Friday, 22 May 2009

Star Trek (J. J. Abrams, 2009)

J. J. Abrams has been enjoying a rather sucessful run of late, his numerous TV series drawing record viewers, with his film work recieving equal popularity, Mission Impossible 3, being an enjoyable addition to the series, while his produced Cloverfield was superb.
Excitement had been running high for this, his second film as director, with casting information leaked gradually up to it's release building great expectations for this 'reboot' of a series which has long since languished in straight-to-DVD releases and uninspired TV outings.
Now I think box-office figures will certainly testify to its popularity, but I'm happy to report that the earnings are justified.

We open with Kirk's father saving 800 lives, as well as the new-born James T. Kirk, from attacking Romulans with extraordinary technology, later revealed as being from the future. Fast forward to a rebellious Kirk as a boy, racing round the Iowa desert blasting out the Beastie Boys and driving a stolen vintage sports car off a cliff. This is counteracted by a young Spock being bullied by other Vulcans for his human mother (Winona Ryder! In films again!), before years later, refusing the Vulcan counsel and joining Starfleet, with a cheesy funk track overlapping the cut to full-grown Kirk in a bar fight with Starfleet cadets. Its then that Kirk meets Captain Pike, who, having studied his father, challenges him to join Starfleet. The scene is set.
We then follow Kirk and Spocks rivalry and eventually friendship as they join to battle Nero, a Romulan from the future where Spock is (rather unfairly) blamed for the destruction of Romulus, seeking revenge by destroying Spock's home planet of Vulcan with 'Red-Matter', a black hole creating weapon which enables the time travel through the black holes.

The time travel element of the plot is well mapped-out, with the only weakness in the story being the rather convienient maneuvering of all the main characters into their leading positions in the story. Captian Pike makes Kirk first officer almost on a whim, enabling him to easily navigate his way into the captain's chair after challenging Spock's emotionally involvement in the mission, Sulu being there because the other pilot was ill and Uhura sliding into the communications chair because the other officer couldn't distinguish the different dialects of Romulan and Klingon properly. Surely thats his job?
These are just minor complaints however, with the casting being spot-on, Zachory Quinto in particular excelling as Spock, while solitary returning cast member Leonard Nimoy plays the older Spock from the future. Simon Pegg provides the comedic relief as Scotty and Chris Pine plays an enjoyable cocky but human Kirk, sleazing after the females while scrappily fighting his way to captain.

The cinematography and special effects are, as expected, excellent, with space itself looking downright beautiful and the starships being huge, hulking yet elegant masses of metal and blinking lights. The score and sound design are possibly the finest elements of the film, the layered various bleeps bringing the starship to life, phasers having a delightful 'water-droplet' sound, space sounding vast and dangerous in its threatening near-silence and the sweeping, dramatic score ramping up-tension and sending shivers down the spine.

Abrams has created possibly his finest work to date, simultaneously revamping a dated-franchise for a new generation while preserving the original series' sense of wonder and morals.

Rating -
9 / 10

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