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Star Trek (2009)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Set Phasers On "Meh"
2 stars

Back in 1979, “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” was released amidst an avalanche of hype and speculation as to whether it would appeal only to hard-core fanatics who had been waiting desperately for any new “Trek” since the cancellation of the series nearly a decade before. While it did make enough money to be considered a success from a financial standpoint, not many people really liked it at the time (though its reputation has improved slightly over the years after Robert Wise, the veteran director of the likes of “The Sound of Music“ who was hired to helm the project, was allowed to do a director‘s cut in 2000) and in hindsight, it isn’t hard to see why. Although it was originally conceived simply as a project to appeal to the fan base, the success of “Star Wars” caused it to grow in scale to such a degree that it also needed to appeal to the non-fanboy contingent in order to make its money back. Unfortunately, “Star Trek” has always been one of those all-or-nothing properties that works best if it either playing directly to the fans (as with the masterful “The Wrath of Khan” and, to a lesser extent, “The Search for Spock“ and “The Undiscovered Country“) or if it is consciously going for the broadest audience possible (as it did with the entertaining “Star Trek: The Voyage Home”). When they have tried to appeal to both contingents, as they did with “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” the result was a bit of a mess that annoyed longtime fans with its attempts to broaden its appeal with new characters who fit in uneasily with the more familiar actors and bored newcomers by never quite providing an entry point that allowed them into the story.

Three decades, nine sequels and four spin-off television shows later, director J.J. Abrams has been charged with once again bringing “Trek” out of mothballs and back to the big screen. On the surface, this isn’t necessarily a bad idea (as far as I am concerned, the guy gets a lifetime pass for his wily reinvention of the spy genre with the classic TV show “Alias”) but it only takes a few minutes of watching “Star Trek” to realize that he has essentially made the same mistake that Wise did 30 years ago by trying to pull off the seemingly impossible task of pleasing the fanatics while also luring viewers who have never had any use for “Trek” in its previous incarnations. To be fair, the end result is more entertaining and lively than what Wise cooked up all those years ago but the strain of trying to please everyone eventually begins to overwhelm things to such a degree that it winds up being curiously unsatisfying to both contingents--fans will be dismayed with the various ways that their cherished property has been transformed in order to attract new viewers while the newcomers will probably walk away once again wondering what all the fuss is about.

Like most current attempts to revive a moribund film franchise, “Star Trek” is a total reboot that shows us the early and unseen days of the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise leading up to their first big mission. Actually, it starts even earlier than that with the birth of James T. Kirk in the middle of an interstellar battle with an enormous and powerful alien ship cloaked inside an electrical storm that takes the life of his father, who sacrifices his life so that others, including his wife and newborn son can live. At the same time, we also get a glimpse of young Spock (and I am just assuming that you know who these people are) on the planet Vulcan where his half-Vulcan, half-human parentage has made him an outcast and a target of bullies (yes, Vulcan bullies) despite his superior intellect. Years pass and when we catch up with them, Kirk (Chris Pine) is a two-fisted, hard drinking jackass who is recruited into Starfleet by Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), a man who believes that the young Kirk is made of the same stuff as his father, and Spock (Zachary Quinto) shocks his condescending Vulcan elders by enlisting in Starfleet as well. While at Starfleet, Kirk befriends hard-bitten Dr. Leonard McCoy (Karl Urban), fails to seduce alluring linguist Uhura (Zoe Saldana)--though he does get to make time with her green-skinned roommate in a sequence that shows that there will apparently be no great technological advances in the field of women’s undergarments in the next couple hundred years--and shocks everyone by somehow beating the theoretically unbeatable Kobayashi Maru training simulation, an act that lands him in a Starfleet tribunal (led by Tyler Perry, of all people) when the designer of the program, Spock, accuses him of cheating.

