Star Trek (2009) Movie Review

Let’s face it, Trek hasn’t been Trek these last few years, so it was probably a good idea to go back and re-invent the wheel. Which is exactly what J.J. Abrams and screenwriters Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman (“Transformers”) have done with the blessing of the studio. And what they have done, by introducing a time-travel storyline, is to essentially remake the Trek universe for today’s audiences, complete with a young cast and the ability to do whatever they want in future Trek movies. Time travel stories have always been tricky business, but the Trek franchise has always been adept at delving into them while still maintaining their universe’s status quo at the end of each episode or movie. Not so here. Abrams and company have essentially nuked the Trek franchise, leaving them free and clear to tell whatever stories, and make Kirk and company do whatever they want from now on, free of the obligation to stick to Trek canon. Whether that is good or bad, and if the fans will come along for future installments remains to be seen.

“Star Trek” opens with the Federation starship U.S.S. Kelvin witnessing the appearance of a massive Romulan ship from what appears to be a space-time disturbance. As it turns out, the ship is captained by one Nero (Eric Bana), who has journeyed into the past to exact revenge against the Vulcans and Humans for perceived grievances committed in his timeline. During the encounter between Nero’s ship and the Kelvin, a young officer named Kirk is tasked with saving the day, which he does, but at the cost of his own life. Fast-forward to 25 years later, as a cocky and wandering James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) comes to realize that his life is going nowhere fast, and after the encouragement of Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), who witnessed Kirk’s father’s act of heroism 25 years earlier, decides to enlist in Star Fleet and make something of himself.

Three years later, Kirk is firmly entrenched in Star Fleet, with only one friend to speak off — the neurotic Bones McCoy (Karl Urban). Kirk has eyes for Uhura (Zoe Saldana), but she has eyes for someone else, namely her instructor Spock (Zachary Quinto), a half-human, half-Vulcan instructor at Star Fleet who Kirk, of course, has butted heads with. When Nero’s ship resurfaces over the planet Vulcan, Kirk, Uhura, Spock, and Bones are conscripted to staff Captain Pike’s ship, the U.S.S. Enterprise, which along with other ships are sent to investigate. As he did with the Kelvin, Nero makes mincemeat of the Federation ships, leaving only the Enterprise, thanks to the quick-thinking of Kirk, in one piece. When Captain Pike becomes a prisoner on Nero’s ship, Kirk and Spock must battle for control of the Enterprise in order to stop Nero, who is now headed to Earth with his indestructible ship…

If you’re one of those people familiar with Trek lore and were wondering how Abrams would maintain the status quo while still telling his kind of story, you needn’t worry – Abrams has no interest whatsoever in maintaining Trek lore. By using the time travel storyline, Abrams has essentially declared that he is putting down the Trek bible and beginning work on a completely new version. The movie signals its intentions in the very first sequence, when Nero’s ship travels into the past and wipes out the Kelvin and Kirk’s father along with it, forever altering Kirk’s future. When “Star Trek” becomes a hit (and all indications are that it will be), sequels to “Star Trek” will be free and clear to build on the first movie, while not necessarily constrained by all the Trek that’s come before them.

Fortunately for me, while I’m familiar with the Trek universe (a must for a lover of the sci-fi genre), I don’t own a single Trek action figure, movie, or comic book, and in fact the only piece of Trek merchandise that I do own is a Trek first-person shooter game that came out years ago based around the Borg. And truthfully, that was because I was more interested in FPS games than Trek. Because of that familiarity but not obsession with all things Trek, I easily embraced Abrams’ brave new world. Sure, the fact that the Enterprise’s engineering looks a hell of a lot like a huge warehouse then something that can propel a ship through space is somewhat silly, or that Uhura’s insults about Kirk having sex with farm animals is a tad out of place in a movie where the human race has developed intergalactic space travel. The fault, of course, lies in the filmmakers’ need to be so “different” from previous Trek that it has resulted in some truly odd contradictions in the world they inhabit.

