[No plot spoilers]
I’ll start with the bottom line: I loved it. If possible it’s better, if not as inventive as the previous movie in the reboot released in May 2009 and reviewed by me here. I’d call it the most enjoyable movie so far this year, though I may be biased as I’ve been watching Star Trek since the summer previews in 1966 and I’ve seen this movie twice in the opening weekend.
It was delicious, like a fine steak dinner — juicy, tasty, enough to sink your teeth into — with lots of extra trimmings. It starts on the run and has non-stop action that builds to several crescendos. This is more action-packed than any of the previous 11 Star Trek movies, and had a feel like the first Iron Man movie (not the current one) or the third act of Marvel’s The Avengers movie. It’s a roller coaster ride beyond any Indiana Jones movie. In an IMAX 3D environment, it can be a bit overwhelming. But there are a few jaw-dropping show stoppers.
As in the previous film, J.J. Abrams indulged his predilection for:
- Crews dropping from above by ropes
- Bodies flying through space
- Gun fights with percussive phasers
- Starships moving up through fluids and clouds
- Men in spacesuits shooting from ships
- Women in underwear
- Men leaping from great heights
- Lots of lens flare
There were lots of touch points to previous sci-fi:
- Two references to a famous science fiction writer
- The movie RoboCop
- Oblique reference to the original Tron (in the closing credits)
- Lots of in-jokes and references to previous Star Trek episodes and movies in its almost 47 year history that I’ve written about here.
Recognizing that the rebooted series represents an independent and parallel timeline, it is still satisfying to seen the similarities to the original, and indeed greater fidelity to it as the actors became more comfortable in their second outing.
- Scotty (Simon Pegg) sounds more like the original, James Doohan this time. If you watch carefully, you can see Doohan’s son Christopher as a transporter technician, as we was in the previous film.
- Uhura (Zoe Saldana) is more three dimensional though she lacks the maturity that Nichelle Nichols brought to the role. But she gets a much larger role than just “opening hailing frequencies.”
- Spock (Zachary Quinto) embodies the character better this time, showing a greater sense of humor, though he still cannot pull off obscure condescendingly sarcastic insults without sounding whinny. Leonard Nimoy always did it better.
- Kirk (Christ Pine) stands on his own. He plays the role without imitating William Shatner and it works. He often carries it based on charisma and bravado.
- Checkov (Anton Yelchin) is even more confident than before and given more responsibility.
- Sulu (John Cho) gets a chance to be inscrutable with his greater responsibility.
- McCoy (Karl Urban) is even more grumpy — “I’m a doctor, not a torpedo technician” — and yet even funnier. He’s the jewel of the cast creating a touch point to the Old Guard of Star Trek characters unlike any other.
- Pike (Bruce Greenwood) is even more father-like in his mentoring of Kirk.
- John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) as the adversary he has a voice that is both mellifluous and malevolent. Deep, resonant and foreign — his voice is both seductive and threatening. We love him in the television show Sherlock and he gets to be logical. Ironically, in the movie Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Spock states that Sherlock Holmes is one of his ancestors.
- Wicked cool new D4 class Klingon battleships.
- We finally get to see Jefferies Tubes on the Enterprise, like the original show.
- New warp signatures when the USS Enterprise jumps to faster than light speed.
- London: The current tallest building on the horizon is St. Paul’s but it’s featured as tiny compared to other buildings that look like the Gherkin on steroids.
- San Francisco: We see Starfleet Academy, HQ and more, with the Golden Gate bridge prominently featured, cable cars, along with the dwarfed Trans Am building — the tallest building in the 21st century — as well as the Ferry Building.
- Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories: the Laser Bay at the National Ignition Facility that has a system of 192 laser beams was used for parts of the interior of the USS Enterprise. In the original Tron movie, the hero Flynn was sent to “the grid” with the Nova-Shiva laser at LLNL.
You’ll like it if: you enjoy action, science fiction or Star Trek.
You won’t like it if: you don’t like space, aliens from other planets, or lens flare.
Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood culture vulture