All of this becomes irrelevant when it is announced that the planet Vulcan is in trouble thanks to a mysterious electrical storm and all the Starfleet cadets are sent off to their ships in order to lend assistance. With McCoy’s help, Kirk gets on board the Enterprise and soon realizes that this is the same thing that happened to his father and that the ships are heading into a trap. He is correct, of course, and it turns out that the person responsible is Nero (Eric Bana), a time-traveling Romulan who blames Spock, or at least some version of Spock, for the destruction of his home planet and who plans to seek revenge on the entire Starfleet Federation by destroying not only Vulcan but all of the Federation planets with the use of a ginormous drill and a weapon with the ability to create black holes that can implode entire worlds in a few seconds. After suffering heavy damage, Pike agrees to go over to Nero’s ship and names Spock the new captain while assigning Kirk, helmsman Sulu (Jon Cho) and some guy in a red suit to disable the machine before it can destroy Vulcan and Spock’s parents, Sarek (Ben Cross) and Amanda (Winona Ryder, of all people). I wouldn’t dream of revealing what happens next, except to note that the conflict between Kirk and Spock eventually leads to the former being ejected from the ship to an ice planet where he encounters several bizarre monsters, exiled engineer Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg) and another significant character whose presence may or may not be a surprise, though I will treat it as the latter here.

On the surface, “Star Trek” is a radically different version of the universe created by Gene Roddenberry 40-odd years ago--the actors are younger and sexier, the pacing is quicker and there is a reliance on elaborate action set-pieces that wasn’t on display even in the later movies. And yet, as the film progresses, it quickly becomes apparent that Abrams and screenwriters Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman (who previously collaborated with Abrams on some episodes of “Alias” and “Mission: Impossible III” and also co-wrote “The Island” and the “Transformers” movies) have, consciously or not, stumbled into many of the same traps encountered by the original series and movies. While the time travel notion must have seemed like an inspiration to them from a screenwriting perspective--it allows them to ignore the previously established canon at will by claiming that what were are now experiencing is an alternate timeline--it never serves as anything other than a gimmick designed to keep the fanatics at bay and it just serves as a reminder of how often the series would go to that particular well when true inspiration was at a premium. The villain of the story, like so many of the individual bad guys in the history of “Trek” (with the singular exception of the immortal Khan), is frankly unmemorable and his ultimate plot is so poorly established that if it weren’t for one brief chunk of blatantly expository dialogue, most viewers would have no idea of what the hell was going on. As for our heroes, the film follows the time-honored tradition of giving all the juiciest bits to the holy trinity of Kirk, Spock and McCoy and letting the others--Scotty (who doesn’t even appear until nearly the 90-minute mark), Uhura, Sulu and Chekov (Anton Yelchin)--each have maybe one or two inconsequential bits of business before fading into the background with nothing much to do. (The depiction of Chekov is especially inexplicable because he has retained the Russian ancestry that Roddenberry gave him to demonstrate his utopian version of the future--why not make him Iraqi in order to underline that point for newer generations?)

