Star Trek was one of the evergreens of the science-fiction world, with a loyal, often rabid fan base and a continual supply of new material. A lot of that was falling into disarray in the early 21st century, however: 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis did poorly at the box office, and in 2005, the troubled Enterprise became the first Trek TV series in decades to be cancelled by the network, not brought to a planned end by the producers.
Nonetheless, Paramount had made a lot of money on Trek, and were looking for a way to revitalize the franchise. After an abortive attempt at a new feature film involving the production team from the TV series - enter J.J. Abrams.
Judging from the Internet response to the news, Abrams was engaging in a mad act of hubris, especially since the proposed movie was revealed to be a sort of Young Sherlock Holmes of the Trek Universe, telling of Spock and Kirk’s first meeting at Star Fleet Academy. Yet this movie went on to become one of the box office smashes of the 2009 Summer, and is much beloved.
The very first Star Trek movie, back in 1979 was almost the last Star Trek movie. Produced in the wake of the awesome success of Star Wars, Star Trek: The Motion Picture did not take the George Lucas movie as a blueprint, but instead seemed built upon Kubrick's 2001, as if to say, "Here is what we wanted to show you all those years, but we couldn't afford it." A moviegoing public stoked on ray guns and dogfights wanted little to do with the slow-moving sense-of-wonder story; it took Wrath of Khan's return to the TV episode Balance of Terror's submarine-style warfare to truly establish a movie franchise.
So misgivings of a reboot were understandable. Abrams and crew, however, grew up on Star Wars. It is a language they speak fluently.
The new movie largely succeeds due to a very ballsy move: A vengeful Romulan named Nero (Eric Bana) travels from the future to exact cosmic justice on a geriatric (and equally time-traveling) Spock in specific and the Federation in general. In the opening minutes of the movie, Nero causes the death of James T. Kirk’s father (even as the boy is being born), causing a sudden rearranging of events, a whole new timeline, a new universe, if you will. Thus do all our old, beloved TV episodes remain canon, yet Abrams and crew have a whole new cosmos to grow into and evolve.
The cast is charming, likeable, and well-cast, with the stand-outs being Karl Urban’s pitch-perfect channeling of DeForest Kelley as McCoy and Zachary Quinto’s Spock – and really, these guys have to work extra hard to stand out in a cast this good.
If there are any flaws in this picture, they are largely due to some excessively juvenile humor - though what does it say about 21st century audiences that such touches are deemed necessary? The movie seems to be a two-hour long exercise in beating up James T. Kirk. And really, Jim? Stay away from precipices. You wind up dangling from cliffs no fewer than three times in two hours.
Yours truly – one of those aforementioned rabid fans (you young punks, we called ourselves Trekkies and we were proud of it!) – gave up on the franchise about halfway through the run of Voyager, when a nicely suspenseful situation was quickly resolved by what had become the franchise’s deus ex machina, technobabble. (Man, those warp nacelles were the most versatile tool since the sharpened rock). Now I admit myself fully back in the fold, hoping for even better things from a twelfth Star Trek movie.
And dammit, I still call myself a Trekkie.
The rather stark cardboard slipcover has a cut-out effect - with Kirk and Spock looking out through the letters. The keepcase within has the full, slightly grainy and sepia-toned headshots.
The menus are annoyingly noisy, with an animated Enterprise rotating behind the menu choices. Past that, the design of the menus is clean and efficient.
Needless to say HOLY CRAP is the transfer beautiful. Reliable sources tell me the Blu-Ray edition is demo quality.
Disc One starts out with the usual suspects, trailers for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra (gosh, two movies with hurtling metal turning into their titles in a row. Can you taste the awesome?),an ad for the current season of Fringe and for the Xbox game Star Trek D.A.C. There are two video featurettes, A New Vision, about crafting Trek for the current generation, and a Gag Reel, which is just what it says. There is also an audio commentary track from director/producer J.J. Abrams, producers Damon Lindelof and Bryan Burke, and writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. Frankly, that many close friends in a room is trouble, but the occurrences of interruptions and talking over each other is mercifully infrequent. Somebody also needs to learn a new adjective, as the word "genius" is used... well, I lost count.
Disc Two has the harder technical stuff. Nine Deleted Scenes, including a lengthy sequence showing where Nero was for twenty-three years while he waited for Spock, and an extended version of Kirk's cheating on the Kobayashi Maru exercise. With admirable efficiency, the other featurettes are titled, Casting, Aliens and Score. There is also the Digital Copy and a free trial for the aforementioned Xbox game.
Whether or not the two-disc set is worth the extra coin, that is going to depend on how big a Trekkie you are. Oh, all right. Trekker.
Dr. Freex, 11/25/2009