It’s not just laymen either – it’s a faux pas occasionally made by even the spottiest Comic-Con attendee.

 

It’s an easy mistake to make. Not only do the names sound similar but the two franchises are weighty beasts, and both have obsessive fanbases that range from graduates in Klingon to those who dress as Han Solo to get married.

 

Sci-fi nerds must be a scary bunch to film directors especially to those who are tackling the beginnings of such impenetrable lore as the birth of James Tiberius Kirk. J.J. Abrams seems undaunted though. After conquering TV schedules with Alias and Lost, making Mission: Impossible cool again and dazzling audiences with Godzilla-meets-The-Blair-Witch-Project sci-fi-horror Cloverfield, Star Trek probably sounded like an easy undertaking. He clearly knows what he’s doing, and what he’s doing here is making a Star Trek film that’s significantly not for diehards.

 

Opening with a blistering battle in which Kirk is born seconds before his father bravely sacrifices his life for his crew, this is a film which grabs you by the pointy ears from the beginning and never lets go. Next up, Spock’s childhood in which he’s picked on for having a human mother (played inexplicably but not unsuccessfully by Winona Ryder). It becomes clear early on that the film is all about these two characters meeting and becoming friends – the other iconic characters are merely picked up along the way, and that is the film’s secret weapon.

 

The casting is so effortlessly perfect that it seems as if this handful of actors will actually grow up to become the characters they portray. Chris Pine makes for a suave, laidback Kirk and creates a great sense of camaraderie among his new crew. As well as looking the part, Zachary Quinto is as conflicted as Spock as he is menacing as über-baddie Sylar in TV’s Heroes. Top marks also to Zoe Saldana for her sexy Uhura and Karl Urban for his gruff Bones. But for the most part, the acting hits just the right balance between impersonation and performance, finding unique character beats between each ‘Dammit Jim’ and ‘Illogical captain’.

 

But this is not just a showcase for funny accents (yes, Pegg, that means you) and party pieces. This is a sci-fi film after all, and the action truly stands out. From the opening battle, to Kirk running from a giant unidentified beastie, it’s a breathless two hours that manages to thrill and amuse. One of the most exciting scenes has Kirk, Sulu (John Cho) and a random crew member dressed in red, in a death-defying skydive onto a midair Romulan platform followed by a good old-fashioned punch-up. Needless to say, only two survive.

 

Such in-jokes are mainstream enough for the uninitiated to appreciate – it’s a neat trick showing non-Trekkies that they know more about the characters and situations than they think they do. Even without all that, it is, above all else, fun. The script zings with witty banter, the odd bit of slapstick and some fast-paced plotting that sees Romulan Nero (a dastardly Eric Bana) travel back in time to seek vengeance on a key character. Let the plot wash over you for best results.

 

That Abrams has turned such a vast, unwieldy piece of pop culture into a colourful, shiny and easily digestible piece of entertainment is no mean feat. A sequel is already on the cards so we can look forward to more adventures in a galaxy far, far away. Or is that the other one?

 

Rating: 4/5

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