Rating: 3 out of 5
I'm not a big fan of J.J. Abrams. I don't think I've ever seen anything from him that I've enjoyed. I really hated his Mission: Impossible III. If not for all the good reviews that Star Trek has received I wouldn't even have bothered to see it in a theater. So going in my expectations were really low.
So how was it? Not as bad as I was expecting but also not as great as the reviews I've seen would have you believe. I would rank this movie somewhere in the middle of the pack when it comes to Star Trek movies. My personal favorite would be The Wrath of Khan followed by The Undiscovered Country, First Contact, and The Voyage Home. Then the reboot and then the rest of the Star Trek movies which means, for me, it borders on being unwatchable but doesn't quite reach that point. I won't be buying the DVD or seeking it out when it comes to cable but if there's nothing better on I might tune it in instead of just turning off the television.
The cast do a decent enough job with the material they're given. Chris Pine is a little bland as Kirk but still does an acceptable job. Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban are perfect as Spock and McCoy, nicely capturing the characters while making them their own. Zoe Saldana and John Cho do a good enough job as Uhura and Sulu even if they don't particularly shine. Simon Pegg steals ever scene in which he appears. Unfortunately his character, Scotty, has been reduced to a comedy relief goofball. Anton Yelchin is alright as Chekov but he's also been reduced to comedy relief. All of the supporting cast do good jobs and I've got no complaints there.
Mild SPOILERS will follow. You have been warned.
The plot itself is decent enough in concept but leaves something to be desired in actual execution. If you're the sort who might wonder why Nero spends 25 years upgrading his ship's weapons when he could spend the same 25 years upgrading the Romulan Empire's technological base and turn them into the most powerful force in the galaxy, well, you may have some problems with the movie. If, on the other hand, it doesn't particularly bother you that in one scene a character wants to ride in a shuttle's bathroom because it has no windows and ten minutes later he's now in a different shuttle in a window seat eagerly staring out the window with no sign of his previous anxiety, well, then you'll probably enjoy Star Trek.
Externally I like the latest version of the Enterprise even if it does look more like the Enterprise class ship of the movies than the Constitution class ship of the original television series. I did not, however, like the internal redesign of the ship. The iBridge, as some people have dubbed it, is too bright and too cluttered. Engineering, on the other hand, looks like a 20th century chemical plant with a large, transparent water pipe that winds all around the room for no apparent reason other than for loveable goofball Scotty to get sucked in and whisked about while Kirk frantically dashes about trying to figure out how to get him out of the thing. (Did I mention that Scotty has been reduced to being the comedy relief?)
I found the action sequences to be a confusing. Abrams is apparently a big fan of using close ups with lots of stuff flying around so you can't tell what's going on. It seems to be a popular style these days but I hate it. I've been told it's supposed to convey how chaotic combat is but all it does, in my opinion, is make action sequences unwatchable and convinces me that the director has no idea how to handle an action sequence. Abrams and other directors of this ilk would be well advised to watch Danny the Dog aka Unleashed and take notes as its fight scenes do an excellent job of conveying how chaotic the combat is while allowing the viewer to follow the action quite easily.
I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that I don't like the story is done because not only is it a J.J. Abrams film but the screenplay is by Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman who also wrote the screenplay for Mission: Impossible III which, as I've already noted, I really hated.
MAJOR SPOILERS ahead.
Now to go through all the problems I had with the story.
When we first meet McCoy, he's been hiding in a shuttle's bathroom because he's afraid to fly. When he's forced to sit next to Kirk he goes into a rant about all the horrible things they can expect. It's a funny scene until you start wondering why someone so scared of catching some horrible disease went into the medical profession. I have some phobias of my own and strangely enough not once have I been tempted to seek out a profession that would expose me to the things I fear on a regular basis.
Are we really supposed to believe that officials of the Vulcan Science Academy think it's appropriate to make racist remarks, illogical ones at that, about the parentage of an applicant and that after making said remarks they would be surprised that the applicant changed his mind about attending the academy?