That said, “Star Trek” has plenty of problems of its own that have nothing to do with the original and the chief one is its new depiction of science-fiction’s favorite man-god, James T. Kirk. Yes, I am aware that this is not the same Kirk that William Shatner essayed for so many years and while trying to imitate Shatner would have been a suicidal move for any actor, what Chris Pine does to the role is almost as bad. Throughout the film, he plays Kirk as a smug, obnoxious and self-absorbed jerk and while he is supposed to act that way early on, Pine never shakes that particular persona and even after he has supposedly learned to act in a more mature manner, it is still impossible to believe that he would be allowed to run the frozen yogurt concern on the Enterprise, let alone the ship itself. (He so badly overplays the sequence in which he beats the Kobayashi Maru simulator that you want to clap your hands over your ears and pray for it to end.) The big battle scenes are long and loud and filled with millions of dollars of special effects shots of hurtling spaceships, laser beams and the like but none of them have any real impact--compare the frenetic-but-empty combat scenes here to those in “The Wrath of Khan,” which consisted of nothing more than two badly wounded ships pounding at each other at close range and which were nevertheless electrifying. Many of Abrams additions to the world of “Trek” are more silly than anything else--the excursion to the ice planet is especially bizarre because a.) the monsters on display look like nothing so much as failed concepts for the monster from the Abrams-produced “Cloverfield” and b.) the sequence as a whole looks more like an homage to John Carpenter’s “The Thing” than anything else. As for the various and highly-hyped guest star appearances sprinkled throughout the film, Tyler Perry is in it just long enough to be distracting without having anything of substance to do and while Winona Ryder has a little more to do as Spock’s mother, she is mostly undone by an outfit that makes her look as if she has just wandered in from rehearsing a Vulcan production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” As for that big surprise appearance that I alluded to earlier (and his presence may not be a surprise after all), it is nice to see him again but it is a little disappointing that the film couldn’t find anything for him to do other than to play the Basil Exposition role.

Although I didn’t much care for “Star Trek” as a whole, I will concede that it is probably the best installment of the franchise to come along since the original crew was put to pasture after “The Undiscovered Country” in order to make way for the big screen adventures of the “Next Generation” crew (a group I could never quite warm up to) and that Karl Urban and Simon Pegg steal all of their respective scenes as McCoy and Scotty. I also suspect that while some especially dedicated fans may be aghast with some of the changes that Abrams & Co. have wrought, most of them will enjoy the various in-jokes and references strewn throughout (the best being the sad fate of the poor unknown bastard unlucky enough to wear a red outfit into a hostile situation). That said, the individual pieces never come together and as a result, the film is just another noisy space opera in which the humanity takes a back seat to the hardware, something that the real “Star Trek” managed to avoid at its peak moments. My guess is that while the film itself will soon be forgotten, it will attract enough audiences to inspire a sequel and, having established that there is still an audience for “Star Trek,” it will inspire Abrams and the others to steer the franchise in a different and hopefully more fruitful direction in the way that it did when “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” was followed by the instant classic “The Wrath of Khan”--although “Star Trek” keeps preaching that the future is unwritten, here is hoping, at least in this regard, that history repeats itself.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17128&reviewer=389
