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Star Trek (2009)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

STAR TREK (2009)

Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Eric Bana, Bruce Greenwood, Leonard Nimoy

Written By: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman Directed By: J.J. Abrams

The Short Version

After more than four decades and lots of spin-offs, sci fi’s grandest franchise reboots.

It’s a visual feast with adventure in every frame.

Star Trek is very well cast, and the callback references are nicely done.

This is why we ignore things like a lame villain and a preposterous plot.

Just kick back and enjoy the wild adventure that is the re-imagined Star Trek.


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

SWISS FONDUE FLAMBE.

A classic is set on fire for show and for the sake of something new.  You know that what’s underneath all of that cheesy melted goodness is, at its heart, full of holes, but do you care?  Probably not; nor should you.  It’s yummy.  Enjoy it.


Pairs Well With...

A SHOT OF JACK, STRAIGHT UP.

Of course Jack Daniels is still around in the 23rd Century! (It’s the last item on Uhura’s booze order at the bar.)

“Relax, Cupcake.  It was a joke.”


Once upon a time, Gene Roddenberry changed science fiction forever by creating a little TV show called “Star Trek.”  Over the next several decades and even beyond his lifetime, that show and its semi-utopian vision of the future would serve as one of the genre’s greatest points of definition, inspiring several direct spin offs and ten motion pictures… not to mention tens of thousands of other sci fi writers, along with millions of fans who used Roddenberry’s vision as a spark to become real world scientists, social activists, and a thousand other positive things.  Eventually, though, the warp engines of the man’s universe began to sputter; the spun off series were less and less well-received, and the final film was utterly panned.  After having come back from the brink so often before, it seemed as though maybe, just maybe, “Star Trek” was ready to die save as a name to license out to novelists and so on.

And so, a few years into the 21st Century, in a move that, to the savvy fan, wasn’t exactly new, a little more of the soul of Gene Roddenberry’s vision was sacrificed, and his universe was once again repainted with the colors of modern times.  In this case, however, it wasn’t for the sake of a spin off… not exactly, anyway.  This time, the entire concept was rebooted, ignoring the majority of established canon, and the stage upon which the new story would be told was set as the one from which Gene Roddenberry began: the bridge of the original USS Enterprise, populated by crew members with names like Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Uhura.

The result is 2009’s feature film, Star Trek.  (Originally meant for 2008, but pushed to a later release while being finished up.)  It both is your parents’ “Star Trek,” and it isn’t.  Mostly isn’t, but it’s a good enough doppelganger to suffice… and it’s absolutely made to order for its era’s generation.

I must start by giving the writers credit: they’ve come up with a very “Star Trek” solution to rebooting “Star Trek” – namely, they bring on the time travel, only in this case, the time travel sticks, so instead of somehow “fixing reality” so it stays “as it was,” the events that unfold irrevocably change the course of galactic history, creating a brand new reality that diverges from the old starting at the moment of James T. Kirk’s birth.  As a device, it’s very elegant and very Roddenberry-esque.  It’s also completely preposterous as presented, but this is just the first of many preposterous things that most fans are going to cheerfully not care about as they choose instead to sit back and enjoy the ride.

This is why I have yet to talk to anyone who really cares that Nero (Nero? Really?) is one of the lamest villains in all of “Star Trek,” and that the two best things that can be said about the performance of Eric Bana (Hulk) are that “he’s competent” and “he’s not Ryan Reynolds.”  (I know; redundancy.)  I’ve talked to plenty of people who readily acknowledge these things after giving them a little thought (which most hadn’t before), but even then, they don’t care.  Nor do they care that the “Spock was trustedto save a planet all by himself in a little tiny shuttle and blew it” plot foundation is insane.  Nor do they care that the same franchise that was savvy enough to develop the “Heisenberg Compensator” (the single greatest sci fi widget ever) takes its long-lauded acknowledgement of science and completely tosses it out the airlock.  (That drill is absurd, folks.  And if it did work as advertised, the seismic doom zone known as the San Francisco Bay Area would have been quaked-out toast within seconds of it firing on the Earth… and that’s while still cheerfully ignoring what would happen to all that water it’s cooking and making a large hole underneath.)  And the beat goes on.  Nearly everything that goes into either the backbone of the film’s plot or anything at all about the bad guys is either ridiculous or lame… and no one seems to care.

