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Laramie Movie Scope: Star Trek (2009)

Star Trek rebooted successfully

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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May 08, 2009 -- The venerable Star Trek franchise, which began as a TV series in 1966 has been successfully rebooted in a flashier, sleeker more modernistic style for the 21st century, but at the cost of destroying a very important planet in the Trek universe and disrupting a well-known future time line using techno-babble and a deranged time travel plot. Where are those temporal agents when you need them? Where was Jean-Claude Van Damme and the other time cops? They were asleep at the switch for this movie.

The plot of the movie hangs on the weird underpinning of a dreaded crazy-guy you've never heard of who wants revenge for something that has not yet happened. He gets his revenge by using something called “red matter,” a small drop of which is enough to destroy an entire world, but for some reason it doesn't cause any damage to the syringe that is used to extract it. On top of that, the crazed Romulan, Nero, who is behind this insidious plot is more intent on revenge than he is on saving his own world.

Nero explains that he will save his world in due time, after he destroys the Federation. Now wouldn't you think he would save his own world first, then go about the risky business of trying to destroy the entire Federation of Planets and their combined military power? After all, if he is defeated, he loses the chance to save Romulus. He is a Romulan isn't he? He has a wife and child back on Romulus, doesn't he? Why wouldn't saving Romulus, and his own family be his first priority? First things first. The plot cries out for an intervention. I usually like time travel plots, but this one is just plain stupid.

What the movie gets right are the characters, which are spot on. Best of all of them is Spock or rather, Spocks, since there are two in the movie, the old one and the new one, from different time lines because of the “paradox of duplication” aspect of time travel. The old Spock is Leonard Nimoy, the original one from the 1966 show. He appears in several key scenes. The new Spock is masterfully played by Zachary Quinto, best known for playing the villain Sylar in the “Heroes” TV series. He plays the logical Vulcan with just the right dash of humanity, including several lip locks with Uhura (played by Zoe Saldana of “Vantage Point”). James T. Kirk is played by Chris Pine of “Bottle Shock.” Dr. McCoy is played by Karl Urban, who played Eomer in the “Lord of the Rings” movies. Simon Pegg plays a comic version of Scotty. Anton Yelchin, who was actually born in Russia (in the last days of the USSR) plays Chekov. John Cho of the “Harold and Kumar” movies plays Sulu. Bruce Greenwood of “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” plays Captain Christopher Pike. Ben Cross and Winona Ryder play Spock's parents. Chris Hemsworth plays Kirk's father and Eric Bana (“Munich”) plays the bad guy, Nero. One of the big problems making a movie like this work is the casting, and the casting by April Webster and Alyssa Weisberg is brilliant. The cast all give solid performances, even though most of them don't have much screen time. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto have the toughest performances to pull off and they do so convincingly.

There are a couple of notable parts in this film played by people who have now passed away. Randy Pausch plays a member of the Kelvin crew early on in the film. Pausch, famous for his “Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” got his opportunity for this role because being on Star Trek was one of his childhood dreams. According to the Internet Movie Database, Pausch “was given a brief role in the film, complete with a customized Starfleet uniform (which he was allowed to keep) and a line of dialogue. For his time on the film, Pausch received a $217.06 paycheck, which he gave to charity.” To see Pausch's inspirational last lecture and find out more about this remarkable man, check out this link to Randy Pausch's web site at Carnegie Mellon University. The other person who passed away prior to release of this film is Majel Barrett, who appeared in many Star Trek episodes and has done the computer voices for many Star Trek movies and episodes. She was the wife of the late Gene Roddenberry, who originally created Star Trek. In addition to being an actress, Barrett was also a writer and produced the series “Andromeda” and “Earth: Final Conflict.”

In addition to developing good, solid characters, the screenplay also has some deft comic touches. Simon Pegg (“Sean of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”) has the best comic background of all these actors and he makes the most of his comic moments in the film, but there are plenty of other comic scenes in the film. The pace of the film is also good with action scenes from beginning to end. Some of the initial battle scenes in the film are mangled badly with too many closeups and not enough wide views to provide adequate context, but most of the action in the film is well-staged and the special effects are good. The look of the Enterprise is out of character with the original series. It looks like something about a century more modern than the Enterprise is supposed to be at that time, with futuristic touch-pad controls and gleaming panels, and a very different captain's chair. The Enterprise has been upgraded significantly. The transporter effect in the film is strange, a cloud-like spiral, sort of a whirlpool-like effect. It is different than any of the previous TV or movie versions of this particular effect. With its different look, different future history and a more romantic version of Spock, this version of Star Trek is blazing its own trail into the future and is breaking with the past. It looks good so far, but it really needs to fix that time line. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2009 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)