When the previous two Next Generation movies received a less than stellar reception at the box office Paramount Pictures fell back on the old tried and true solution for a flagging franchise, the ever-reliable reboot, but this particular reboot would get a bit of twist as it wouldn’t be a simple case of recasting young actors in the iconic roles, instead, it would be a rather larger resetting of the entire Star Trek universe, one that would create an entirely new and separate timeline for this series of movies to exist, a universe that director J.J. Abrams would populate with an exciting new take on the classic Trek characters as well as a shit load of lens flares.
Time travel is certainly nothing new to the Star Trek universe but with this entry it’s not so much used as a plot device as it is a mechanism to create the filmmaker’s rebooted continuity. In the opening sequence, we jump right into the action as a strange and evil-looking ship is kicking the crap out of a Starfleet vessel. Onboard this ship is First Officer George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth), who is about to be a father to a baby who will become the legendary James T. Kirk, and it’s his final act of dying heroically, which not only saves his newborn child but the crew of his ship, is what causes the timeline divergence and sets up this whole Kelvin Timeline shenanigans. Without a strong father figure, a young Jim Kirk is a rebellious little shit who grows up to be a rebellious larger shit, this particular James Kirk (Chris Pine) hits on women, gets into bar fights and…wait a minute, that does kind of sound a lot like the Jim Kirk we all know and love.
Sure, this version of Kirk is a bit more brash and headstrong than the one depicted by William Shatner but we are also introduced to him in his pre-Starfleet days, so it’s not hard to believe that the Kirk we knew, the one who never thought twice about putting his dick in a green alien or punching a Klingon in the face, wouldn’t have spent time macking on the ladies and getting into bar fights before venturing to the Final Frontier. The characterization of Spock (Zachary Quinto ) is a little further off-model than that of Kirk, as not only do we get to see him punching out fellow Vulcan children, who make the mistake of calling his human mother a whore, but once he reaches adulthood we find him in a serious relationship with Uhura (Zoe Saldana), even odder is that his violent streak is maintained to the point where it doesn’t take much provocation for him to almost strangle Kirk to death.
The rest of the cast of characters are kept closer to their television roots, with Leonard McCoy (Karl Urban) being a crotchety med school cadet who hates space travel, while Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and Sulu (John Cho) are only given basic character traits – Chekov is easily excitable and Sulu likes to have a good swordfight – and when the group is eventually introduced to Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg) it’s pretty much treated like a family reunion, one with all the prerequisite in-fighting that one would expect from this crew. The USS Enterprise itself has the biggest character upgrade as not only does engineering look like a brewery – kind of fitting that Scottie would end up there – but the bridge looks like a glorified Apple Store.
The plot of this reboot is fairly silly, with the mysterious ship that killed Kirk’s dad turning out to be a Romulan mining ship from the future, one that is captained by a nasty Romulan named Nero (Eric Bana) who really wants to see Spock suffer. And why is this? Well, he blames Spock for the death of his homeworld and has chased him through time to get revenge, and sure, there’s stuff about “red matter” and chasing Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) through a black hole and it’s all rather ridiculous, but due to time delineation he arrives years ahead of Spock and is forced to wait around twenty-five years for Spock to eventually show up. Things get a little complicated when Nero encounters a young Spock and Kirk but being a time-travelling Romulan he rolls with the punches and gets his revenge mojo on. It should be noted that Eric Bana isn’t given much to work with here, he just broods a lot and occasionally snarls at the camera and his character literally makes no sense, nor can the very essence of his revenge plot survive even a couple of seconds of scrutiny. He’s evil and that’s about all we are supposed to care about.
And exactly what was Nero doing during those twenty-five years that he was waiting for Spock to show up? If you check out the deleted scene you learn that George Kirk’s kamikaze run against Nero had damaged the Romulan supership enough so that it ended up in the Neutral Zone, where he and his crew were then captured by the Klingons and imprisoned, that is until their eventual escape twenty-five years or so later. This scene was jettisoned from the movie because not only would this have needlessly extended the film’s runtime but it also raised more questions than it answers. Such as, “How did Nero and his crew escape? Did the Klingons park Nero’s ship in orbit around the prison planet so he could steal it back?” And if the Klingons had access to a vessel from the future wouldn’t that have resulted in the Klingons upgrading their own ships to the point where they’d have the technological superiority to take over the universe? All good questions that the screenwriters definitely didn’t want to answer, so with the Klingon prison sequences jettisoned we are left to wonder what in the hell did Nero do to pass the time.
• In the film’s prologue Nero’s futuristically advanced ship is damaged by a lone Starfleet ship but then twenty-five years later it is somehow able to destroy an entire fleet without so much getting a scratch on its paint job.
• Nero’s ship is clearly not OSHA approved as it consists almost solely of platforms and stairways that have no handrails or guardrails in sight.
• Why would Captain Pike give the rookie helmsman’s the job of announcing their mission over the ship-wide intercom, especially when said helmsman has a hilariously bad Russian accent?
• An angered Spock orders, Kirk, to be shoved into an escape pod and sent down to a neighbouring planet, but was that the only option, does this new Enterprise not have a brig?
• This ice planet must be from the “Plot Convenience” sector of space because Kirk’s pod lands near where the Romulans had marooned Spock.
• Nero blames Spock and the Federation for the destruction of his people and their home planet but don’t the Romulans have to harbour some of that blame for some of this? According to this script, they just sat around on their planet hoping somebody else would come along and stop their sun from going supernova, how about evacuating to somewhere safe while you wait?
• Why does Nero even bother with this whole revenge plan against Spock and Starfleet, he now has time to warn his home planet of the impending supernova, wouldn’t giving them a heads up be a better use of his time?
• Kirk is granted command of the Enterprise without even graduating from Starfleet Academy.
The cast assembled for this reboot all do remarkably fine jobs with what they are given, and with this re-inventing of these iconic characters, J.J. Abrams brings some of his temporal shenanigans from his days on Lost to the world of Star Trek, in what is a rather clever tactic that gives him relatively free reign when it comes to shaking up the canon of one of the longest-running science-fiction franchises out there. In this first entry of the Kelvin Timeline we get a fun and exciting space adventure that has much to please both Trekkies and average fans alike, but do yourself a favour, try not to think too hard about the plot, you could sprain something.
Star Trek (2009)
Movie Rank - 6.5/10
This may not have been the greatest reboot of a franchise, and the follow-up film Into Darkness makes even less sense than this outing, but the cast and crew still managed to cobble together a fun and familiar space adventure.