Star Trek

Posted on November 17, 2009 at 8:00 am

Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, and brief sexual content
Profanity: Brief strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Scenes in bar, drinking
Violence/ Scariness: A lot of sci-fi and action violence,
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: May 8, 2009
Date Released to DVD: May 13, 2013 ASIN: B001TH16DI

Get ready for this week’s “Star Trek” release with another look at this splendid reboot of the 40-plus year old “Star Trek” series. By boldly going where many, many have gone before, J.J. Abrams of television’s “Lost” and “Alias” has managed to make a thoroughly entertaining film that respects the fans but stands on its own.

Those who will nod knowingly (or shiver with excitement) at the appearance of Captain Pike or the reference to dilitheum crystals and those who remember that Sulu can fence will be reassured that any anomalies or inconsistencies with canon are cleverly explained away and by the appearance of one key member of the original cast. Those who are new to the franchise will be reassured that the story is self-contained. They may wonder why people applaud and laugh at a few in-jokes or the inevitable origins moments of first encounters between characters whose future interactions and relationships are as well known as their own (possibly better), but there is so much happening on screen they will not have time to wonder what they are missing. Indeed, there is so much that I have seen it twice already and look forward to seeing it again. I loved it so much I wanted to Vulcan mind meld with it.

Some things will always be true. The crewman you’ve never seen before who transports to a remote location with two of the lead character is not going to last long. In the future, women will all wear very short skirts and be extremely beautiful. All planets are congenial for human life, with just the right atmosphere and gravity. Fights usually occur on catwalks and other locations with precipitous drops. Kirk has to be hanging from a ledge at least three times and have an encounter with an exotic but very beautiful lady. And everybody speaks English, except when Uhura has to show off her translation skills.

Fans are in for some surprises, especially with one romantic relationship. But Abrams is very consistent with the original show’s tone and humanistic themes. Bad guy Nero (Eric Bana) would be right at home with Khan. The characters and the actors who portray them find the right balance, portraying rather than imitating. I say this with the most tender regard for the television series — every one of these performances is better than the original, especially Zachary Quinto as the half- human, half-Vulcan Spock, Chris Pine as Kirk, Karl Urban as the perpetually choleric McCoy, Simon Pegg as a cheerful Scotty, and Zoe Saldana as Uhura. And of course even the series’ biggest enthusiasts would not claim that the special effects were its strong point. This movie’s are stunning. The story wobbles a bit, especially when one decision with potentially catastrophic consequences is explained away as a life lesson for two of the characters. But it is funny, smart, exciting, purely entertaining and enormously satisfying, and sure to be one of the year’s most enduring popcorn pleasures. The cast has signed on for two sequels and all I can say is, live long and prosper and they can beam me up any time.

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Based on a television show DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Science-Fiction Series/Sequel

33 Replies to “Star Trek”

  1. This review literally gave me goosebumps! As someone who’s old enough to have been in front of my family’s old black & white “TV set” when this very different show called “Star Trek” premiered I was hopeful that this movie would deliver the goods. Star Trek’s arteries had becomed clogged and apparently Abrams, Orci and Kurzman have performed a highly successful quadruple bypass. Heck, it sounds like they’ve given it a whole new heart! I can’t wait to see this with my family.
    I grew up sitting with my father watching Star Trek, my daughters grew up watching, appropriately enough, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” sitting with me. Now that it has new life, it sounds like Trek will be around for my grandkids to do the same with my daughters. I know it’s silly, but that makes me happy.
    Thanks for such a great review, Nell! I really rely on you for information about what’s appropriate for different age groups. You are my movie guide and conscience and I want you to know just how much we rely on and appreciate these reviews.

  2. “A-“! A grade for the nebulae themselves! My eager anticipation for this movie is heightened even more. But I have to sit here at work, preparing church services, meeting with committees (how come starship captains never have to go to committee meetings?), visiting the weak and weary, and the best I have to work with is my flip cell phone – no phaser, no transporter, not a dilithium crystal to be had.
    With your endorsement and review in my mind, I will wait in line at the local IMAX. Thanks.

