Like my book reviews site, these are movie reviews I write for entertainment purposes only. These are just my reviews and my opinions. They are not endorsed by Blogger or any movie studios or anyone else. So there. I borrowed my scoring system from the Metacritic site, which does not imply an endorsement from them, although I think they do have a very nice website. I convert the 1-100 scores into 1-4 stars, essentially it works like this:

1 star = 25 points
2 stars = 50 points
3 stars = 75 points
4 stars = 100 points

And then if something falls about halfway between, then I'll give it an added half-star.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Star Trek (2009)

I've always considered myself a Star Trek fan but not a Trekkie. The distinction in my mind is that I've watched the shows (though I tuned out most of the "Enterprise" prequel show) and the movies and generally enjoyed them, but I never dressed up in costume or pointy ears or went to any conventions. Still, when I was watching the franchise reboot I found myself having a die-hard Trekkie moment, thinking, "Chris Pine you are NOT Captain Kirk and you NEVER will be!" There is only one Captain Kirk and he's making stupid Priceline commercials and appearing on "Boston Legal." And despite what the movie says there is only one Spock--the old one.

All that said, the best way to summarize this movie is to say it's the "Star Trek" for "Star Wars" fans. In other words it's a big effects-driven popcorn movie with a paper-thin story that doesn't make a lot of sense. And for that reason people who have little invested in the "Star Trek" franchise will probably enjoy it, just like anyone who probably didn't care about comic books would enjoy "Wolverine."

As for me, I think I just have too much emotionally invested in Bill Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and the REAL crew of the Enterprise to accept a cast of sexy young replacements in their Steve Jobs-redesigned green screen set. So while this may call itself "Star Trek" it's never going to really be "Star Trek" to me.

The story takes care of all that pesky continuity right off the bat with the old sci-fi staple of time travel. In this case a renegade Romulan miner named Nero goes back in time to wipe out the Federation. First he runs into the USS Kelvin, whose first officer is none other than George Kirk. And it just so happens that George's wife is having their only child--a son. (Why is his wife on the ship? Starfleet didn't have families on board until The Next Generation.) That son is of course James Tiberius Kirk.

Twenty-two years later, Jim Kirk is hanging around Iowa, where for whatever reason Starfleet has a shipyard building the future Enterprise. (Never mind that you couldn't possibly build the Enterprise on the ground because how the hell is it going to get into space? And really, Iowa? That's where you're building starships? Really?) Anyway, after getting pounded by some Starfleet recruits for hitting on Uhura, the grizzled veteran Captain Pike convinces Kirk to join up and honor his father's memory. So he does.

Three years later, the key to Nero's evil plan to destroy the Federation arrives. A distress signal is received from the planet Vulcan, home to all those pointy-eared guys like Mr. Spock, who is assigned as first officer for the Enterprise the fleet's newest and best ship. The rest of the crew is made up of other cadets like Uhura, Dr. Bones McCoy, Sulu, and Chekov. (Why would you staff your shiny new flagship with a bunch of cadets? And really, the old "we've got a distress signal and you're the closest ship because everyone else is busy" is the best you could do?) Kirk, on academic probation for cheating on the no-win scenario, is smuggled on board the Enterprise as well.

From there the movie proceeds to shred the existing Star Trek continuity to thrust forward its own agenda. While this was seen as necessary to explain why everything is slightly different, it seems disrespect to fans of the old series. It's like saying, "Hey, remember what you cared about for the last 43 years? None of it happened! Get with the program." But "Star Trek II" is one of the first movies I can remember seeing with my dad and brother--now I'm just supposed to forget all that? Pretend it didn't happen? F-U Paramount and JJ Abrams.

Just to get back to my original rant, the actors all do an OK job with what they're given, though some of them aren't given much. Uhura, Sulu, Scotty, and Chekov are all given their brief moments in the spotlight to make a contribution. Though Chekov's goofy accent just makes him the film's Jar-Jar Binks--and what's with the perm? (Really I hope they cut him out of any screenings in Russia or we might have a new Cold War on our hands.) The great Simon Pegg ("Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz") shows up late in the movie for some comic relief as Chief Engineer Scotty and has a funny scene reminiscent of one in "Star Trek IV" where Scotty gives the secret of transparent aluminum to some California engineer in the 1980s, only in this case it's someone from the future giving Scotty the key to transwarp beaming. Though I have to say I think the little joke about Scotty complaining about not getting enough to eat was sort of disrespectful to the memory of James Doohan--the REAL Scotty. As for Chris Pine as Kirk, Zach Quinto as Spock, and Karl Urban as Bones, the best they can ever hope to be are good imitators. Bruce Greenwood as Captain Pike the mentor and Eric Bana as the evil Nero do the best they can in their limited roles. (The only casting I don't understand is why Winona Ryder as Spock's mom? The dumb thing is they had to use make-up so she looked older to play the part; why not just hire an older actress for her less than five minutes of screen time? Wouldn't that save on makeup?)

Anyway, I know I'm being overly critical here. Like I said earlier, if you don't really care much about Trek then this is a fine, albeit easily forgettable, sci-fi action movie with some humor and just a smidgen of romance. And probably other die-hard fans will actually enjoy it. But I didn't. They can call it whatever they want but it won't be Star Trek to me.

(The only thing that could be worse in my mind is when George Lucas gets desperate enough to do a full reboot of Star Wars.)

That is all.

(My score: 2/4 stars)

(Metacritic score: 84)

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