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December 2009

Star Trek on blu-ray

RATING: 9/10
review by J.C. Hartley

read another Star Trek review

Star Trek

Every bit as enjoyable on the small screen as in the cinema, perhaps because Star Trek is a cosy small screen story, a sort of feature-length episode to re-energise the franchise. The opening sequence has it all, drama, action, mystery and pathos; expect to weep.

James T. Kirk goes off the rails and steals a car, grows up quick, gets beaten up by space cadets, falls for a foxy lady and joins Starfleet. He foils a training scenario, clashes with its administrator Spock, and on the brink of a possible court-martial is whisked away to a war zone. He is jettisoned, rescued, promoted, beaten up some more, meets a host of folks who will be important to him, and saves the day. And Spock still gets the girl.

Chris Pine combines arrogance with charm as Kirk, Zachary Quinto is a quizzically interesting Spock, and Karl Urban is DeForest Kelley to the life. There's some fun and games with Chekhov's (Anton Yelchin, Terminator Salvation) accent and a sequence featuring spoken passwords, a sort of "I'm not getting that, did you say..." for the 23rd century.

Zoe Saldana is a gorgeous and intelligent Uhura, getting to do more than say "Captain, I'm frightened." See her soon in Avatar and comic-book adaptation The Losers. Simon Pegg makes a quirky choice for Scotty. The effects are sumptuous except for a gratuitous monster on the planet of Delta Vega. Now let's see what they do with the sequel.

Disc extras will vary through a probable host of different formats, but the basic set is director, writers, and producers' commentaries, A New Vision making-of featurette, and a full cast blooper and gag reel.

Star Trek on DVD

cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Eric Bana, Leonard Nimoy, and Zoe Saldana

director: J.J. Abrams

122 minutes (12) 2009
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Paramount DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 4/10
review by Steven Hampton

Star Trek

Despite both films borrowing themes or plot elements from the original TV show, it's often been noted that a significant difference between movie-series launch pad Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), and its eventual follow-up Star Trek: The Wrath Of Khan (1982), was that veteran director Robert Wise's effort was a serious attempt at proper science fictional cinema, while talented upstart Nicholas Meyer (who also made Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, 1991) was content with directing something that resembled a TV movie spin-off. Sensawunda grandeur vs piratical freebooting, swashbuckling, ramshackle adventuring is also evident when comparing this film with previous offerings derived from Roddenberry's brainchild.

As a perfect popcorn timewaster example of how this decade's uninspiring trend for palliative remakes, franchise reboots, vacuous re-imaginings, and flashy substance-free blockbuster B-movies it's easy to deride J.J. Abrams' empty headed Star Trek zero as an obvious successor to Meyer's jamboree-narrative style of movie-making. Yes, I'm a keen science fiction buff and a film snob, but I think the maligned genre of SF really deserves something that's a lot better than simplistic 'gosh-wow' action heroics, and plotting that's designed blatantly with 'signature' moments and twists on common Trek-isms to appease vexed trekkie fanboys, without risk of alienating the mainstream audience. In short, then, Abrams' cliché ridden film owes far more to the pulpy space fantasy of Star Wars (especially the faster-moving and less thoughtful prequels) than classic space opera Forbidden Planet.

Using a time-travel plot device, this manically brash new version of Star Trek takes a sideways jump, departing the established Trek milieu (of continuities so tangled, convoluted, and horribly muddled by decades of TV shows and sequel movies that any basic Trek encyclopaedia might read like some poorly edited byzantine text on surrealism), and leaping to a presumably copyright-infringement safety-zone of an alternative timeline. Now, any similarity to Star Trek characters (living or dead) of 20th century incarnations is purely coincidental. Abrams' movie presents us with a bastardised, entirely illogical, and wholly unconvincing account of the 'origin story' for the TV show's famous 'bridge crew'. Here, the starship Enterprise, still ungainly and now looking quite ridiculous in a gravity-well, is launched from planet Earth's surface. A nonsense mcguffin of 'red matter' epitomises the film's casual disregard for genuine SF tropes. With the young Spock (Zachary Quinto), meeting old Spock (Leonard Nimoy), we have a brazenly pragmatic fandom-friendly encounter which reflects upon the supposedly transitional epoch-shifting 'two captains' movie, Star Trek: Generations (1994), where aged Kirk (William Shatner), met Picard (Patrick Stewart), but here there's no sense of paradigm slippage, hardly a dramatic impact worth mentioning, and little sense of emotional propriety for the logic guru, either.

Although this average sci-fi movie may be excused some of its most damning faults because it does manage to provide a couple of hours worth of Trek lite fun, there is no forgiving its mediocrity that slides headlong into self-parody long before it ends. Critical reactions to Star Trek may fall into two camps, broadly resolved into those who wanted eagerly to enjoy this bright and shiny 'new thing' (going blithely where every spaceman has been before), opposing those (like me) who felt a numbing lack of interest in whether it actually existed or not.

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