“Star Trek” certainly fields an impressive roster of familiar and new names, especially young Chris Pine, who I’ve never even heard of until it was announced he was assaying young Kirk. Zachary Quinto will be familiar to TV viewers, having appeared regularly on NBC’s popular Heroes. Other names, like Zoe Saldana (soon to be seen in James Cameron’s “Avatar”), Karl Urban (“Doom), and John Cho (of the “Harold and Kumar” movies) have all been around, and the film should add to their profile. Urban, in particular, turns in a sparkling performance as the nagging Bones McCoy, and he so “gets” the role that whenever Bones is onscreen he steals the show. That’s a pretty impressive feat, considering how good Pine and Quinto are in their respective roles. Other notables include Anton Yelchin, young Kyle Reese in the upcoming “Terminator Salvation”, here playing a 17 year old Chekov. British comedian/actor Simon Pegg (“Shaun of the Dead”) shows up in the second half of the movie to liven things up as the slightly (okay, very) eccentric Scotty.

Despite its save-the-world plot, the core of Abrams’ “Star Trek” is the paralleling lives and eventual merging of Spock and Kirk. The film takes great pains to introduce them to us as if we’ve never met either men before, and truth be told, we’ve never actually met these guys in this way before. Kirk as the wandering rebel, gleefully getting into unwinnable fights, and Spock, the half-breed whose half-human side is used not-so-subtly against him at every turn. Leonard Nimoy shows up in the second half of the film to provide guidance to young Kirk, as if Abrams is acknowledging that yes, he realizes there is an entire Trek universe before he came onto the scene. At the same time, Abrams seems to be telling us that while he knows there is another Trek out there, his does not necessarily adhere to it.

“Star trek” is not perfect, of course, and the film’s biggest weakness has to be Eric Bana’s Nero. As with every Origins Story, the focus is on the hero and how he grew into his legend, so the villain comes and goes as the plot dictates. As such, Nero starts off the story with a bang, but literally recedes into the background of space until he’s needed again to advance the plot. There is pathos behind Nero’s actions, but they’re just not very well-reasoned. One day, ol Nero decides that Spock has to be punished for something he did in the future. Okay, great, revenge is always a good motivator for any story. Except as explained by Nero, I’m not entirely certain how what happened to Nero is Spock’s fault at all. So what are we left with? A pissed off Romulan with facial tattoos armed with a huge honking ship that looks like it could impale a planet. Which I suppose is good enough when all you really need is someone for the heroes to take down.

Also, I realize this is a younger version of Star Fleet, but when Nero’s lone ship arrives on Earth, there’s no one there to defend it at all? Are Star Fleet captains so dense that they couldn’t figure out, as Kirk immediately did, that Nero would be headed to Earth next? And even if they realized too late, are there really not a single ship on Earth left? Where did they all go? Of course, if there was an entire fleet of, you know, Star Fleet ships to protect Earth from Nero, it wouldn’t leave much room for Kirk and Spock and the young Enterprise crew to save the day all by their little lonesome. Granted, some suspension of disbelief is required to get to the requisite heroic conclusion, but it’s just a tad silly to think that there wouldn’t be a single ship left on Earth, or close enough to show up and put up a fight.

A chaotic and oftentimes illogical (as Spock would say) final Third Act notwithstanding, I still had a tremendously fun time with Abrams’ “Star Trek”. While the cutting edge special effects and big-budget production value make for a killer sci-fi movie, it’s really the characters that make “Star Trek” as enjoyable as it is. Without a doubt, Chris Pine is destined to become a major movie star, and that goes for Zachary Quinto as well. If “Star Trek” does as well at the box office as its reviews would seem to indicate, then more Abrams’ Trek is on the way. And with the caveat emptor that this is not your father’s Trek, but a whole new, other Trek franchise already established with Nero’s time travel shenanigans, who knows where Kirk and company will end up in part two, and who they’ll meet along the way. It should be fun to find out.

J.J. Abrams (director) / Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman (screenplay)
CAST: Chris Pine … James T. Kirk
Zachary Quinto … Spock
Leonard Nimoy … Spock Prime
Eric Bana … Nero
Bruce Greenwood … Capt. Christopher Pike
Karl Urban … Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy
Zoe Saldana … Nyota Uhura
Simon Pegg … Scotty
John Cho … Hikaru Sulu
Anton Yelchin … Pavel Chekov


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  • DJ Frankee Cee

    Is this movie’s audience foul mouth teens, pre-teens
    or only adults? Adults probably won’t care for the
    DIS-continuance of story line of the original series.
    I can’t picture Kirk behaving this way as a young man.
    Sorry. kirk was always dignified. (Rodenberry would
    probably hate what this director does to his characters.)
    I also see no need for the reference that mentions
    “sex with farm animals”. A totally unnecessary line.
    Uhura would never say such a thing as she was obviously
    a deciplined woman, that made her way through Star Fleet
    academy.
    It’s not for children so i can’t take my kids to see it
    even though I’ve treated them to all other aspects of
    Star Trek. They just would not understand the filthy
    content.
    However, foulmouth teens who rejected all the previous
    Trek movies and the TV series, (because it was not vulgar
    enough,) would probably go for this film.
    As a big fan of Star Trek, I will not waste my money
    on this bizzaro twisted, bastardized interpretation of Star Trek.
    You can see that they are only trying to appeal to the
    toilet mouth teens, who are easily thrilled by any profanity
    at any given moment. Just give them curses and implied
    vulgarity, and their hooked.