  3. I can hardly wait to see this – Leonard Nimoy was interviewed on the “Today Show” this morning, and Al Roker and Ann Curry really “geeked out” over him. (He looks great for a 78 year old – that bone structure!) I will have to watch Letterman tonight just to catch this.
    Between the universally-good reviews for “Star Trek” and the upcoming season finale of “Lost” I am looking forward to a fun weekend and week.
    There were so many ways for this “Star Trek” film to go wrong, it is a miracle that J.J. Abrams produced such a successful movie.

  4. I am so glad you write this column. You use the word “splendid” when I couldn’t think of the right word.
    I loved this movie so much that my language skills have completely deteriorated. A friend of mine once described herself as “Squeeing with joy”. This brings to mind a little girl, jumping up and down and clapping. That is how this movie made me feel.
    You also said “The characters and the actors who portray them find the right balance, portraying rather than imitating.” I wholeheartedly concur. I also enjoyed how the storyline created a way for these characters to have their own lives, with their own futures. (I don’t think that was a spoiler.)
    And to think, I never would have believed I would love a Captain more than Captain Picard. Now I do.

  5. I think this was probably the best Star Trek yet, better than even the stellar Wrath of Khan (which is saying a lot). I thought the only drawback to film was what felt like Abrams attempting to pacify any hardcore Star Trek fans – you know the ones, the guys who The Simpsons’ “Comic Book Guy” is patterned off of, people who don’t know their own birthdays but can recite exactly what Kirk was doing on XYZ stardate from memory and get upset if you put him on Vulcan at a time when he had been previously been established to be on Alpha Major – trying to appease those guys I think damaged what is otherwise an awesome film. If Abrams had just gone ahead and done a true reboot, make it clear that though he’d try to honor the history of Trek, he wouldn’t necessarily be 100 percent true to it (i.e., Batman Begins vs. anything Batman that had gone before), and thus leaving out the whole time-loop, alternate-reality stuff, it would be a nearly perfect movie. Instead, we got moments like the deus ex machina where old Spock explains the whole history/future to Kirk, which as many of the critics have noted and I completely agree, just felt way to convenient and ultimately dragged down the overall experience.
    I felt the same way about The Undiscovered Country, it was almost a perfect movie-going experience and almost the best Trek ever, but then they felt the need to tack on that hokey “pull into spacedock for retirement” ending that felt just that, tacked on. At least with the Spock deus ex machina, it wasn’t the moment we ended the film on, so that meant the film didn’t end on the sour note, it just got dragged down in the middle but was able to recover nicely.
    I assume that now that this new reality is established, the series will move forward as if this is the only film that currently exists in the Star Trek universe. Which gives me high hopes for future films in the franchise.

  6. Oh, loved your inclusion of Galaxy Quest as films you should see if you liked this one. That film was phenomenal. It did such a great job of skewering Star Trek and sci-fi in general, and at the same time serves as an excellent example of the genre as well.

  7. I watched the trailers for this movie and saw a woman taking off her shirt to reveal her bra, and what looked like a nude scene ( or close to it) where intercourse was about to occur. I would love to see this movie and take the kids, but due to this content will choose not to do so. Movie Mom, in the past you would have discouraged parents from taking teens to a movie with this content. I am concerned that perhaps you have seen so much worse stuff that you are lowering your expectations. Only by refusing to see movies with this content can we encourage movie makers to leave it out. If our children routinely see pre-marital sex, or hints to it, they will consider it a normal part of life. Please go back to the superior rating jobs you used to do!

