The Star Trek series was rebooted in 2009 with J.J.Abrams at the helm. I am a fan of the original series, but even more so of the six movies featuring the original cast. I didn’t think it needed a reboot – especially in an established universe as vast as the Star Trek ‘verse. Why not use an entirely new group of characters and a new ship? In any case, Abrams went ahead and cast new actors as Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Scotty, Sulu, and Chekov. The first movie had them encountering an enemy that knocked them out of the timeline, creating an alternate timeline, which Abrams said he could use to create entirely new adventures but with the same characters we knew from the old show.
That was actually a genius idea. The new cast could play the roles and add their own spin and touches to characters we already knew so well. Then – Abrams went ahead and completely went against everything he had stated he was trying to accomplish with that move by re-creating the most beloved movie of the original series, The Wrath of Khan, with his Star Trek Into Darkness. This was, in my opinion, a huge mistake. The role of Khan was horribly miscast, and the story lost the majority of the impact that it had in its original format. You can check my review of that movie for more ranting on my part, but I was so angry with it I completely wrote off this franchise and had no interest in seeing anything else from them.
Then they announced they were doing another one, Simon Pegg was helping to write, and Justin Lin was directing. Lin is responsible for the three best Fast and Furious movies – 4, 5, and 6, and Pegg is not only playing Scotty – but is first and foremost a fan, and knows what other fans would like to see – and what they would not like to see.
This movie picks up about two years after the previous adventure – nearly halfway through their ‘five year mission’ and Captain Kirk seems to be suffering from a bout of ‘space boredom’. He’s become a little tired of going from world to world, and is craving a bit of adventure – I found this a little strange since this movie opens with what should have been a simple diplomatic operation and turns into an action escape. McCoy attempts to cheer him up with an early birthday drink, but doesn’t do a very good job (he does not gift him a pair of reading glasses – not yet anyway).
The Enterprise is docking at the Starbase Yorktown outpost, the newest station in deep space (I loved the design, it was absolutely beautiful!), and the crew is ready for some shore leave. Kirk takes the opportunity to put in for the Vice-Admiralship of the Yorktown, seeking a change. Spock, meanwhile, has broken up with Uhura, and received word of the death of Ambassador Spock (this is a brilliant bit of art imitating life and provided a beautiful opportunity to say goodbye to Leonard Nimoy). Shaken by this more than he has expected, he has put in for a transfer to ‘New Vulcan’ to help rebuild his race. Neither he nor Kirk has told the other about their plans – yet.
Of course, while there, a small ship in distress comes barreling out of a nearby nebula with an alien on board who is talking (after being fitted with a universal translator) about her ship and crew being attacked and now held on a planet nearby. Since the Enterprise is the ship most able to handle the situation (it always is), shore leave is cut short and the crew heads out to see what they can do to help. They get through the nebula without too much of a problem, but once through, before they can get down to the planet, they encounter a new race, flying what I would call a ‘swarm’ of ships, led by Krall. Overwhelmed by sheer numbers – the Enterprise gets destroyed, and the majority of the crew escapes down to the planet in various methods. Scotty shoots off in a torpedo, Spock and McCoy end up hijacking an alien ship and crashing, Uhura gets stuck with Krall while separating the saucer section, and Chekov and Kirk crash land in their escape pods with the rescued alien.
Split up, each mini-group of the crew has their own small adventures. Sulu and Uhura work together to try to figure out how to free the crew from Krall’s base camp – and learn that he has some bio-technology that seems to allow him to steal the life-force, bio-energy, soul, whatever you want to call it, from his prisoners. Kirk and Chekov realize the alien lured them into a trap, and try to continue to hide the item she is looking to give to Krall that they had onboard. Scotty encounters Jaylah – a woman who has been evading capture on this planet and planning an escape, while McCoy has to help Spock with an injury and then they basically get to bond until they run into Scotty and Jaylah. Together, they realize she’s been living in an old crashed Federation ship – the U.S.S. Franklin - and if they can get it powered up they can get everyone off the planet. Of course, parallel to this plan, Krall gets his hands on the item, and turns it into a really impressive bio-weapon that he then wants to unleash on Yorktown. Our intrepid crew has to get off the planet in enough time to stop him and his swarm of followers.
Based solely on the three F&F movies he’s done, I knew Justin Lin could direct action – but I have to say, I was still impressed by the action in this movie. It moves fast, and aside from a few slow points at the beginning, it really was well-paced the whole way through. The action and hand-to-hand sequences were great, and there were far less lens flares – in fact, I’m not sure I saw any! The sequences on the planet were fun, and I actually enjoyed splitting the cast into mini-groups. I worried that the motorcycle sequence shown in the trailer would be annoying, but it actually was really fun. I really loved that this was a new story, and that this round of actors could now work on putting their own touches on the characters, instead of being unfairly compared to those that came before because the story is the same.