    • http://ummmmyeah trek fan

      well ive been a star trek fan for as long as ive been alive, im feeling mixed emotions about this movie as i love canon trek, and this kinda goes a little off the beaten path. also i do not care for the enterprise as i love and adore the refited enterprise. i feel the cast was pretty good, and the script was a rip off of the wrath of khan. as far as it being for foul mouthed teens that guy obviously goes to church every sunday and lives ina bubble. there was nothing too over the top and i dont think it ruins it for younger audience members. just be responsable parents and explain to your kids that the very very very few scenes with anything remotley vulgar should not be repeated. this star trek movie was created to be more real life. i dont know what he thinks the military is, but i can assure you that worse is said between soldiers, which is what star trek is about. members of starfleet are not dainty little prude people, they are soldiers and in this movie, teenage and early twenty year old young adults.

      • DJ Frankee Cee

        I never go to church, fool. I can take a 7 year old to see
        a movie where someone talks about “sex with farm animals”.
        But that would hav been a hefty shock if I had tried to
        bring my 7 year old and that occured. i like children forced
        into a sexual world. It’s happenning at an all too younger and younger age. BUT I was able to show my 7 year old all the Star Trek Filmation cartoons and the previous movies and the TV show
        without any concern. But nooo not this director was dead set on
        appealing to a younger toilet mouth mind set crowd.
        My 7 year old want to see cool special effects and NOT LT
        Uhura undressing. Make up your mind as to who your audience is.
        Like with the Superman 2 movie Chris Reeves is shown sleeping with Lois Lane. This is a childs character from a kids comic book.
        Even Margo Kidder said she was against Superman having a sexy sleep-over with lois. Then in Superman Returns we have to be comfronted with superman having a bastard child! Why the hell
        to kids need that. It’s a kid gendre.

        And as far as “not knowing what the military is” and “they are soldiers and in this movie, teenage and early twenty year old young adults” You don’t get command of a multi-billion dollar Star Fleet Battle Cruiser unless you are ATLEAST 35 to 40 years old.
        Are there any sub commanders or Aircraft carrier commanders
        under the age of 40? You can bet your snot nose little a$$ there are not. Geez, some people would take their kids to see a porn movie and give them a joint to smoke.

  • Frank Thompson

    This was a totally new and fresh Star Trek. I liked the fact that they showed the difference between a Kirk growing up with a father and not. Not having a father does change a young man. I have heard very few people complain about language. My wife works at an elementary school as a 4th grade teacher and has heard worse at school.
    This is a Star Trek for the future. The universe has been totally changed. Everything is new and fresh, unlike the old story lines.
    A lot of people will not like this because it is not the same old stories or the same old characters. These characters are a little more believable. If you have ever been in a collage bar you know that this was a tame version of a bar. Even an officer cadet would say worse things in a bar with their friends. I like how everyone interacts in different ways. I liked the original, I grew up with it and it holds a special place in my heart. I however got so sick of the sugar coated episodes that over flowed in the Next Generation.
    Let’s be real here, if you are a trekkie that does not what to have a fresh new Star Trek that is more up to date, then you will not like this. It appears that they are now making movies with real characters.

    I am not picking any fights here, but it is kind of a mean thing to say that teens that like this are toilet mouthed. A better thing to say is that someone does not like it rather than picking on a demographic. I took my kids to it and they enjoyed it. They also have been taught that things said in a movie or by others are not ok to just use because they have heard it. It means that my kids have asked me embarrassing questions, but I believe that my kids are going to be out in the real world, so they need to know what is unacceptable.
    So it does not matter what Star Trek you like, everyone can watch what they want.