originally posted: 05/07/09 13:01:27
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User Comments

12/28/17 Tom Eric Banavich is the most overrated actor ever. He’s useless as an actor and director. 1 stars
10/29/16 morris campbell awesome reboot purists dont like it but who cares 5 stars
5/11/16 D. The R. My version -Brat wrecks classic 'Vette, gets thrown off cliff after it.. 2 stars
10/18/11 Magic Takes a thoughtful sci-fi franchise and fills it with noise, explosions and lens flares. 3 stars
8/13/10 Charles Tatum Outstanding; better sci-fi than "Avatar" all around 5 stars
2/16/10 The Calico Critic, Laura Hartness I loved this one, but I agree, the bridge was lit WAY too much. Enough with the flares! 4 stars
1/23/10 Streeper Started well enough, quickly decended into bullshit though 2 stars
12/29/09 Homer J. Fong Should be called "Star Trek 90210" -- this is like the very worst fan fiction... 1 stars
12/20/09 FrankNFurter This piece of dreck makes "Star Crystal" look like "Citizen Kane". Shockingly overrated! 1 stars
12/13/09 Flounder HBS is way off here. This is the best mainstream sci-fi reboot in decades 5 stars
12/05/09 the dork knight I went in determined to hate it, but failed. Nice to see decent CG for once. 5 stars
11/22/09 Flossdaily This review was too kind. This movie had more plot holes than plot. 1 stars
11/22/09 Thomas Korn why all the fuss over a bland movie and poor filmmaking?? 2 stars
11/08/09 Jeff Wilder As a piece of pure entertainment, great. As Star Trek it's bunk. 4 stars
10/28/09 matt as close to perfect as it possibly could be. and zoe saldana = major fap alert O.o 5 stars
9/08/09 Natalie Stonecipher An exciting romp if you can get past the atrocious start of it. 3 stars
8/30/09 MS Good review and I agree!! 2 stars
8/20/09 Aaron Forget the reviews, good stuff spock kicks butt 4 stars
7/25/09 Bryan This movie did what the previous two failed to, which was revive a sinking ship. 4 stars
7/14/09 Linda I enjoyed this movie very much, I guess the franchise has to start somwhere! 4 stars
7/10/09 whitelaw Awesome movie. Loved every minute of it! Can't wait for the sequel!!! 5 stars
7/08/09 Benny Lava Hopefully in the next prequel, they can go back in time and stop Abrams from creating this. 2 stars
6/19/09 JR I really wanted to like this ST. Alas, no. Kirk is a jerk & story is awful. 1 stars
6/12/09 meep Dissapointingly mediocre 2 stars
6/02/09 MP Bartley Not really a Trek fan as such, but this was smart and terrifically entertaining. 4 stars
6/02/09 aliceinwonderland Thanks to Spock, it was good,nothing special otherwise 3 stars
5/31/09 red hulk are you kidding? 40 years of trek history replaced with this time travel crap? lame 1 stars
5/31/09 Brock Sampson Lame, overhyped crib note version of Star Trek. Poor screenplay, meh overall. 1 stars
5/27/09 Cathal Great in parts but overall agree with reviewer - disappointing. 3 stars
5/24/09 Abhishek Chakraborty Disappointed...trailer 3 made it look much more awesome than it was 3 stars
5/23/09 BoyInTheDesignerBubble Physics be damned. Nothing in this movie made sense. 1 stars
5/23/09 Eurisko I agree w/review & wish to complain about VERY BAD SCIENCE in this "fiction" 2 stars
5/23/09 Allen Called "Star Trek" for marketing purposes - Movie ignores Trek context.. Overhyped! 1 stars
5/22/09 Dan Awesome movie, good acting, and great action scenes. 5 stars
5/20/09 X A must for any trekkie 5 stars
5/19/09 Richard For the first time in my life I am considering purchasing a Star fleet uniform. 5 stars
5/18/09 Suzz Lives up to the original series. Not to be missed 5 stars
5/17/09 San Francisco Joins Wrath of Khan as the only good Trek flicks. Wonderful movie that will be remembered. 5 stars
5/16/09 Mike Movie was awesome in so many ways. Plot was light and emotion rushed, but still awesome! 5 stars
5/16/09 Sam Whatta ride! Nice job sidestepping the continuity issue. HOLD THAT DAMN CAMERA STILL! 4 stars