  8. Thanks, Mary Ann. I appreciate your comments and the reason I tell parents so much about what is in a movie is so that they can make just these choices. I am sure you will not be surprised to hear that the trailer makes it appear that the movie has more sexual content than it does. The brief scenes you glimpsed are not extensive or explicit and the sexual content of the film is far less than what you see in most network television programs. For that reason, I felt comfortable recommending it for teens and middle schoolers, but I explained what was in the film so that parents can make the decision that is right for their families.
    My own view is that the violence in this movie is more of a concern than the sexual material and that in some cases, given the pervasiveness of the media messages about sex, you can counter them more effectively by discussing them frankly rather than attempting to avoid them. But I support each parents’ best understanding of their own families and their own best way to communicate their values.

  9. Mary Ann — I second Nell’s comments about the sex. What you’ve seen in the trailers is pretty much the extent of the sex/nudity that’s in this movie; they didn’t show you the beginning of something, they showed you the whole thing, pretty much in its entirety.
    I will admit that those moments sort of jump out at you. What you do see is in keeping with the character of James Kirk as most of us know him from the classic TV series, but the presentation of that part of his personality isn’t very “organic”, so it does feel oddly placed. But I again stress that the moments in the film are absolutely no more graphic than what you’ve already seen in the trailers.
    The violence, on the other hand, is a lot stronger. Not nearly as bad as a lot of movies that are out there, but it is much more graphic than any sex that’s in the film. If it were me, that would be the part of the film that I would be a lot more concerned with.

  10. I’ve loved Star Trek since I rented the Motion Picture out of curiosity while at my local video store. This one was second only to First Contact, and it was a seriously thin margin between them. Every scene was flawless. Every performance was fantastic, from Chris Pine to Chris Hemsworth (who I’ve seen a lot of in an Australian soap opera, Home and Away. He was far better here).
    Although, I have to say, a few of the inconsistencies couldn’t be explained by the alternate timeline, so they bugged me (Sulu fencing with a katana instead of a foil, 800 crew on the Kelvin when the Enterprise only ever had 430c Uhura ordering a Cardassian sunrise, etc).

  11. Once again, Ms. Minow does a fabulous job of extracting the underlying moral message of a film.
    My husband and 11-year-old daughter took me to see this for Mother’s Day! While not Trekkers by any stretch, we’re certainly fans of the original series, TNG, and DS9. And this was just a wonderfully fun, exuberant movie… taken to those heights by particularly good casting and acting. Seriously, after the show we couldn’t discuss enough how perfectly the actors embodied important nuances of the characters from the original, without even coming close to histrionics or parody. I’d seen promo photos of the actors and wasn’t really buying any of them, except for Spock… but by the end of the film I was completely convinced.
    Mary Ann, I’d just like to repeat what’s been said, and thank you for being a careful parent with well-thought-out guidelines. I wish more were like that; I can’t believe what my kids’ classmates are allowed to watch. We’re careful too. The implied sex scene, while not a completely comfortable moment (and it is just a moment) during which to sit next to a child, fits into the storyline of Kirk, and is certainly more modest than many of the promotional ads my daughter has run into while watching a perfectly benign show on TV (Bravo and Fox, I’m looking at you.) I remember those scenes from the original Trek, and my reaction at that age was the same as my daughter’s: “Ew, gross!” At this point I know she makes clear distinctions between behavior that is seen and behavior that is personally acceptable. She’s still not gonna see “Gossip Girl”… but Trek’s good. Anyway, Mary Ann, you’re cool, and please don’t change!
    Nell– I’d LOVE to be able to hear you talk about this film with Nick Digilio on WGN Radio. He hated it, but I couldn’t stay up late enough last night to hear his actual review. Hope I don’t miss your next guest appearance with him!

  12. I saw “Star Trek” this past Friday evening, and, much as I wanted to love it, I must admit I did not love it. I’m not going to say anything overly spoilerish, but I came out of the movie wishing “Star Trek” would be allowed to die a natural death.
    For fans of the series, especially classic Trek, (slightly spoilerish comment below) it messes with the Star Trek universe in a way that I thought was just wrong. (Nell, in case you post a discussion-oriented thread for those who have seen the film, I have much more to say about this.)
    On the positive side, I thought the cast was mostly excellent. I have other criticisms of the film which I will save for a discussion-oriented thread.