  • JB

    summary of the movie: VROOM SCREECH ZZAP ARGH THUDD SCRASH

    film ending: BOOOOM

    so faithful to the original that vulcans even have pointed ears

    don’t miss Eric Bana’s killer look, even nastier than Mickey Mouse’s

    take a load of the cool young Spock, driving his galactic egg-whisk

    see Leonard Nimoy gone senile, which accounts for why did he take part in all this

    dig the black hole: not the one on screen, I mean the script of this Charlie’s Angel’s-like flick

    40 years ago the show was cancelled and then it resurrected: this movie surely potholes the myth, but then.. who knows?

    PS: Gene Roddenberry’s son must’ve been brainwashed, since on roddenberry.com he declares his father would’ve been enthusiast of this movie because “it respects the true philosophy of Star Trek”: WHAT?? 8-|

  • JEFF J

    I JUST SAW IT YESTERDAY AND SPEAKING AS A LONG-TIME STAR TREK FAN:
    Like most movies made recently, it was a special-effects extravaganza. Also like most movies made today, the plot seems like it was written for a comic book. Star Trek purists will be especially disappointed. The actors selected to portray the characters were OK, but the film suffered from an unbelievably moronic story line. I’ve seen better on television. Most of the episodes from the TV series played better, and I didn’t blow 10 bucks to see them. Gene Roddenberry probably rolled over in his grave. Let Rick Berman produce the next one.

  • madmax2

    Oh lighten up people…

  • DJ Frankee Cee

    Lighten up my a$$. As far as taking kids to see it, nope.
    Can’t do it. They can see everything else star trek, but
    this film is so mess-up kids can’t see it. Unless your raising a
    juvinile deliquent, that you are hoping will someday curse you out
    for not giving him a beer and a joint like you did when he was 10.
    This movie was to pull in a new audience and that audience is
    teens who giggle and thrill at every foul profane comment
    made even if it makes no gramorical sense what so ever.
    “O boy he said $hit, this is a great movie!” This movie director
    when for the “cheap” version, with the cheap thrills.
    I just don’t understand why they stuck the “STAR TREK”
    name on this piece of crap. Except for spock and the ship,
    nothing looks or feels like Star Trek.

  • Cookie M

    Several comments above someone mentioned that Star Fleet shouldrnbe compared to the “military” and the crew, to soldiers. That would bernperhaps true of the “dog faces” and non command personal.rnBut Kirk, Spock, Scott, Uhura, etc,… were Academy graduates.rnYou don’t get into the academy if your a schlep, and you don’t rngraduate with high honors if you are a punk. It takes discipline.rnKirk is a punk in this movie. No way could he be a Academy Grad.rnrnAs far as little kids seeing it, I think it would be a bad idea becausernof cursing and I also don’t think that children should have to seernKirk in a bed with a green woman. Of course Hollywood is so rn”anything goes” liberal minded (and greedy) that they would sayrntake your little kids. But Hollywood is really out of touch with the rnaverage American household.

  • Cookie M

    Several comments above someone mentioned that Star Fleet shouldrnbe compared to the “military” and the crew, to soldiers. That would bernperhaps true of the “dog faces” and non command personal.rnBut Kirk, Spock, Scott, Uhura, etc,… were Academy graduates.rnYou don’t get into the academy if your a schlep, and you don’t rngraduate with high honors if you are a punk. It takes discipline.rnKirk is a punk in this movie. No way could he be a Academy Grad.rnrnAs far as little kids seeing it, I think it would be a bad idea becausernof cursing and I also don’t think that children should have to seernKirk in a bed with a green woman. Of course Hollywood is so rn”anything goes” liberal minded (and greedy) that they would sayrntake your little kids. But Hollywood is really out of touch with the rnaverage American household.

  • Cookie M

    Several comments above someone mentioned that Star Fleet shouldrnbe compared to the “military” and the crew, to soldiers. That would bernperhaps true of the “dog faces” and non command personal.rnBut Kirk, Spock, Scott, Uhura, etc,… were Academy graduates.rnYou don’t get into the academy if your a schlep, and you don’t rngraduate with high honors if you are a punk. It takes discipline.rnKirk is a punk in this movie. No way could he be a Academy Grad.rnrnAs far as little kids seeing it, I think it would be a bad idea becausernof cursing and I also don’t think that children should have to seernKirk in a bed with a green woman. Of course Hollywood is so rn”anything goes” liberal minded (and greedy) that they would sayrntake your little kids. But Hollywood is really out of touch with the rnaverage American household.

