Movie Review: Star Trek
By Matthew Huntley
May 14, 2009
Star Trek (2009) would have made a good flashback episode for the 1960s TV series, but as a standalone feature, its value remains questionable. The movie makes several nods to the classic show, which should gratify die-hard fans, but will this updated prequel tell them anything they didn't already know? Most of the time, the movie feels like it was made just to remind viewers what made the series so special. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and it can be a good way to bring old and new fans together, but at the end of the day, what's its lasting effect?
I'll admit I'm only a mild Star Trek fan. I've enjoyed most of the shows and feature films, especially when they brought new developments and insights to the Star Trek mythology. That's why I wanted Star Trek to do more than just point out what made those franchises memorable, whether it was the catchy one-liners or distinguished characters. I wanted a complete, standalone picture with an original story rather than a modern effects extravaganza with a stock Star Trek plot, which, unfortunately, seems to be the case here.
The movie is supposed to tell us how the classic saga all began. As the movie opens, a Federation vessel called Kelvin is preemptively attacked by Narada, a Romulan ship headed by the evil Captain Nero (Eric Bana). When Nero demands Kelvin's captain (Faran Tahir) board his ship, George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth) is left in command. George and his wife Winona (Jennifer Morrison) are expecting their first child, but after Nero kills Kelvin's captain, George knows that he must sacrifice himself and the ship to save the entire fleet (he follows the adage, "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few"). Before he does, his wife tells him the name of their only son - James Tiberius Kirk.
Years later, in Iowa, the young James has turned into a punk rebel - he steals cars and performs death-defying stunts, all while resisting authority. Like his father, he's also a genius, and by the time he's an adult, James (Chris Pine) is hitting on new Starfleet recruits like Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and picking fights in bars. Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) of the USS Enterprise, who wrote his dissertation on the Kelvin, reminds Kirk of his father's sacrifice, which is apparently all it takes to convince him to join Starfleet. On the first day, he befriends the cynical, but ultimately lovable, Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy (Karl Urban). "Geez, man."
In a parallel story on the planet Vulcan, a young Spock is teased by his classmates for having a human mother (Winona Ryder), which is considered highly unorthodox and illogical by Vulcan standards. Spock responds with unprecedented outbursts of emotions and starts throwing punches. When he grows up, the Vulcan Science Academy praises Spock (Zachary Quinto) for his exceptional abilities despite his human "disadvantage," so he turns them down and joins Starfleet as a professor. He develops the classic Kobayashi Maru test, in which training captains must face a "no win scenario" and test their willingness to accept certain death. Any avid Star Trek fan knows Kirk doesn't care for "no win scenarios" and manages to cheat the exam.