5/16/09 Paul I'm a hardcore trekkie, fresh off from watching all 5 shows, and I liked the movie 4 stars
5/15/09 DaMan I love how at the end you call Star Trek fans biased...um yeah, thats what a FAN is. 5 stars
5/15/09 Joey B. Title said "Star Trek". Movie was "Star Wars" 2 stars
5/15/09 Aaron I'm no Trekkie, but I had a good time with this. 4 stars
5/15/09 Rick B I mostly agree with you. This movie is way shallow. A lot of promise though. 3 stars
5/15/09 dirtworshipper I don't know what this movie was but it wasn't ST. What an insipid abomination. 1 stars
5/14/09 Pokejedservo I am pretty neutral regarding Star Trek but this was a pretty cool movie. 4 stars
5/14/09 DW This movie pales compared to the reviewer's ability to reboot the run-on-sentence. 4 stars
5/14/09 Brian As an old trek fan, I thought the movie was awesome, fresh, great CGI, fast paced. 5 stars
5/14/09 Baloney Why couldn't the X-Files franchise have created a film this good? 5 stars
5/13/09 sarah eh.... 2 stars
5/13/09 James Worst ST Movie EVER! Not very well thought out-not character driven 1 stars
5/13/09 ES Good, hopefully the last they use time travel in this new adaptation. 4 stars
5/13/09 Tokyospike I like this ship! It's exciting! 4 stars
5/13/09 BadAstronaut What an awful mess. Very sad. 2 stars
5/12/09 Vent Has its moments, but there are several hundred ST episodes better written than this 2 stars
5/12/09 Ming One of the best Star Trek film..Great introduction for the next generation 5 stars
5/12/09 Lifelongtreklover Expected much; hugely disappointed. Script chocked full of cliches; mediocre CGI. Bored. 2 stars
5/12/09 flyboy This film getting more credit than it deserves-mediocre screenplay/dialog, but good cgi 2 stars
5/12/09 Bill Mind bogglingly stupid. Just gets dumber the more I think about it. Shocking. 1 stars
5/12/09 green-bosom Agreed the writers are hacks, merely ok, I have watched all 700-odd star-trek eps though 3 stars
5/11/09 MiloDC Orci and Kurtzman are hacks. Abrams did a lot with very little. 3 stars
5/11/09 ZeroLord Anyone notice Spock demostrating Picard maneuver? 4 stars
5/11/09 Koitus Yeah, it had seom issues (cerebral cortex critters; Uhura roommate scene)-but still good! 4 stars
5/11/09 peter never seen an episode of trek b4 but this was excellent. must see at the theaters. amazing 5 stars
5/11/09 Kenton This guy must not have watched the same movie I did, I went to see it twice. 5 stars
5/11/09 Michael Changing Star Trek history was stupid. 3 stars
5/11/09 I Am Jack's Appendix It was just ok for me, dawg. 3 stars
5/10/09 Shane Yours is the only review I agree with. It was a lazily written, insulting script. 2 stars
5/10/09 killabrams this movie disposes of every concept behind the real star trek. total trash!!!!! 1 stars
5/10/09 malcolm good for ST historians and people looking for a place to jump in 4 stars
5/10/09 Rontianjin Facinating! Saw it 4 times this weekend. Can't wait for the ongoing mission 5 stars
5/10/09 Kai This critic is a douchebag. The movie, while not perfect, is fantastic for STAR TREK! 5 stars
5/10/09 Entropia Thin on plot, but great style and character group dynamic make up for it (mostly). 4 stars
5/10/09 Ronda I love theway they have reinvented the characters! I can't wait to see what's next! 5 stars
5/10/09 TheDemiurge It was like a bad remake of Galaxy Quest. I'm in shock. 2 stars
5/10/09 YoJimbo Just saw it. It's like junk food. You eat it, it taste just OK, and u forget about it after 3 stars
5/10/09 Darkstar Best movie so far this year 5 stars
5/10/09 Terry Super flick. Just the kind to make a critic who wants to stand out in a crowd do just that. 5 stars
5/10/09 Donald You are too kind to this mess. Simplistic contrived plot and dialogue. 1 stars
5/10/09 David Grouix Saw it twice in one day, even better the second time. 5 stars
5/10/09 Gerry This guy is an idiot 5 stars
5/10/09 Dan Chock full of lame, lazy plot devices which totally alter the entire history of Trek 1 stars
5/10/09 Mal Gibson This movie starts off as Top Gun and ends like Galaxy Quest. Truly awful! 1 stars