  • Cookie M

    Several comments above someone mentioned that Star Fleet shouldrnbe compared to the “military” and the crew, to soldiers. That would bernperhaps true of the “dog faces” and non command personal.rnBut Kirk, Spock, Scott, Uhura, etc,… were Academy graduates.rnYou don’t get into the academy if your a schlep, and you don’t rngraduate with high honors if you are a punk. It takes discipline.rnKirk is a punk in this movie. No way could he be a Academy Grad.rnrnAs far as little kids seeing it, I think it would be a bad idea becausernof cursing and I also don’t think that children should have to seernKirk in a bed with a green woman. Of course Hollywood is so rn”anything goes” liberal minded (and greedy) that they would sayrntake your little kids. But Hollywood is really out of touch with the rnaverage American household.

  • Cookie M

    Several comments above someone mentioned that Star Fleet shouldrnbe compared to the “military” and the crew, to soldiers. That would bernperhaps true of the “dog faces” and non command personal.rnBut Kirk, Spock, Scott, Uhura, etc,… were Academy graduates.rnYou don’t get into the academy if your a schlep, and you don’t rngraduate with high honors if you are a punk. It takes discipline.rnKirk is a punk in this movie. No way could he be a Academy Grad.rnrnAs far as little kids seeing it, I think it would be a bad idea becausernof cursing and I also don’t think that children should have to seernKirk in a bed with a green woman. Of course Hollywood is so rn”anything goes” liberal minded (and greedy) that they would sayrntake your little kids. But Hollywood is really out of touch with the rnaverage American household.

  • Cookie M

    Several comments above someone mentioned that Star Fleet shouldrnbe compared to the “military” and the crew, to soldiers. That would bernperhaps true of the “dog faces” and non command personal.rnBut Kirk, Spock, Scott, Uhura, etc,… were Academy graduates.rnYou don’t get into the academy if your a schlep, and you don’t rngraduate with high honors if you are a punk. It takes discipline.rnKirk is a punk in this movie. No way could he be a Academy Grad.rnrnAs far as little kids seeing it, I think it would be a bad idea becausernof cursing and I also don’t think that children should have to seernKirk in a bed with a green woman. Of course Hollywood is so rn”anything goes” liberal minded (and greedy) that they would sayrntake your little kids. But Hollywood is really out of touch with the rnaverage American household.

  • Cookie M

    Several comments above someone mentioned that Star Fleet shouldrnbe compared to the “military” and the crew, to soldiers. That would bernperhaps true of the “dog faces” and non command personal.rnBut Kirk, Spock, Scott, Uhura, etc,… were Academy graduates.rnYou don’t get into the academy if your a schlep, and you don’t rngraduate with high honors if you are a punk. It takes discipline.rnKirk is a punk in this movie. No way could he be a Academy Grad.rnrnAs far as little kids seeing it, I think it would be a bad idea becausernof cursing and I also don’t think that children should have to seernKirk in a bed with a green woman. Of course Hollywood is so rn”anything goes” liberal minded (and greedy) that they would sayrntake your little kids. But Hollywood is really out of touch with the rnaverage American household.

  • Cookie M

    Several comments above someone mentioned that Star Fleet shouldrnbe compared to the “military” and the crew, to soldiers. That would bernperhaps true of the “dog faces” and non command personal.rnBut Kirk, Spock, Scott, Uhura, etc,… were Academy graduates.rnYou don’t get into the academy if your a schlep, and you don’t rngraduate with high honors if you are a punk. It takes discipline.rnKirk is a punk in this movie. No way could he be a Academy Grad.rnrnAs far as little kids seeing it, I think it would be a bad idea becausernof cursing and I also don’t think that children should have to seernKirk in a bed with a green woman. Of course Hollywood is so rn”anything goes” liberal minded (and greedy) that they would sayrntake your little kids. But Hollywood is really out of touch with the rnaverage American household.

  • Cookie M

    Several comments above someone mentioned that Star Fleet should
    be compared to the “military” and the crew, to soldiers. That would be
    perhaps true of the “dog faces” and non command personal.
    But Kirk, Spock, Scott, Uhura, etc,… were Academy graduates.
    You don't get into the academy if your a schlep, and you don't
    graduate with high honors if you are a punk. It takes discipline.
    Kirk is a punk in this movie. No way could he be a Academy Grad.

    As far as little kids seeing it, I think it would be a bad idea because
    of cursing and I also don't think that children should have to see
    Kirk in a bed with a green woman. Of course Hollywood is so
    “anything goes” liberal minded (and greedy) that they would say
    take your little kids. But Hollywood is really out of touch with the
    average American household.

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