We saw Star Trek too. We want to tell you what we thought!

First I think we should illustrate our
personal relationship with the franchise, so folks can see where we’re coming
from in terms of this brand new relaunch (and it IS a relaunch) of the Star
Trek brand.

I’ve been a
casual fan all my life, from the early days where it was the fun syndicated
space show to when the first film came out and helped truly initiate me. From
there on, I went on to digest the entire original series (
A Piece of the Action,
my favorite episode), all of the films, and a handful of the subsequent series’
episodes. I love the series, though I’ve never loved it to the point where
anything felt sacred. There’s been so much varying levels of quality in the
films and television shows that pretty much allows the concept of Star Trek to
be a very malleable one. As a result I welcome J.J. Abrams and his modern-day
skill set to help invigorate what I believe to be a very stagnant business

I am easily the biggest Trek fan around
here, which may or may not be a good thing. I mean, who else would have a
life-size poster of Jonathan Frakes In their possession? As a kid I developed a
love for the
The Next Generation, because it was the only Trek show on
TV where I grew up. When I later checked out the
Original Series, I
quickly realized what millions already knew: that Trek IS the original series.
So when I first heard that something like this relaunch was being prepared, I
started screaming about how awful an idea this was to anybody who would listen,
or just happened to be walking by. Trying to explain how Kirk, Spock and McCoy
all ended up on the Enterprise is certainly not a new idea. Back in the late
80’s there was an aborted attempt to make a Stafleet Academy movie with a
younger cast, and I felt that if everybody (read: fans) else thought it was
such a brutal idea then, why bother now? So to say that I went into this film
with an extraordinarily biased attitude is a massive understatement.

Russ Fischer: I’ve never had much stake in Trek. Most of the original episodes are foreign territory. I’d likely enjoy them now, but as a kid the show didn’t hook me. I’ve never made the effort to go back and slog through it. Trapped in Calgary one boring, lonely summer in the early ’90s I caught much of The Next Generation in syndication, but in livelier environments that interest wore off fast. I’ve seen all the films but forgotten almost everything about most of them. I’m the guy for whom The Wrath of Khan essentially represents my entire interest in the franchise, which probably makes me the ideal mark for this relaunch. Trek, to me, is less science fiction than it is a character piece, with the intersecting personalities of Kirk, Spock and Bones creating the backbone for a successful story.

To the point, J.J. Abrams’ movie feels
like Star Trek, but with enough energy and juice to keep the franchise up to
speed with today’s daily requirement of action, pizazz, and pretty young
people. Surprisingly, he also adheres to as Russ said, the character-driven
aspect of the franchise while not losing the grasp on the universe (though I’m
sure Steve will disagree). In restarting the dormant and tired old feature film
series, he’s injected it with a lot of personality and sizzle (and way too many
lens flares) into it and I for one was truly surprised just how well most of
the new cast delivers.

I agree that the film series has been
mostly awful for many years. To me,
Star Trek VI
was the last good Trek film.
was crap, the stuff with the Borg in
was great, but the storyline involving
Zefram Cochran was balls.
was boring beyond belief, while
was complete piss. So it isn’t like the people who were entrusted with the
franchise following Roddenberry’s death were doing a bang up job. My objection
to the new film wasn’t that I thought the franchise was in good hands. Quite
the contrary, I thought Rick Berman and his ilk had been doing massive damage to the brand (exhibit a:
having the grotesquely overrated 80’s hit-maker Diane Warren pen the theme song
to the dull
series), long before Abrams ever entered the fray.

My initial
problem with Abrams stemmed from his decision to discard nearly everything the
original series had established, from dates, names, characters, and other such
backstory elements that had become ingrained in the fans’ image of the Kirk,
Spock and McCoy characters. What I came to ultimately realize, however, is that
this new Trek film wasn’t made for the people like me who would sit there and
gripe at every single change that was made (which I did, by the way), but
rather an attempt to broaden its appeal to the masses by ripping out story points
that didn’t fit into this new reimagined world. So I had to ask myself: is that
such a bad thing? Isn’t it better to have
Trek as opposed to

The answer
really surprised me.

