Star Trek

I have a strange relationship with Star Trek. I never watched the shows growing up, as they struck me as silly and boring. I did see the first four features in the theater when they came out, especially enjoying Star Trek IV: The One With The Whales. Then I wound up art directing Paramount's official Star Trek site for four years. Most recently, in 2009 I had to write Blu-ray trivia questions for the first ten features, which meant that I spent about 12-15 hours picking apart each movie, often frame by frame.

So I'm in the rare position of being a nonfan who nevertheless has a nearly Trekkie-level of knowledge about the franchise, and for this reason I was eager to catch J.J. Abrams' so-called "reboot" of the film series, with young fresh faces in the familiar roles of Kirk, Spock, et al.

What Abrams has accomplished with his cast and crew is a real crowd-pleaser, judging by the opening day audience I was with. Star Trek is packed with action and spectacular special effects, and is goosed by a fine score by the dependable Michael Giacchino and impressive production design by Scott Chambliss. You get the feeling that, this being the first Star Trek movie given a truly blockbuster budget since the bloated 1979 original, Abrams wants you to see every dollar on screen. So for the first time, the starships look huge, inside and out. No longer just simple sets for the bridge, engineering, and a few hallways! The attention to detail is phenomenal. This movie looks and sounds great.

That leaves two remaining issues: the cast and the story. Abrams has chosen his Enterprise crew well. Chris Pine wisely avoids any William Shatner impressions and makes for a good enough Kirk. Zachary Quinto is perfect as Spock. Among the rest of the cast, Karl Urban seems to elicit the most genuine joy for his spot-on impersonation of DeForest Kelley in the role of Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy.

As for the story... Well, every film has a weak spot, and for Star Trek it is its script. The plot involves a vindictive Romulan from the future named Nero (Eric Bana, whose A-list status must be truly over now if he's playing Star Trek baddies), an amalgam of Khan in Star Trek II and the villain in Star Trek Nemesis. He's out to get revenge on a very old version of Spock for reasons eventually explained, and so he employs some black hole/time travel science that I found confusing and unnecessary. In fact I strongly suspect that this plot device was developed primarily to justify Leonard Nimoy's involvement in the film. I don't think it works. It's not particularly compelling, and Bana's Nero is a bland, generic bad guy. Then there are some wild twists that declare rather too obviously, "This ain't your father's Star Trek!" Playing the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" is the least of them.

For the most part, though, Abrams doesn't give you any time to ponder over the plot holes as he rushes you from one fast-paced scene to another. I enjoyed Star Trek, but I will agree with some fans that not only does it ignore Gene Roddenberry's vision of a peaceful Earth (really more defined by the humane Trek of the '80s than by the rough and tumble '60s show), but that it doesn't bother plumbing the depths of who we are or what our place is in the universe. In short, it's a great roller coaster ride for two hours, but it fails to resonate beyond that.