5/10/09 Don Great charaters, masterfully directed! And it is so Trek! 5 stars
5/09/09 Brian Peter, you might have noticed by now, but you are in the minority. 5 stars
5/09/09 Miles Great action movie! 5 stars
5/09/09 Wil Entertaining, not Star Trek. 4 stars
5/09/09 Jim nauseam The plot device that erases the previous Star Trek universe was quite a clever idea. 5 stars
5/09/09 mr.mike As close to perfection as it could possibly be. 5 stars
5/09/09 Alex Kirk and Spock are extremely well-drawn characters. This is a characters story. Thumbs up. 5 stars
5/09/09 Harri Good action movie but very very silly with huge plotholes, and its not Star Trek. 3 stars
5/09/09 Demosthenes Locke So, Peter...your problem with Pine is that he emulated Shatner, not Kirk? 4 stars
5/09/09 Alison You've entirely missed the point of an AU story. Your loss. 5 stars
5/09/09 Philip Buckley-Mellor I was thoroughly entertained, isn't that enough? 5 stars
5/09/09 Man Out 6 Bucks Implausible tattered lone wolf revenge theme w/Kahn, Shinzon,Nero. Where did the 'trek' go? 4 stars
5/09/09 Toni loved it!!! I"m sad Peter didn't like it 5 stars
5/09/09 Kevin W. It didn't work for me. I would rather have seen another Next Gen. based film. 2 stars
5/08/09 Brian Mckay My love of Trek has been reborn. IMAX it if at all possible. Jaded fanboy haters stay home. 5 stars
5/08/09 mick As a stand-alone film, would have been extrodinary sc-fi. sexed up star trek instead. 1 stars
5/08/09 Spliner Terrible review. The movie was great! If it wasn't for the ho-hum soundtrack it'd get 5 4 stars
5/08/09 Brian His review was pretty acurrate. Good action Sci fi? Sure, Good Star Trek? Not so much. 4 stars
5/08/09 Tom Overman you are an idiot 5 stars
5/08/09 NotADieHardTrekkie You didn't understand the plot if you thought destroying planets was "collateral damage". 5 stars
5/08/09 John W Good review. Time travel unnessicary & has screwed our time line. Need more red matter now! 3 stars
5/08/09 Don Noble this review is spot on. The move is good at best. The story is weak and copies other movies 3 stars
5/08/09 OrciAndKurtzmanSuck Childress nailed it in his review. 1 stars
5/07/09 Aesop ST? All aces. HB should stop headlining reviewers from Bombay watching bootlegged releases. 5 stars
5/07/09 William Goss Phil: Referring to mine? Thanks. Colleagues aren't out for traffic, tho, I assure you all. 4 stars
5/07/09 Jeff I think he has seen too many films. This movie was AWESOME!! Critic? LOUSY 5 stars
5/07/09 Phil This is the best review so far. The other reviewers seem like they been paid off or somethi 5 stars
5/07/09 the_divvy_with_the_shivvy 5 stars for the review, cracking review indeed, well said, well put, shocking remake! 5 stars
5/07/09 OMAN Haven't seen it.But man,you need a writing class 1 stars
5/07/09 Remi To say that Star Trek: The Motion Picture tried to please mainstream audiences is crazy. 5 stars
5/07/09 David Anderson wow did he attend the same movie I did? disaster? fails? are you kidding? wow, just wow. 5 stars
5/07/09 Damon Thrift I'll 2nd that, Disagree completely. This movie rocks. 5 stars
5/07/09 Mark Ford Couldn't disagree more as an original fan. This movie made my pre-teen nephews new fans! 5 stars
5/07/09 Joshua Childress, have fun eating your words as tons of new "Trekkies" are born. 1 stars
5/07/09 Speck Critics who don't have a elementary grasp of grammar are not credible. 4 stars
5/07/09 Casey Toilsome. Never seen a reviewer so full of himself. I prefer the movie over boresome prose. 5 stars
5/07/09 kock&spirk bitter much? 5 stars
5/07/09 Callighan In the tie-in comics, Nero's history is explained. Resolution in movie is logical. 4 stars
5/07/09 Jonathan Lifelong trekkie. Disagree completely. 5 stars
5/07/09 Jason Laughlin Childress, periods and tense agreement. try to get familiar with them. Your writing stinks. 1 stars
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  07-May-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 17-Nov-2009


  DVD: 17-Nov-2009

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