Friday, 5 June 2009

Star Trek Review

Throughout its 40 odd year existence, Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek has had something of a chequered history, veering from camp (the original TV series), to pseudo intellectual (The Motion Picture) to Patrick Stewart’s mainstream exploits on Next Generation.

Now along comes new whiz kid on the block JJ Abrams (Lost, Mission Impossible III) and injects something long absent from the series: fun. The results are terrific.

Beginning with a striking and emotional opening sequence, in which baby Kirk is born while his father sacrifices himself by charging into a Romulan attack ship, commandeered by the ruthless Nero (a chilling Eric Bana), Abrams’ populist mix of character smarts and thunderous action immediately establishes a new tone (similar in fact to last years Iron Man) for the series.

The multi stranded story then picks up with the rebellious, fatherless Kirk showing a penchant for joyriding, while on the other side of the universe, young Spock is having trouble reconciling his half human, half Vulcan nature. Probably the most eloquent and engaging sequence in the film, the parallels between the two characters set up their collision course later in life, with Kirk played with boyish zeal by Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto giving the finest performance as the older, emotionally neutral Vulcan. Other pivotal Trekkies are also introduced in rapid succession, including the luminous Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and the perpetually frustrated Bones (Karl Urban, excellent), all on a crash course with destiny, the newly formed Enterprise and the villainous Romulans.

The central narrative in fact becomes so confusing when time travelling ships are thrown into the bargain that it reps the film’s weakest point – but it propels forward at such a ferocious and thrilling pace it hardly seems to matter. Refreshingly for a blockbuster, character is never compromised, the human element always being at the centre (especially the dramatic Kirk-Spock conflict).

Chock full of striking imagery (the opening reveal of the Romulan ship is magnificent), excellent effects and careful production design (the sleek white interior of the Enterprise has obviously been modelled after fan memories of the original), Abrams clearly has great respect for the franchise. Leonard Nimoy even gets a substantial role as opposed to a mere cameo.

Despite the absence of William Shatner and an underused Simon Pegg (as Scotty), the director demonstrates Spielbergian flair at fusing intelligent thrills with the latest in effects and entertainment. The film’s sense of humour is also delightful and remarkably confident, being worked into some of the busiest scenes. There’s also a pleasing sense of franchise expectations: when Pine’s Kirk finally takes up the Enterprise’s hotseat for the first time, there is the real sense of a self-aware revival thats also a legitimate series entry.

And when Michael Giacchino’s sweeping choral adaptation of the classic theme tune kicks in, the next franchise instalment isn’t only anticipated: it feels necessary. With so many more universes for Abrams and his crew to explore, even at warp speed it can’t come soon enough.

No comments:

Post a Comment