Thursday, May 07, 2009

Star Trek

J.J. Abrams | 2009 | 125 mins | USA

Admittedly, I am a Star Trek fan. I watched the original sporadically as a kid, and really came of age with The Next Generation. I even have some affection for the bad spin offs because I just love the whole concept of Star Trek so much. So it was with a heady mixture of excitement and trepidation that I awaited the arrival of this “reboot”. Me and a billion other fans, right?

Well, I’m delighted to report that Star Trek is a triumph on all counts, but particularly succeeds for two key reasons: incredible casting, and a very clever solution to the problem of trying to reinvent a story with 40 years of elaborate history behind it.

From the relative unknowns to the familiar faces, every actor in Star Trek absolutely nails their character. It’s difficult to bring something new to a persona that your audience has known and loved for decades, but there’s just enough reverence paid to the original cast here without tipping the balance into caricature or outright mimicry. Everyone was great, but my personal favourite was Karl Urban as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy. By the time he comes out with one of those "dammit Jim, I'm a doctor, not a [whatever]" lines that DeForest Kelley perfected in that role (and that you know is coming from the moment Urban first appears on screen), you've already completely fallen in love with him as Bones and the line is a delightful homage to the original instead of just being a hammy joke.

It is an intense challenge to reinvent a story that is already so familiar to virtually 100% of your audience. J.J. Abrams and company essentially had two choices: suffocate under the crushing weight of 40 years of intricate continuity or take drastic measures to wipe the slate clean. Thankfully they chose option two, and cleverly managed to completely reinvent the entire universe in a way that is both logical and respectful to the original.

The story and plot of Star Trek are kind of secondary to the fact that a beloved and iconic series has just been successfully reinvented. We get to meet the Enterprise’s crew in their Starfleet days and see them take their maiden voyage – a rescue mission to save Vulcan from evil Romulans. Eric Bana's Captain Nero is no Khan, but he makes for a pretty fun villain, and his ship is absolutely terrifying. That's all you really need to know about the plot. For non-fans, this is an entirely enjoyable, action-packed sci-fi film with set design, special effects and fight sequences that will rival any of the summer blockbusters. For the fans it’s a reboot so successful it almost makes you weep into your popcorn. I might even go so far as to call it the only really successful reboot ever.

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