I can’t speak at all to the relation
of these characters and portrayals to the original ones, but yeah, the point is
that we’re not meant to care. That’s a pretty blithe mindset for Abrams and
Paramount to take, I think, but they’ve cast this movie well enough that they
eke out a win. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto were both blank slates for me
going in; I’d seen both, but never formed a significant opinion of either. Pine
comes close to knocking it out of the park. He spends half the movie getting
his ass kicked but has the bearing of a hero. He’s often a selfish jerk, but
always feels like the most upright, well-intentioned selfish jerk in Starfleet.
Quinto turns out to be possessed of a harder, weirder edge than I would have
predicted. He seethes, which is a new take on Spock, but I bought it. He’s
mostly on target with the elevated conflict between logic and emotion that
defines this version of the character. The war between those two elements,
logic and emotion, has always been the crux of the Kirk/Spock friendship. Great
liberties are taken with the particulars of how their relationship develops,
but for a breezy popcorn movie — and this is nothing else — the proffered
conflict works.

The weak
link turns out to be Karl Urban’s Bones McCoy. He’s the one actor evidently
determined to channel the classic portrayal, though at times he also goes way
far afield of the standard set by DeForest Kelley. (Urban’s first lines sound
like he’s channeling Brad Dourif in Wise Blood.)

I couldn’t disagree more. I think
Urban is the biggest surprise in the film, followed closely by Pine. When we
meet Bones McCoy early in the film he injects so much character and nuance into
a few lines of dialogue that he brings a ton of goodwill to the proceedings
that it desperately needs. Piggybacked on the amazing bedrock of warmth and
strength Bruce Greenwood brings in as mentor figure Captain Pike, the film
moves away from annoying ‘baby Kirk” stuff from the trailers and allows
the terrific Christopher Pine to unfold his own James T. Kirk. Of all the new
actors, Pine wisely veers the furthest from the original actor and though he
has some of William Shatner’s brashness and teflon attitude, he also allows the
audience to follow him into this world where we can see where old Trek ends and
new Trek begins.

The premise
is a familiar one, with a scorned character who was once peaceful (Eric Bana,
seething effectively) exacting revenge on entire planets with a giantic ship
and a mysterious weapon known as “the red matter”. His scorn is
focused directly on Spock and his homeworld and as plotlines for science
fiction films go, it’s not exactly cutting edge stuff. Add to that the element
of time travel, which hurts more films than it helps, and the architecture of
the film could have been flimsy. Instead, Abrams wisely never lets the story
veer too far from the characters, and luckily one member of the original cast

And that’s where I started to realize
that this was its own entity, slightly related to the original but less so,
more like a distant 3rd cousin. As soon as the original cast member showed up I
started to understand more how the two versions were connected – or rather NOT
connected, but it started to work for me in a manner I never thought possible.
And from that moment on I relaxed more and began to really enjoy the movie, a
feat that wouldn’t have occurred were it not for the time travel element that
Nick thinks was damaging. For me, it worked great and helped me make a
connection that wasn’t available in the first half of the picture. Trek has
always done time travel great, from TOS and TNG series’, to the features (the
devil with
and Enterprise),
and I felt it worked perfectly here. It was really the only way they could
reconcile the differences between the two, something they wouldn’t have had to
do were this a complete and proper reboot with NO ties to the original. But by
injecting the lone cast member into it they need a plot element that explained
his existence there, and I thought what they came up with worked as well as It
could have, and up until that point was the only thing that truly felt like

I understand the need to tie this to
the existing storyline — you can’t just disregard decades of prior
storytelling. But the time travel thing is so overworn that it was distracting
rather than comforting. Orci, Kurtzman and Abrams don’t finesse the angle very
well. I was left wondering why Eric Bana’s villain Nero was just hanging out
for a couple decades waiting for the story to really kick in, and how Kirk
mystically links up with the original cast member. (Coincidence defines this
movie.) Furthermore, the time travel thing relies upon that original cast
member regurgitating a long, tedious chunk of exposition that kills the great
momentum and energy built up before it.

momentum is what this movie is about. It has a great sense of energy and high spirits.
It’s a tentpole, yeah, and it’s about as deep and memorable as you can expect a
blockbuster to be. But what Abrams delivers is a series of fast-paced
encounters that retain the tone of traditional Star Trek naval battle
scenarios. Once the story gets back into motion after the little exposition
break, it’s the closest Star Trek has ever come to a wild, breathless ride.
Does it have one lens flare too many? Well….

Lens flares being annoying is a
compromise I can swing, provided the bulk of the spectacle is effective. Though
there are no real show-stopping sequences here, the film has enough action that
balances the naval battles of the original series and films and the more modern
high-octane stuff audience of today demands to deliver the entertainment
payload successfully. There are some great little moments here, and a good deal
of intimate hand-to-hand skirmishes [though Sulu as a sword swingin’ fool
doesn’t work for me] to boot. J.J. Abrams [and his 2nd and 3rd unit heroes]
have done a very good job in making Star Trek more than, as the ads say,
your parent’s Star Trek. He’s the right man for the job, because though
fans would have Jonathan Frakes direct everything related to the franchise,
this feels vital again. It’s fun, it’s fast, and it’s nowhere near as dumb as
folks would expect from a franchise reboot.

