CLASSIC REVIEW: ‘Star Trek’ (2009)
Directed by J. J. Abrams
Written by Bob Orci & Alex Kurtzman
As always: beware of spoilers!
With sequel ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ released on blu-ray/DVD in the UK on September 2nd I thought I’d jump back to the 2009 reboot that kick-started this new version of the franchise.
I’ll start out by saying that I’m a little too young for the original ‘Star Trek’ series. That’s not to say I haven’t gone back and watched it but my Trek was ‘The Next Generation’ through ‘Deep Space Nine’ and the beginnings of ‘Voyager’ which I have also gone back to watch. Still on the list of ‘Trek’ to go back to… ‘Enterprise’ which so far I’ve only managed to watch the first four episodes of.
Like many I was dubious about the idea of going back to the series that started it all and remaking it for a modern audience. Unlike many others the idea that this reboot would be captained by J.J. Abrams and his Bad Robot production company actually put me at ease.
One thing that you’ll probably come to learn about me is that there isn’t a huge amount of Bad Robot productions that I don’t like… okay don’t mention post season 3 ‘Lost’ or even start on ‘Undercovers’. Highlights for me are ‘Alias’ and most definitely ‘Fringe’.
There are many out there who still don’t agree with this reboot and as has been featured in the press several times recently as a ‘Trek’ convention in Las Vegas ‘Into Darkness’ has been voted the worst ‘Trek’ movie of all time.
NB: we’ll discuss this above point when I get around to reviewing the ‘Into Darkness’ blu-ray.
No matter what your feelings are about recasting beloved characters from the past I think you have to admire the respect that has been given to the franchise. Rather than rewriting over history or simply re-telling history what Orci and Kurtzman cleverly (in my opinion) did was to tie the current Trek present to the Trek past via time travelling villain Nero (Eric Bana). Essentially the film starts out in the universe that we know and love but as soon as Nero arrives the timeline is instantly changed and from a writing standpoint nothing that happens from here negates the original series in any way.
Having watched the extras on the ‘Trek’ blu-ray from start to finish I am a little disappointed that it’s not mentioned in the film that the Romulan ship Narada has been enhanced using Borg technology.
As a big fan with a slight fear of the Borg this is closest we’ve gotten to having the original series crew come across the Borg and the prospect of a full on meeting just blows my mind.
The production design on this film is immense. There’s a level of expectation when Bad Robot is involved in a production and this film doesn’t disappoint. Every element of the old series has been taken in to great consideration and redesigned for a modern audience whilst remaining recognisable for older fans.
The hardest part of taking on a project such as rebooting ‘Trek’ – more so than with comic book properties which continue exist in other forms in the public zeitgeist between times when films are in production – is balancing pleasing old fans with making new ones and this film does it well.
One of the biggest criticisms of the Abrams era ‘Trek’ has been the amount of action on-screen against the ethos of exploring strange new worlds. It is fair to say that this modern era crew have done very little exploring and even less in the way of diplomatic missions for Starfleet.
What I would say to those critics is that in the past when ‘Trek’ movies have veered towards diplomatic missions, particularly in the ‘Next Gen’ movies is when the franchise has connected less with movie-going audiences. There’s no denying that the diplomacy of ‘Trek’ works incredibly well in a serialised TV format but in movies there needs to be some action to drive the film.
Don’t get me wrong, if there’s a director out there who can take the ideals of ‘Trek’ and put them in to a two-hour movie which dispenses with action but remains as gripping to watch then I’m there on opening night but I don’t think that modern audiences will connect with a film-version which doesn’t at least bring a showdown with the Klingons.
What Abrams does do here is bring together a stellar (pardon the pun) cast who embody modern versions of the classic characters incredibly well and place them in a universe which echoes Trek but in a post-9/11 word (more on that next time).
If you’ve somehow not seen this movie yet then it’s only £8 on Amazon for the blu-ray. Check it out now and then dive ‘Into Darkness’ next week with its home video sequel.