My friends are always shocked and appalled at just how much modern pop culture I seem to have missed out on. Music, movies, and a few decades worth of references and jokes all go over my head. Before this, I had never seen a Star Trek movie. It wasn’t avoidance; it was just a matter of no one ever sitting me down in front of a TV and saying, “Hey! Watch this movie!” I had seen an episode or two of Next Generation once while wasting time in my roommate’s room, but that was about it. I liked that episode or two (because Patrick Stewert is kind of awesome), but it wasn’t enough to make me go out of my way to see more of it, especially since I don’t have a TV myself.
The aforementioned roommate is actually a closet Trekkie, but I guess “closet” negates any evangelical aspect. Still, roomie’s [also Trekkie] parents were in town last weekend and offered to treat, so why the hell not? Let’s go see a movie. Who cares if it’s finals weekend?
STORY & PACING – The story starts off hard and fast, but it’s straightforward and easy to follow. The introduction builds up rather quickly, advancing through several years and characters in a short span of time, but despite me literally not knowing anything about this extensive franchise before walking into the theatre, I was never lost or confused. Everything that happens is intriguing, and the fast pace keeps you continually entertained — there is never, ever a dull moment and everything connects together wonderfully. Star Trek takes itself seriously, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of hilarious shenanigans either. The kind of hook the movie has is impressive in itself, but I was mostly happy with the fact that I could follow it perfectly so well without any prior knowledge — something that I always worry about for movies with established fanbases.
Of course, I couldn’t personally catch all of the bones they were tossing the existing fans, but the others I saw it with definitely could and spent the car ride back from the theatre raving about it. So not only was the movie completely accessible to a new fan, but older fans had the pleasure of catching tons of references and seeing their favorite characters on a shiny new screen full of shiny new effects.
As the story goes along, a few plot holes inevitably come up because of the nature of the story, but the excellent pacing disguises those holes well enough that you don’t really think about them until well after the fact. That makes the story solid enough on its own, especially since it’s a very character-driven narrative. What actually happens to the characters is secondary to their personal development and emotional pull you get from them, and those are always my favorite kinds of stories.
CHARACTER & ACTING – My friends tell me that the casting job for this movie was amazing. They had the previous versions of the characters to consider, but even without knowing those, I could tell that the casting job here was amazing. As far as physical appearances go, I could kind-of recall what the original actors for Spock and Sulu looked like and found their new actors to be incredibly impressive, fitting, updated versions of their previous incarnations. I didn’t bother doing post-movie comparisons of the others since I seriously had no knowledge of what the others looked like (yes, including Shatner’s Captain Kirk because I lived under a really, really big rock). Appearance isn’t as important as personality anyway, right?
My friends tell me that the acting was pretty spot on as well. My roommate mentioned Bones being a particularly well done portrayal, and numerous others cite Spock. For me, I just enjoyed the characters and acting for what they were. All of the actors portraying characters aboard the Enterprise succeeded in making their roles engaging and interesting. I would have liked to know more about Kirk’s childhood, but his development from late teens and onward was very well done, especially considering how little of it we actually see. Spock is probably the most interesting character in the movie though — we see more of his childhood and consequently, his conflicts and personality are easier to understand and relate to. (Halfling characters are also supremely sympathetic by nature.) Nevertheless, Spock and Kirk mature and grow equally as characters, and their interacting is probably what makes the movie’s finale as awesome as it was.
The only character that I had issues with was Captain Nero, who contributed most of the plot holes in the movie thanks to the huge gaps in his logic. He was too much of a stereotypical villain — the awkward timeframe made the beginning of the movie more forgiving than the end in terms of motivation, but it was just all around pretty plain. Still, with so much of the movie focused on the development of Kirk and Spock, the fact that they had quite the lacking antagonist wasn’t that important.
The rest of the supporting cast was a lot of fun. Having an Asian, a black woman, a Scot, and a Russian on board was hilarious in its own right, especially since the former two had outrageous accents. It’s a cast that’s reminiscent of the time the franchise was conceived, but the humor that comes with such a cast is one that has successfully transcended time. All the stereotypes were positive and tongue-in-cheek stereotypes, making all the characters positively endearing. Good times.
ART & ANIMATION – This is a beautiful movie. Most of the special effects looked amazing without being so over-the-top and extravagant that it distracted you from the issues at hand. The ships all looked great; the lasers, the warping — seriously, everything looked gorgeous. The only two things I can think to nitpick are 1) lens flare made a huge comeback in this movie. But if you wanna technical, sunlight would be a helluva lot more prominent in space, so it makes sense there?? Sorta kinda maybe? And 2) the Romulan ship looked similar to many casual 3d renders I’ve seen people make — it’s mostly just shininess with very little comprehensible structure. The zoomed in views of the ship looked markedly better, but it still didn’t make a lot of structural sense to me. Oh well. Aliens, right?
The aliens themselves were all well integrated into the cast. Whether or not they were important characters, none of them seemed too out of place or particularly ridiculous. Like many other things, I understand that a lot of the aliens were probably cameos, thrown out as treats to the established fans, but for a newcomer, these things weren’t distracting at all. Star Trek took itself seriously, but that didn’t hurt it one bit. Yeah, most of the important races are just humans with funny ears, but believability was never an issue. It looked great.
MUSIC – Excellent. Star Trek has one hell of an epic soundtrack. For movies with lots of action, it isn’t unusual for me to be so engrossed in what’s going on that I completely forget to take note of the music, but the soundtrack here was impossible to ignore. It was very strong and almost overpowering for some scenes, making everything that much more amazing to watch and look at. The music for the less adrenaline-pumped sequences is a little less memorable, but such is the nature of the beast… not that there were all that many scenes that weren’t action anyway.
OVERALL – Going into it, I already knew that the general consensus amongst fans was that this movie was fantastic, which would likely translate well for a newcomer. Despite that though, it’s always weird walking into a movie blind — I don’t know what I was expecting. Suffice to say that I was blown away. I wanted to see the movie again as soon as the credits started rolling. The positives far outweighed the negatives here, and I would recommend this to anyone.