J J Abrams is the man. He is, really. He has taken a completely stupid script with some utterly dumb ideas (no surprise considering Orci and Kurtzman, the men behind the abominable Transformers 2
, are at work here), and done some strange voodoo magic with it. As a veritable head chef of his craft, Abrams has brought forth all his arcane powers of director-hood, and made not just a fun movie, but a special film that stands out in the cornucopia of bad Star Trek films, nay bad summer action films in general, as a shining beacon of quality entertainment.
Starting with a marvelous (not to mention absolutely sumptuous looking) opening, and running with the absolute wunderbar tone that he sets, Abrams quickly establishes that this film is classic Star Trek through and through. The new crew is great, it works most agreeably, and the music, the photography, and the film-making
in general all service to bring you a tasty piece of entertainment that can be enjoyed in the now, and savoured for the future.
Don't get me wrong - it is definitely junk food equivalent. The task, it seemed, was to deliver a great opening film, almost like an elongated pilot episode, and establish a great Star Trek cast and crew to set it up for bigger things. Abrams and his actors have done that admirably. Make no mistake - they have worked a minor miracle with that script.
Which, oh Lord, is it bad. There is no good damned reason why it relies so heavily on coincidences. Everything is set up so it is a happenstance almost as if the only real people driving the narrative are the script writers. What a horrible, $#!tty idea. In one sequence, Kirk is marooned on a snowy planet, where he seeks refuge in an ice cave, where lo and behold! Spock from 100 years in the future has just been waiting. They then find Scotty the equivalent of two city blocks away.
The whole film is like that - every crew member is revealed in one reveal after another, the overall feeling being that of one huge coincidence. All of these people happen to be together on that ship because of one or the other quick concurrence.
In the face of such villainous writing, Abrams does what Bay could not - he makes the film dance. Every actor he has at his disposal is great, and nails the underlying essence of the great characters completely. John Cho's take on Sulu is quite in keeping with the more enlightened times we live in, and Simon Pegg goes to a different place with his Scotty, but they are both awesome. Zoe Saldana as Uhura is suitably confident and sexy, and I don't care what you say. Karl Urban is the real surprise as Bones - he gets the original character and
the actor, then delivers his layer on top of it with enough panache to spare.
Zachary Quinto has it the hardest - not only does he have to contend with fans' memories of Spock, Leonard Nimoy is actually in the film as living proof of his greatness. Still, Quinto brings in a new layer of seething intensity that is needed for this character today, and delivers a solid performance. Chris Pine, after a start that threatens to get the tone wrong, just hits it out of the park. He sells us on his entire journey from man to captain, and when in the last scene he comes back on the Starship Enterprise, he manages the impossible - he makes you forget there was a Shatner version of James T Kirk.
The film itself is like that. By the time the end credits roll, they have established a new Star Trek continuity, and haven't broken a sweat. This is a supremely confident version of Star Trek, and it shows. The characters are treated with care, and the adventure is suitably grand. All the action comes as a result of the story, the characters, and never overstays its welcome.
Abrams has gotten rid of his Bollywood-style framing, too - and delivers an action adventure as only Hollywood can. The space battles are grandiose, and the framing of every shot is lovingly crafted to give us that feeling of something bigger. For a space travel based film, this one does remarkably well in selling its sense of space. This is some brilliant piece of directorial craft, and Abrams looks like he is finally coming into his own.
The stupidity of the script always rears a head - the film has a villain who is basically a dude on a mining ship who hates old Spock and travels back in time by mistake - but Abrams keeps it in control. What is more, despite niggling questions now, I don't recall thinking about them while watching the movie. This is because the pace of the film is kept to near Mach 5 levels. Moving at a breakneck pace, the film is continuously entertaining and fun, and that is ultimately why we watch Star Trek.
I admit I have never been a huge fan, but watched it on Doordarshan way back. This film nails that essential Trek feeling, though, and for that it deserves to be watched. If you have never watched anything Trek, this movie is a fantastic series reboot, and will serve great as a first story for you. If you're a long time fan, be prepared for the awesomeness ahead. And if you are like me, a casual fan, you may want to complain about the script, but it won't give you the time from the brilliant pacing, the great acting, the eye-dazzling visuals and the great, great music.