Guess what, folks: I don’t care, either.  (All right, maybe I care a little, just because watching Eric Bana makes me yawn, but I don’t care that much.)  Why not?  For the same reason that most other fans don’t, and for the same reason that allows most great adventures to work, no matter how sketchily plotted they may be: because plot isn’t everything.  Execution is.  It’s possible to have a mediocre (or even bad) plot and still make a great movie, so long as the majority of the characters are well played (they are) and – here’s the key – the reactions of those characters to the plot elements are fun to watch.  That’s the story, and story trumps plot on pretty much any day of the week.

It doesn’t matter how we get to the scene that shows us Ninja Sulu: it just matters that we get to see Ninja Sulu.  The scene where Young Kirk meets Old Spock (look at your man, now look at… nevermind) is absurdly contrived, but so what?  It’s cool!  Kirk gets recruited into Starfleet after a bar fight that starts with a failed attempt to hit on Uhura (who had just finished ordering a shot of Jack and who also happens to be getting’ it on with Mr. Spock); what fanboy or fangirl could possibly resist chowing that down like a lolcat going after a cheezburger?  It doesn’t make sense, but we want to see it happen.  We want to see Kirk getting caught in bed with a buxom green skinned alien cadet.  Done.   We cheer at the knowledge that Spock can be whipped up into an instant rage by what are essentially “yo mama” snaps.  (Though some of us pause and shudder to realize that yes, Winona Ryder is now old enough to play his mother.  She does great, but damn.)  Who needs a sensible plot or even a decent villain with all of these cool scenes being strung together one after another, each brilliantly directed with a sense of high adventure?

And hey, how about that heroic cast?  Not a rotten apple in the bunch.  Chris Pine (Unstoppable) and Zachary Quinto (Girl Walks Into A Bar) get most of the glory, of course, but for me, the character show was stolen by Karl Urban (Dredd) and Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz), whose fresh but highly reverent spins on the classic characters of McCoy and Scotty are a fabulous joy to behold.  Meanwhile, Bruce Greenwood (I, Robot) keeps things just grounded enough with his portrayal of Captain Pike to keeps things from spinning too far out of control.  And of course, elder statesman Leonard Nimoy holds it all together as Old Spock… though really, he just the most visible part of a much greater lynchpin.  The spirits of all who brought us “Star Trek” the first time around make their presences known throughout the film, and are reverentially (if sometimes cheekily) treated on all occasions.  We love Karl Urban not only for his own work, but because he honors DeForest Kelley in the process.  The Kobyashi Maru comes around again.  References aplenty, but never feeling as though they’re mere throwaway material to satisfy a few nerds.

Yeah; these people get it.

And that’s why, like so many other fans, I don’t care about Nero or Eric Bana or that ridiculous drill.  (Hell, I’m happy about the drill; I love San Francisco and would hate to see it go boom.)  That’s why I enjoy the ride that is Star Trek, lapping up the adventure and cheerfully ignoring the gum wrappers on the floor.  That’s why, as a fan, I feel that the “Star Trek” franchise is now in the best hands it’s been in since the passing of Gene Roddenberry.

Bottom line, sure, Star Trek is flawed.  The plot’s silly and the villain’s a waste.  But so what?  This flick is pure adventure that celebrates the essence of what came before (even as it discards some of the optimism), and it makes me glad to know that we haven’t seen the end of the Final Frontier just yet.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, January, 2013

This review is for Ralph Fontaine and Glynis Mitchell, who did a valiant job of barely remebering this movie when I joined them as a guest co-host on "Podcast to the Past," and because of whom I will never, ever cease to grin at the thought of "Old Spock."


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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