Stephen Murphy: It
definitely has a ton of action, more so than any other Star Trek film
before it. The opening scene itself sets the tone for what is to come, and
manages to even convey a sense of grittiness that has never been a part of
these movies. I felt the lense flares stood out at first only because they’re
everywhere, but after a while I honestly stopped noticing them – but that may
be because they literally are everywhere. And Russ is right bout Eric
Bana’s character simply hanging around the universe for 25 years. This
explanation is quickly discarded in what amounts as roughly a few lines of
dialogue, so it isn’t clear why he’d just sit around and wait. The Sulu sword-fighting
thing was truly ridiculous, but was another in a long line of an underlying
trend in the movie, by trying to cram as many classic character traits in as it
could during its limited runtime. It seems as though every catchphrase
from the show is thrown out there, and after a time it got to be a bit of a
joke. Every character introduction scene involved their appropriate saying, as
if they were trying to convince the audience that “yes, I really am Spock,
Bones, Scotty”. And the way in which they happen across certain characters
had a disturbing Star Wars-type vibe to it. In a bad way.

Russ Fischer: The
relentless origin-ness of the project wears thin fast, compounded by the fact
that coincidence seems to be the driving force for Kurtzman and Orci. That’s
well before Scotty is just encountered in the middle of nowhere, cuddling with
a stone Ewok. There’s a lot of other stuff I should hate — the silly sequence
where Kirk’s hands and face swell up as Bones bumbles (but bumbles in the most
proficient manner possible) or the “boy Kirk” sequence or the dumb
monster chase — but all those things are, to my surprise, easily forgotten and
glossed over in favor of the movie’s energy and charisma. If Nero had been
given a dose of personality and the same energy as his opponents, rather than
just being an angry guy who steps in a revenge plot like it was a dog’s dump on
the sidewalk, I might be able to really cheer for this movie.

I’m cheering for the both of you,
because Star Trek has never been about sizzle. Regardless of the initial
pangs of muscle memory regarding the amazing work done in the past by Shatner,
Nimoy, Kelly, and the rest, these people work. The film is energized,
funny, and character driven. The dynamic has been tweaked enough so that it’s
not just a rehash but it still bears the artifacts of decades of successful
Roddenberry-infused entertainment. It’s a big movie, not as precise and smart
as some which came before but a cut above most summer fare. It could have been
a disaster and it’s far from it. It’s a really good first effort and if they
can build on this [and they don’t even need the quality leap the first two Star
Trek films had to ensure the franchise’s growth], they have a capable cast and
creator to pull it off. It’s not a home run, but it’s a triple. I like this
film a lot and upon repeat viewings I expect to like it even more.

This film has so much going on in it,
that I felt it forgot to be what Star Trek has always prided itself on,
and that’s the intellectual aspect. This new version, while being chock full of
great effects and some surprisingly good acting (Pine, Quinto and – sorry Russ
– Urban), forgot along the way to actually have some thematic meat to go along
with the spectacle. There’s never that sense of what Starfleet’s main goal is,
and that’s exploration. Maybe they’ll get to that in another movie, which would
be great, but for this one it’s just a loud, flashy action movie set in space
with some over the top bombastic music along for the ride. The fact that it’s
executed so very well, and that it’s Star Trek, goes a long way to
making this a really exciting and enjoyable adventure. Sure there are plot
holes and lense flares and blatant disregard for backstory elements, and a musical
score that has no central recognizable theme (Jerry Goldsmith is sorely missed
here), but despite all of these issues it STILL is an awful lot of fun with
great potential going forward, and I cannot wait to see what they do next!

And there’s
no way I would have ever thought I’d say that, but I am glad I’m able to
because above all else, it’s brilliant to have
Star Trek back.

Diminished expectations are no excuse
for being as willing as I am to let this
Trek get away with so little
thematic heft. But that’s what the
Next Gen films have wrought. They
pushed the bar so low that I’m willing to take fun, which this movie has in
spades, over storytelling. Paramount can’t pull that same get out of jail free
card a second time. No need, though. This
Star Trek presents a
spectacular cast that can pilot the Enterprise into new territory. At long
last, I’m excited to tag along for the ride.