Okay, Let's Try This Again...

Star Trek (2009)

Although we covered the 2009 reboot of Star Trek back around the time it original was out in theaters, it seemed like I should cover it again with fresh eyes. Now that I've gone through and watched my way through the rest of the franchise (at least five episodes each, plus all the movies), it seemed like taking a look at the 2009 film was worth while. Would I appreciate the film the same way now that I've seen more of the rest of the series?

Star Trek 2009

But then, there was another question I wanted to answer as well: is the new Trek actually Trek enough? Many fans of the classic series are put off by the new films saying they're too action oriented, too deveoted to thrills without exploring the deeper themes of Trek. I've watched enough of the franchise now that I feel like I can understand what they're trying to say. I just don't know if I agree with them.

For those unfamiliar, 2009's reboot is a bit of a time-travel yarn (a well the series has gone to before, including two different movies). Due to a sigularity, a Romulan ship (which is grafted with Borg tech, as we learn in deleted scenes) travels back in time and blows up the USS Kelvin. This is the Federation ship that George Kirk served on and, in the attack, Kirk gave his life to save the rest of his crew as well as his pregnant wife. His son, Jim, was born that day, and Jim grew up not knowing his father. This sets off a whole chain reaction of changes to the timeline, shifting a lot of what we know about the Trek universe and giving us the possibility of new stories to be told (although we'll get to how successful that

As far as being a good Star Trek yarn, the 2009 film comes through in spades. But shifting the timeline just enough, the film is able to reevaluate characters giving us new contexts for their actions, new ways they become a crew. The meat of the story is really focused on Jim Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto), how each of them grew up, and then how they became shipmates and friends. Although the Original Series had a triumvirate of Kirk, Spock, and Bones, the good Doctor is much more of a side character this time around so we can really focus on Kirk and Spock.

This may be one of the few missteps the film makes. I know the friendship of Kirk and Spock was a big part of the classic motion pictures, but any film set during the era of the Original Series should really give us a better balance of all three. We do get to Bones (Karl Urban, doing a fantastic DeForest Kelly impression) on a number of occasions, and the friendship between Kirk and himself is well established. The dynamic between him and Sock remains antaognistic throughout the movie, though, never finding that three-way balance that lead so many of the great moments on the first series. These guys should all find their friendship together, but we don't get that here.

Most of the crew, though, do get great moments. Plenty of time is spent with Scotty (Simon Pegg), and he has wit and charm as he plays both teleporter tech and chief engineer. Sulu (John Cho) gets to show off his hand-to-hand fighting skills and, after a rough little start, clearly shows his chops as a pilot. And Uhura is given more to do that simply relay communications -- her skill in xenolinguistics comes in vital at key moments, allowing her character to shine.

Unfortunately another weird stumble for the movie is making Uhura into a love interest for Spock. I'm not saying the crew can't find love among their ranks, nor should Spock live a monastic life. It's just that the movie is very dedicated to keeping the core cast of characters from the Original Series intact here, for good or ill. So since the first series only had one female lead for most episodes -- namely Uhura -- then this movie has one female lead as well. To take her and give her a love-interest plot as one of her key defining traits undercuts the character some. There are enough movies that include a female character just so she can fall in love with the hero, and Uhura doesn't need to be relegated to that role.

While some charcter beats don't work as well as they should, the over-all film zips by at a fun, brisk pace. Yes, as the fanboys will derisively note, there are a few action sequences. And yes, the film does focus on the ship-to-ship hero villain relationship between Spock, Kirk, and the Enterprise up against the Romulan captain Nero and his massive ship, the Narada. Sure, this isn't a movie about explore the vast reaches of the unknown and finding new meaning in the greatness of the cosmos. But you know what? The movies that have focused on man and their limitless quest for knowledge have all sucked.

That started with the first one, The Motion Picture, and every time the film went back to that well (The Final Frontier, Insurrection), the results were vastly less than stellar. The films everyone really liked (Wrath of Kahn, First Contact) have had clearly defined hero/villain relationships and focused much more on action and adventure. The reason: that's what's cinematic. That puts asses in seats.

Now, sure, an argument could be made that the best films still had elements of that quest for knowledge. Wrath of Kahn, for example, featured the Genesis Project and the quest to make new, habitable planets. Trek 209 has it's own honorable quest: the mission in the future to save Romulus. Of course, that mission fails, which then kicks off the events in the past of the new movie, but didn't Genesis fail in the long run, too? Not every quest to better civilzation is going to succeed, but the act of caring, of trying, is important.

So now, I don't think the fanboys are right about this movie (maybe some of the future ones, but we'll talk about those when we get to them). The 2009 Star Trek does what a good reboot should: it's fun, it's zippy, and it gets you invested early so you care about the proceedings. Whatever they may have flubbed on the characters, they make up for it with good action and a solid plot. This doesn't have the simple storytelling of another episode and it does more to push thes series forward than many of the past movies have. It may not be perfect, but it's a damn fine adventure.

Notes:
  • My gods, those lens flares. Right off the bat.
  • The uniforms in this section, though, are weird. And why is the captain of the Kelvin wearing blue? Shouldn't it be Gold or, at least, Red? But he and his First Hemsworth are both in Blue.
  • Huh, everyone in this section of the movie is in a blue uniform. Maybe that's just the uniform color in general, like how most of the classic movies had a red uniform. But I don't see any coloring variants to designate sections. These uniforms are confusing.
  • Such a great cold-open sequence. So good. I can see why they want to bring Hemsworth back for the fourth film.
  • The sequence with young Kirk has always annoyed me. It just seems silly.
  • Despite not giving in to their emotions, Vulcans are really bitchy.
  • I love how "live long and prosper" is used as such a great kiss off.
  • The Kelvin had 800 people on it? That ship had to be huge. Voyager only had around 130.
  • You know, considering the fact that Spock was so upset about slander against his mother, you wouldn't think he'd talk down to someone else about their parents.
  • As bright and shiny as the bridge is, I have to admit it's not as technologically advanced as they could have made it. There's definately an homage to the original bridge buried under the Apple iStore aesthetic.
  • The physics of red matter honestly make no sense. I'll shut my brain of for it for a good yarn, but if I think about it at any length, it just makes no sense.
  • Bye Olsen, your death was pointless and stupid. Congratulations.
  • How does Uhura display her rank? The ranks are displayed on uniform sleeves, and Uhura doesn't wear sleeves on her dress.
  • You eject him from the ship? Don't they have a brig?!
  • I love the Enterprise reference, but man, Archer had to be old by the time Scotty did his transwarp beaming trick.