So I feel like I’ve been lacking when it comes to movie reviews. To be honest, I’m not much of a movie person. Or rather, I do watch movies, but just don’t watch them that often or watch them right when they release. Hence, when it comes to doing movie reviews, sometimes I feel like I’m beating a dead horse because by the time my reviews come out, the movies have lost publicity and faded into the deep interior of people’s minds. But, I really do enjoy watching and writing about movies, so I continue to do it anyway. Anywho, today’s topic is the 2009 reboot movie Star Trek.
Firstly, I’m not the biggest trekkie, but I do have a soft spot for this particular series. The original Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation were shows that my grandfather really enjoyed watching. As a kid, I would sometimes join him and watch them. Now most of the stuff went over my head (I was quite young!) but I do have some good memories of the series. However, my affinity for the series mostly comes from the fact that it was something my grandfather and I did together and something that he enjoyed. So I always associate Star Trek with my grandfather and good memories. Hence when I heard about the 2009 reboot, I was fully on board. And to my absolute delight, when I saw the movie, I fell further in love with the series.
The movie plot, for those of you who’d like some refreshers, basically serves as a prequel/ origin to the eventual Star Trek series. However, it also isn’t quite a *prequel* to the actual series, as the movie sets up an alternate timeline. So while the characters remain quite similar and some plot-lines are recycled, the character origins and development are actually different. So for example, in this film, Captain Kirk actually grew up fatherless and his motivation for joining starfleet was to win a bet, vs. in the original series where he grew up with his father and joined because he was genuinely interested. Similarly Kirk and Spock don’t start out as good friends, but have a rather antagonistic beginning.
Which brings us the the general story in the movie. Since it’s been some time since the movie released, I’m not going to write out a detailed, scene-for-scene description. I’ll basically just summarize the gist. In essence, the origin stories for both Kirk and Spock are laid out (Kirk being a fatherless rebel needing direction and Spock dealing with bullying over his human mother), with the two beginning an antagonistic relationship. It’s through a dangerous situation (rogue Romulan ship from an alternative-timeline future bent on destroying the planets Vulcan and Earth), with a little help from the alternative-timeline Spock (who reveals the backstory of the dangerous situation and the subsequent alternative-timeline that has been created), that the two become friends. Their friendship, and relationship with what would become the original Star Trek crew, is what finally defeats the dangerous situation (pretty cool, climactic scene wherein everyone participates). The movie ends with their formation and Spock’s famous dialogue to venture into space “where no one has gone before.”
As you can tell (hopefully LOL), it’s a super fun movie to watch. It’s basically an adventure film in which the good guys go through some tense and bonding moments before eventually winning over the bad guys. Pretty typical in its plot-line. And yet, the cast, character development, script, and humour elevate it. It actually reminds me a bit of the later Marvel movies, where the fun quotient adds another layer to the movie. And I think this also relates back to the original essence of the Star Trek movies/ shows. From what I’ve been able to glean from observing my grandfather, watching parts of the series, and reading online, one of the biggest draws to Star Trek, has been the sense of discovery the series promotes (along with the science). In each episode, Captain Kirk and his crew discover something new and experience new adventures. It’s fun. Things are always happening. And the film does exactly that. The crew experiences a new situation/ adventure and bond over it. I think this film functioned really well as a starting point for the series. Not only could new fans get into the series, but older fans were also serviced with the idea of an alternative-timeline (giving the writers some leeway with situations, which also serve to conciliate head-strong fans who demand 100% accuracy).
On another note, I think the casting was also really great. I was initially a little hesitant over Chris Pine’s selection, because prior to this movie, I had only seen him in The Princess Diaries 2. I wasn’t too sure as to how he’d take to Kirk. However, I was also a little scared that he would try to emulate William Shatner’s extremely over-exaggerated acting in an effort to pay homage. Shatner is a good actor (I’m guessing b/c I’ve only ever seen him in Star Trek), but my god, his Captain Kirk, while smooth with the ladies, was also ridiculously zealous in his reactions. To my thankfulness, Pine declined to follow Shatner’s acting style for Kirk and instead did his own thing, which translated wonderfully onscreen. I really enjoyed Pine’s take on Kirk, as being this rebellious kid who needed direction. He really shined in this role and captained the movie wonderfully. All the other characters were great as well, Zachary Quinto as Spock, John Cho as Hikaru Sulu, Karl Urban as Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy, Zoe Saldana as Nyota Uhura, Simon Pegg as Montgomery Scotty, Anton Yelchin as Pavel Chekov, and even Eric Bana as Nero.
Which also brings me to another issue: diversity. Growing up in an extremely multicultural country, diversity (and to another extent representation), has always been important to me. And one of my favourite things about this movie and of Star Trek in general, was how diverse it was. You had people of different races all playing an important role. As a woman of colour, this is a message that brings me great joy. Your talents aren’t determined by your skin colour or anything; it’s who you are. And Sulu, Uhura, and Chekov really represented that for me. It doesn’t matter that you’re a person of colour, or a woman, or have an accent; as long as you can get the job done, you’re good to go. In today’s climate, as much as we’d like to celebrate our diversity and sing kumbaya while sitting in a multicultural circle, the truth is, racism is still quite rampant in our society. I mean, in the United States alone, Black Lives Matter is a glaring example. Even in other parts of the world, Islamophobia is widespread. And these issues are also represented on-screen, wherein people of colour significantly feature less in films and if they do, they are often reduced to being caricatures or reinforcing stereotypes. Yet, Star Trek goes against the grain and represents a more hopeful future/ reality. Not only are people of colour/ minorities represented on-screen, but their roles are significant, regardless of race. Of course, the diversity ratio can be improved, but considering how the series was created way back in the 1960’s and still managed to be so diverse is incredible. Especially when you compare to how we face issues with diversity today.
However, with all my positives for the film, I will say that it is not perfect. The one thing that really annoyed me, was the constant use of lens flare to make scenes dramatic (?). I mean, cinamatography on the whole was decent. The movie was lit brightly which, in my opinion, added to the light, fun feel of the movie. However, there were also constant lens flare. At some point, it just became too much. This may in fact be a critique of the director because apparently he has done it often? And from previous movie watching experiences, I know that you do not always need lens flare to display dramatic moments. There are different ways to shoot scenes, angle your camera, etc. to achieve a dramatic flare. Yet, in this film, I counted over twenty different lens flare scenes, before I stopped counting. I mean, come on. And I was also a little peeved at Uhura’s costume. I mean, not only does the mini skirt uniform she wears look uncomfortable, but it also begs the question of practicality. From prior skirt-wearing experience, I can tell you with 100% guarantee, that pants are much more versatile and facilitate movement in an easier fashion than skirts. I just, I found it ridiculous that everyone was wearing pants except her. I also wasn’t quite a big fan of the gratuitous semi-nude shot of Uhura undressing. I just, it felt so unnecessary and almost like it was servicing fan-boys. Ick. But on the whole, it was definitely an enjoyable movie and a great starting point for new fans to get sucked into!
My rating: watch it to be sucked into an awesome space-y and science-y adventure!