- Chris Pine plays Captain James T. Kirk. He’s beginning to feel more like the leader of this group. Pine is capable, and is certainly the action-packed captain. His portrayal of Kirk as bored by the ‘exploring and peacekeeping’ part of the missing is really interesting (and strange, because it seems really off-character from the Kirk I know). His realization at the end of the potential of where they can go keeps him in the chair.
- Zachary Quinto plays Commander Spock, and really the inclusion of the moments honoring Leonard Nimoy felt so real and so honest, it made me tear up a little. Especially at the end when he goes through the personal effects of Ambassador Spock, he gets to see a picture of the original cast during Star Trek V. Quinto is still not quite perfect as Spock, but to be honest, it’s a lot to live up to. He’s getting closer, and does a good job of continuing to bond with McCoy in this movie.
- Karl Urban plays Dr. ‘Bones’ McCoy and still seems to be the closest to the original portrayal of the character. His grumpy exterior covers his amazing heart, and how much he truly cares about all of his crewmates – again – really on display in the scenes with Spock in this movie.
- Zoe Saldana plays Lieutenant Uhura, and while I’m still not sure about the choice to hook up Uhura and Spock, she and Quinto do an adequate job of making the relationship believable. I do enjoy the emphasis on Uhura’s particular skill of sorting out communication and languages.
- Simon Pegg plays Montgomery Scott and again – thank goodness for him taking over some of the writing duties. He gives Scotty charm and wit and skill. I love his interactions with Jaylah – and his ability to help her trust them, despite being alone for so many years.
- John Cho plays Hikaru Sulu with the best sense of duty and confidence. He’s such a ready action hero, that you have no doubt he can fly the Franklin, despite it having been stuck in the mud for what seems to be a lot of time.
- Anton Yelchin plays Pavel Chekov, and this will be one of the last things we see him in since he tragically died in a car accident this summer. He’s fun, he’s light, and his version of Chekov really helped to lighten the cast. I hope they don’t recast, but I don’t know how they would write him out. We’ll have to see what they do next.
- Idris Elba plays Krall and I’m still a little perplexed how you have one of the most beautiful men on the planet covered in full facial prosthetics – especially since he complained about having to wear Heimdall’s helmet. Also – the last trailer did ruin a bit of a twist with his character, I’m not going to mention it – I’m hoping it hasn’t been ruined for you. He’s great – super vengeful and angry.
- Sofia Boutella – who owned every scene of Kingsman: Secret Service she was in as Gazelle (you remember, with the razor feet?) also manages to steal many scenes of this movie as Jaylah. She’s aggressive and self-sufficient, but also afraid to go up against an enemy that has already caused her to lose so much. I really hope she sticks around and gets added to the cast going forward.
- Joe Taslim plays Krall’s right hand man, Manas. He gets a really badass fight sequence with Jaylah on top of a building in Krall’s camp.
- Kydia Wilson plays Kalara; the alien refugee who cons our crew into getting involved in this mess in the first place. Her look was lovely, and I really enjoyed the flip of her character. It’s tough to act when covered fully in facial prosthetics and not speaking English – but she did a really good job of making want her to be helped, which of course, only then made the betrayal that much more painful.
The entire final fight sequence takes place between Krall and Kirk floating in the center of the Yorktown where gravity goes a bit crazy. Again, I loved the design of the Yorktown base, it’s really lovely and visually interesting. I loved that we finally get to see some beginnings of true friendships between the crew. I also really loved the way they worked in the goodbye to Leonard Nimoy – it was very touching, and really beautifully done. Because the movie was basically finished when Anton Yelchin passed away, there’s nothing in the movie directly related to his passing, but the movie is dedicated to him. It does bring up an interesting quandary. Do you recast the role of Chekov? Do you write Chekov out? I hope they do it right, I don’t think he should be recast, but I’m not sure what the right way to handle that would be.
I was so upset with Into Darkness, but this one really did win me back over, I’m so excited about where they could go from here. My favorite part of original Trek was the heart of it – the hopefulness of it, and the focus on the relationship and friendship between the characters. This cast isn’t quite there yet, but they are getting closer. You can start to see their friendships in this one. In a way, it did feel like a long episode, but I think that’s what this franchise needed. I really enjoyed it.
8 out of 10 – surprisingly fun!