When Star Trek: Nemesis came out in 2002 and disappointed me and my VC for the most part, it seemed that Star Trek was over. Gene Roddenberry was dead; Captain Kirk was dead; Data was dead; and so was the franchise. So when a reboot was announced, I certainly had reservations, even though J. J. Abrams was at the helm (this was before I fell in love with Lost). What a surprise then that 2009’s Star Trek, with an almost completely revamped cast, remains my favorite Trek film thus far! Abrams actually pulled it off, a reboot so original and somehow familiar that it transcends most or all of its predecessors.
Who could possibly play Captain James Tiberius Kirk, other than William Shatner? Who could possibly play Mr. Spock or Dr. McCoy or Scotty without the entire performance feeling like a parody impression? Casting is everything here, and there isn’t one misstep. Chris Pine is the new Kirk; Zoe Saldana is the new Uhura; Karl Urban is the new real McCoy; and so on with Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, John Cho, and the amazingly Spockish Zachary Quinto. Even the supporting roles are well-cast, with Bruce Greenwood as a mentoring Captain Pike, Ben Cross as Vulcan father Sarek, and Winona Ryder as Spock’s sympathetic human mother. They all act akin to their previous incarnations, while embracing their own interpretation of the characters, all neatly explained by the conveniences of time paradox.
In addition to the up-and-coming young actors, the film as a whole carries a constant excitement, as if the filmmakers are like the audience in eagerly wanting to reach the next exhilarating set piece, chase, or battle. It all moves briskly, yet it excels at that elusive trait of the best Trek films, giving every character something important to contribute. Some critics pointed out the lack of consequences, such as failing to offer any tribute to the deaths of Kirk’s fellow Starfleet cadets massacred by Nero (a complaint the sequel remedied with just such a scene), yet it’s to the film’s credit that it can be enjoyed nonetheless. Not to mention, there’s some fantastic creature effects (it’s the only Trek film to win an Oscar, for Best Makeup), startling new technology, an underdeveloped but menacing villain played by a bald Eric Bana, a savvy script from frequent Abrams collaborators Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, a brilliant Michael Giacchino score, clever referencing and explanations of past films and details, and a good deal of humor. If Abrams can do for Star Wars what he’s done for Star Trek, there is at least some hope left in this world.Best line: (Scotty) “I told him that I could not only beam a grapefruit from one planet to the adjacent planet in the same system—which is easy, by the way—I could do it with a life form. So, I tested it out on Admiral Archer’s prized beagle.” (Kirk) “Wait, I know that dog. What happened to it?” (Scotty) “I’ll tell you when it reappears. Ahem. I don’t know, I do feel guilty about that.” Rank: 58 out of 60
© 2015 S. G. Liput
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