Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Star Trek

Star Trek

Review by Patrick Hodges

It seems to be a recurring formula in Hollywood these days; when a tried-and-true movie character/franchise, that has developed a huge following and garnered enormous popularity through successive generations, runs out of steam or becomes stagnant, simply go back to the beginning and start over again.  It seems to have worked for the James Bond franchise, and it certainly worked for Batman.

Speaking of Batman… a very good friend of mine had the good fortune to attend a sneak premiere of Star Trek about a month before it opened across America, and, to say the least, he was over the moon about it.  He, like most professional critics it would seem, had nothing but great things to say about it.  The line from his impromptu review that stuck in my head the most as I was entering the theaters was “J.J. Abrams has done for Trek what Christopher and Jonathan Nolan have done for Batman”.  High praise indeed.

I am here to tell you now that it is praise well-deserved.  Except…

This is not merely an “origin” story, like Batman Begins, Casino Royale or even Wolverine.  Those expecting “Kirk and Spock: The Early Years” have a very big shock in store for them.  I won’t go much into details lest I spoil it for you, but what I WILL say is that the movie’s tagline “The Future Begins” would have been more apt if it had read “The Future Begins… Again.”

J.J. Abrams has assembled a lineup of actors who, though recognizable, are not household names.  This enables them to wrap themselves in these incredibly familiar roles, and make them their own.  And make no mistake: the way these actors portray their characters is letter-perfect.  Especially noteworthy is Zachary Quinto - who so closely resembles a young Leonard Nimoy it’s scary – who imbues the character of Spock with the perfect mixture of repressed emotion and stoicism necessary.  Also terrific is Chris Pine as the brash, headstrong James Kirk, and Karl Urban as the gruff-but-lovable Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy.  (Simon Pegg as Scotty is hilarious, though he doesn’t enter the picture until well into the film.)  And Eric Bana, virtually unrecognizable as the evil Romulan Captain Nero, manages to be unapologetically evil without reverting to being a two-dimensional cartoon character.

The visual effects are superb, and there is more than enough action to sustain even the most apathetic moviegoer.  Michael Giacchino’s score is also outstanding, and there is even a beloved tribute to the old “classic” Trek series during the closing credits – yes, that old Desilu music is back!

This is the best movie I’ve seen this year, and my most enjoyable movie experience since The Dark Knight.  Yes, folks, it is THAT good.  I am hoping for many, many more years of Trek, and am doing so with renewed vigor.

5 / 5 stars

Review by Mark Lengieza

This was quite an interesting experience for me, to say the least.  I have never been a fan of Star Trek.  I had never seen any previous film and never watched any of the television series.  However, with all of the positive things being said about this film, I couldn’t pass it up.
Well, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.  It kept me engaged throughout, I enjoyed the characters, the plot, and all the elements that went into it. I thought it was a great movie. I just couldn’t take it entirely seriously, because the film was essentially Star Wars.

To say that this film “borrowed” elements from the George Lucas classic series is quite the understatement.  The basic premise of Star Trek and Star Wars: A New Hope are very similar.  A young farm boy joins an alliance/federation whose responsibility is to fight evil across the galaxy.  The main villain has a weapon that can destroy a planet and plans to do so.  The young hero needs to work with another character who he originally hates yet becomes friends with.   They even have a scene very similar to one particular sequence in The Empire Strikes Back, but I’ll let you figure that one out.  Even the musical elements and a lot of the action of the film are taken from the Star Wars series.

Now, nothing about this is in any way a bad thing.  In fact, its what made me enjoy the film so much.  I LOVE Star Wars.  If they had stuck to the normal Star Trek style, I wouldn’t have gone to see it.  Changing it up and going with a much more Star Wars-style film made it a great movie, in my opinion.  That, combined with some really great acting from Chris Pine as Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock and Simon Pegg as Montgomery Scott (who stole the show, and needed more screen time).  Rachel Nichols also deserved a juicier part, as the most attractive green woman I have ever seen.
A thoroughly enjoyable movie, which made me wish that the newer Star Wars episodes had followed more closely to the older films, as this one did.  This really is what Star Wars Episodes 1-3 should have been like.  Not as good as the originals, but still great nonetheless. 
4 1/2 / 5 stars

Review by Don Hill

For some, Star Trek is a franchise; for others, it is a way of life.  We have all seen the documentaries and the footage of conventions filled with grown men dressed as Klingons and Romulans.  The TV show debuted roughly 40 years ago, and has been followed by four other series, and a dozen full-length films.  It is a cultural phenomenon and has inspired several generations (pun intended) of fans.  The newest incarnation of the series comes in the form of a feature length movie directed by JJ Abrams.  

The movie follows the origins of the original Star Trek crew as they assemble for duty on the newly commissioned starship Enterprise.  The cast assembles in a rather novel way for an "origin story" that, for once, is necessary.  It has been 40 years since this crew first appeared and the new generation of moviegoers most likely needed a refresher.  The origins of the characters are handled superbly, from Spock's early days as a Human-Vulcan "half-breed" to James T. Kirk as a reckless, charismatic lady's man (love the cameo of the green-skinned Orion roommate).  The rest of the cast are filled out nicely as well with Eric Bana, Karl Urban, and every one's favorite Brit, Simon Pegg.  Cameos by several of the original cast was also very cool.  Nimoy was simply AWESOME!
The story is almost too convoluted to allow an easy synopsis.  There is time travel, alternate realities, Romulan enemies, and bureaucratic red tape to deal with during the movie.  Nero, a Romulan captain, is out for revenge against the crew of the Enterprise.  The problem with this is they have no idea who he is or why he is trying to destroy them.  I am not giving it away either.  Watch the movie.

The effects are simply incredible.  The space battles are impressive and the scale of the film is enormous.  The first time you see a fleet of starships enter warp is a definite "Wow" moment.  The ship looks like the original Enterprise overall but the modern computer effects destroy any vestige of cheesiness leftover from the TV series.  Everything is crisp and bright when it needs to be.  The Romulan ship in contrast is gigantic and mechanical and looks like a set from Aliens, full of menace and dark corners.  Yet even with all these technical innovations, the FX sometimes take a back seat to the story and dialogue.  The movie is at times funny, exciting, tense, and exhilarating, all in the appropriate places.  The movie just works.

I loved this movie.  I grew up watching TNG and was never a huge fan of the original series (though I have seen most of them) due to the dated look of the sets and the terrible over-acting of the majority of the cast.  Okay, maybe just Shatner.  This movie makes me want to see the original series anew for all of the cameos and references the movie makes to that series. 

If you need an excuse to see a great Sci-Fi movie and you love space then check out Star Trek.  You will not be disappointed.
4 / 5 stars

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