  13. I am with you Nell, it was fantastic! My husband and I went and he being a die hard trekkie, and I a child of the 70’s so trekkie enough were thrilled with what they did in charecter development. I did a momentary wince in the “sex scenes” (that didn’t amount to much) because of all the preteens around me but it wasn’t worth missing the whole movie at all. I am so happy to hear that they are doing 2 more. I had a thought during the movie that I had many times before in the other star treks that I wanted this world to continue awhile. I think I fell in love with McCoy. A lot of fun and very good timing since most of us need to pure entertainment.

  14. A great idea, Alicia! I will wait a bit for more people to see the film and then set up a “seen-it” discussion. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

  15. I love your comment, Toby! At Alicia’s request, I am going to set up a discussion topic in a few days (to give people more time to see the movie) and hope you will participate.

  16. As a 40-year Star Trek Fan who has seen all the movies & TV shows, read all the novels and even been to the first Star Trek convention in NYC, I can say it fulfills the pattern of ST movies with odd numbers being weak. Angry Romulans and time travel have been over used in ST movies. Plus the whole alternate reality thing invalidates a lot of great ST “history”. I even needed to get the comic book that explains the backstory to the movie to figure out some things. On the other hand, it was a great action movie and the new actors playing the old crew were very good except in a few spots.

  17. Thanks Nell,
    I appreciate your work tremendously. I have looked at many reviews in the past to see if movies are appropriate for my intelligent, curious, and young daughter.

  18. What a wonderful comment, Ray! Many thanks. Please return and comment often and let me know of what you and your daughter think about the movies you see. She is lucky to have you as a dad.

  19. I always turn to the “movie mom” for what is appropriate for my 11-year old to see at the theater.
    Thanks for providing us all with a great resource.

  20. We just saw the movie on IMAX last night. You can employ any sports metaphor you might like here – but I think Abrams did a magnificent job. He honored the Trek “bible” in as many ways possible, while introducing the possibility for a whole new franchise. He even added a new character – the stony faced “ewok” equivalent that tagged along with Scotty (still my favorite character). My wife and daughter – definitely not of the Trek realm – even liked the movie a lot. All that is left to wonder is how many scripts for the next installment Abrams has already had to read. There is more sex, but the violence is not even as bad in some of the original Trek movies (the worms that invaded Chekov’s brain in the first permutation were more gruesome – or I am more jaded)
    I know Dr Suess tried to find letters after Z. I think this movie deserves a letter before A.

  21. Zachary Quinto is not a better Spock than Leonard Nimoy. Nor is Chris Pine a better Kirk than William Shatner. However, as a longtime trekkie, I must say that I was very, very, very impressed with this film. In particular, I thought it was brilliant the way that they launched a new continuity by tying it to the old one (Spock’s previous appearance on The Next Generation showed him going underground in the Romulan Empire and that’s where the new film picks up, many years later). Only the devoted fans would pick up on that, but to me, it makes the film all the richer. Nothing can ever replace the original series, or the chemistry between the original cast, but this film opens up a whole new universe of possibilities and things can only get better from here.

  22. After seeing this on IMAX, I am not sure how it will fare on my TV. But I will be buying this DVD. Nell, I am curious about your take on the bonuses that are part of the marketing. I know we are a packaging susceptible culture, but this one seems to go over the top. I have to confess, I am tempted by the Starship DVD container.

  23. Great movie!
    However, I think the scene with Kirk’s uncle and brother should be left in. I don’t think Kirk’s mom, an ex-captain’s wife, would marry a drunk and left her kids with him. Keeping the story with the uncle is more convencing. ^_^

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