In explaining the purpose of the Kobayashi Maru scenario, Spock says the intent is to see how cadets handle the fear when they realize they are facing a no win situation. To which I say that's a pretty stupid test because the cadets know they're in a simulation and there are no consequences for failing the mission. No one is going to die or even get hurt and it's probably well known that no one has ever beat the simulation so, at best, it's going to test how the cadets handle the frustration of being given a task to complete that can't actually be completed.
When an emergency arises on Vulcan while almost the entire fleet is off dealing with another emergency, Star Fleet has to crew 8 ships with cadets and instructors from Star Fleet Academy causing me to wonder how it is that Star Fleet just happens to have 8 ships lying around with no crew.
Why is Spock in charge of deciding which cadets get assigned to which ship?
Why is the navigator given the task of making a ship wide announcement instead of the communications officer? Why does the PA system require a verbal authorization code? Do they really have to tell their password to the entire bridge crew whenever they want to make an announcement?
Why has Nero spent the last 25 years upgrading his ship's weapon systems when he could have been sharing technology with the Romulan Empire?
Why does Nero's mining ship have a "drill" that has to be lowered into a planet's atmosphere? Even in the original series they had energy weapons capable of hitting the surface of a planet from orbit. Having a drill that must be lowered into the atmosphere seems like an unnecessarily complicated bit of technology. And is it really more efficient to drill the surface of a planet from orbit instead of from the surface?
Why does Nero bother drilling into a planet's core anyway? A "red matter" bomb dropped on the surface of a planet is going to take out the entire planet. It's not like it's going to take a big chunk out of one side of the planet and leave the other side unscathed.
Why does Pike have Kirk, Sulu, and the red shirt make a highly risky space drop onto the drill to plant explosives when the Enterprise could just shoot it?
Why does Sulu say he's a fencer but then whip out a katana instead of a rapier?
Why does Spock order Kirk to be kicked off the Enterprise? The ship has a brig for a reason. It can't be standard Star Fleet operating procedure to stuff mutineers into escape pods and send them off to the nearest habitable planet instead of locking them up in the brig. Why doesn't anyone protest this obvious breach of regulations? You would think at least McCoy would object to marooning Kirk.
Why doesn't the Enterprise inform the Federation outpost on the ice planet that they're sending Kirk? You'd think they'd at least want to warn them that they're sending the outpost a mutineer. But they must not have done so because Scotty and his assistant are taken by surprise when Kirk shows up. Good thing that Kirk didn't listen to the escape pod's computer when it told him to wait for someone to come get him because obviously no one was looking for him. Even if the Enterprise didn't alert the outpost, shouldn't the escape pod have some sort of emergency beacon to alert them?
Given that the ice planet is in almost the same orbit as Vulcan, it must be given how large Vulcan is in the sky, how is it possible that it's covered with ice while Vulcan is a desert planet? Shouldn't they be close to each other in terms of temperature?
Wouldn't natural selection tend to eliminate red creatures in an arctic environment?
How is it possible that in the time it takes Kirk to travel 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) on foot in an extremely harsh environment while avoiding predators that Scotty and his assistant haven't noticed the destruction of Vulcan and the sudden appearance of a black hole in their backyard. Have they received no distress calls at all? Or is Scotty really more interested in food than the deaths of several billion people?
How big a psychopath does Scotty have to be to have tested a new type of transporter on a living subject instead of an inanimate object? And how stupid does he have to been to have chosen an important official's pet for the test?
Why does Spock Prime, who once told us that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, put billions of lives at risk by making Kirk think bad things will happen if the two Spocks ever meet in the hopes that Kirk and Spock will bond over Kirk making Spock lose his emotional control in order to remove him from command of the Enterprise?
They said that Nero had the faster ship so how does the Enterprise beat him to Earth when Nero headed straight there while the Enterprise headed off to rendezvous with the rest of the fleet first?
Again why doesn't the Enterprise just shoot the drill instead of relying on the risky plan of beaming Kirk and Spock onto Nero's ship so they can disable it from the inside? And, again, why does Nero even bother using the drill?
Pike lost 87% of his fleet and turned himself over to the enemy so he could be tortured into revealing the access codes for the Federation's defenses and for this he's promoted to Admiral?
Kirk hasn't graduated from Star Fleet Academy and was facing a disciplinary action for cheating but they promote him straight to command of the Enterprise anyway?