"Beam me up, Scotty."
The Vulcan nerve pinch.
The USS Enterprise.
While watching Star Trek, I realized that even though I'd never seen any of the previous ten movies, or so much as one episode of any of the six TV series having to do with Gene Roddenberry's fictional universe, its characters and catchphrases are such a part of the pop culture lexicon that it was impossible to feel like a complete newbie to this space-based franchise. Sure, there were a few points during the film's two-hour running-time where the hard-core Trekkie sitting next to me had to lean over and whisper-explain why everyone else in the theater was laughing… and I'm positive that I didn't catch 95% of the nods director J.J. Abrams surely gave to All Things Trek that preceded this reboot, but I was completely fine with that. There are no prerequisites for enjoying Star Trek; from the ridiculously intense opening sequence to the closing credits, I was enthralled. Now I even have some sort of bizarre crush on Spock, which has thoroughly disturbed my husband.
As Locke reviewed this film in detail from a long-time fan perspective, I'm not going to dish out many specifics about its plot. But I will say that the front-loaded scenes showing the drastically different upbringings of future-Enterprise captain James T. Kirk and even-tempered half-Vulcan/half-human Spock were my favorite parts of the movie. Once those backstories were established, the action moved on to a struggle between the crew of the USS Enterprise (on its maiden voyage, no less) and a band of nasty Romulans, led by a perpetually pissed-off Nero (Eric Bana).
I'm happy to report that I wasn't annoyed in the slightest by Adult Kirk, played by pretty boy Chris Pine. The commercials for the film had me worried that this hotshot at the Starfleet Academy would be little more than an impulsive, hot and bothered meathead, but thankfully that wasn't (entirely) the case. He served as the perfect foil to Zachary Quinto's calculating Spock; lesser actors might have overplayed these roles, but there was never a point where I felt that Kirk and Spock weren't believable characters.
In fact, the entire cast was great — not a weak link in the bunch. I personally was a little irked to see Winona Ryder as Spock's mother, however. Her acting was fine and the make-up team did a great job transforming her into an older woman, but whenever she was on-screen, my Bubble of Suspended Disbelief popped and all I could think was, "Why in the hell is Winona Ryder in this movie?!?" (I hope I didn't just curse you with the same reaction.)
The only other issue I have with the film is that some of its key plot points are pretty darn confusing. As you may know, producers J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof and Bryan Burk also worked/work together on Lost, which isn't exactly known for straightforward storytelling. Since I've been tuning into and analyzing Lost for the past five years, I thought I'd easily be able to process anything Star Trek threw my way. Color me overconfident — I must admit to being completely bewildered by a few of its twists. In the interest of not spoiling anything for those of you who plan to see the film, I'll keep mum on what I couldn't figure out. Here's a hint, though: fellow Lost fans will probably laugh out loud at the similarities between the TV series' current season and some of the events that transpire in Star Trek.
One other similarity Star Trek shares with Lost is the brilliant composer Michael Giacchino. Remember that breathtaking opening scene I referenced earlier in this review? It showcased Giacchino's expert ability to subtly shift the score between quickly oscillating action sequences and cry-your-eyes-out dramatic scenes, all while heightening the emotion of both. However, as Locke bemoaned last week, there definitely wasn't a recognizable, indisputable Star Trek "theme" that emerged by the time the film ended.
Finally, I can't talk about a sci-fi film without weighing in on its special effects, right? Well, I've got good news for you: I give the effects a 9.5 out of 10. I'm one of those people who's quick to complain about shoddy CGI, and at several points throughout Star Trek I found myself thinking the exact opposite: Wow, I can't believe how real that looks. Nero's ship is especially impressive in all of its gigantic, steel-pronged glory. When you see that thing coming at the Enterprise, trust me, you'll be worried.
So if it's not already obvious, let me state in no uncertain terms that I highly recommend Star Trek to all of the other non-Trekkies out there. Since the hard-core fan of the franchise sitting next to me seemed pleased when the theater's lights came back on — and as Locke was happy with the film as well — I dare say that even those of you who have gone to Star Trek conventions will approve.
Speaking of Star Trek conventions, let me end with this classic Saturday Night Live clip featuring the original Captain James T. Kirk, William Shatner. Perhaps it can serve as a primer for those of you who are going in blind to Abrams' franchise reboot. (Things really get moving at the four-minute mark.)
I'd love to hear the reactions of other non-Trekkies who've seen the film, so be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Spoilers are fair game there, too.
In the meantime, I'm off to see if I can find one of those I Grok Spock tees.
Other Trek pieces:
What We Talk About When We Talk About Star Trek — Locke reminiscences on what Trek has meant to him