Changing the game on an old classic is a neat trick to pull out of a director’s hat, as the more beloved a series, the more difficult it is to please the legion of fans who desperately cling to the format and characters associated with the original films and TV shows. In the 2009 movie “Star Trek”, however, JJ Abrams manages to not only update the beloved classic series into an epic new relaunch, but he also somehow manages to simultaneously please old fans, while bringing the iconic series to the big screen for a whole generation of new fans to enjoy. Simply titled “Star Trek,” this new take brings us back to James T. Kirk’s (Chris Pine) early days in Star fleet academy as he breaks all the rules and boundaries to quickly become a captain aboard the Enterprise.
Along the way, he encounters his iconic crew for the first time: Bones (Karl Urban), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Chekov (Anton Yelchin), Sulu (John Cho), Scotty (Simon Peg) and Spock (Zachary Quinto). Dealing with their personal conflicts and struggling to work as a team, the crew of the starship Enterprise must stop a powerful Romulan warlord (Eric Bana) from wiping out Star fleet and every other planet or person that gets in his way. I have to admit, I have always been a huge fan of the “Star Trek” TV shows, although I have found many of The Original Series movies (1979-1991) to be hit-and-miss affairs, which rarely goes down well with an audience willing to make the effort to visit a movie theatre.
The Next Generation films (1994-2002) were similarly poorly received, with the exception perhaps of Star Trek: First Contact (1996), but in this reboot of the Original Series by JJ Abrams, the director really worked some movie magic on this space saga that truly went down a storm with its audience.
One of the things that really blew me away here was the phenomenal choices for the casting. As more than half the original series Star Trek cast subsequently became household names, so it only makes sense that in order to try to “update” the cast, you’d need stars that can go above and beyond the call of duty for these roles. Pine makes the role of the lovable rogue James T. Kirk his own, and takes the character originally played by Shatner nicely into the modern age; while Quinto feels perfectly at home as Spock, Saldana gives a great deal of strength and intensity to Uhura’s legacy, and I can’t help but laugh lovingly at practically everything Urban says as Bones.
This is a beautiful looking film with spectacular special effects, memorable music, extraordinarily talented up and coming stars and an opening sequence that packed a far more devastatingly emotional punch than we thought. The natural flow and symmetry the story has when melding the original Trek universe with this new one feels natural and organic. Everything falls within the guidelines of this franchise’s history, so alternate realities and timelines come just as easily as planet destroying red goo bombs. In fact, this movie handled things so well and creatively, that even a Trekkie novice could tell what’s being implied or what kind of connection a scene is trying to establishes to the old universe. This is the best way to bring new fans into the fold: making it feel fresh and interesting.
Overall, this is a masterfully molded relaunching of a classic that finally does justice to the cult franchise, and successfully transfers the excitement of the TV series onto the big screen. It’s a respectful and inventive take on something old and breathes fantastic new life into it with a bold new cast, and quality storytelling.
I give “Star Trek” 3 stars out of 4.