There seems to be no end to this final frontier. Take this movie: Is it a reboot? A prequel? But there’s an alternate timeline? But Old Spock is in it, so is it a reboot hidden inside a prequel-sequel? (As if the X-Men movies didn’t take enough from Star Trek already!) And while I would ordinarily be excited that my “friends” Kirk, Spock, Bones, Uhura, Scotty, Sulu and Chekov are back again, they’re all played by different actors here, robbing me of the reunion I’m creating in my mind. But reboots happen all the time, and I survived before (I guess endless comic book reboots are at least good training). So while I had 40+ years of Star Trek in me already at this point, I tried to suppress all that so I could go into this “reboot” with a clear and open mind.
In space, some kind of lightning storm attracts the attention of the U.S.S. Starship Kelvin. It turns out to be a temporal vortex as a giant ship comes through commanded by a time-travelling Romulan named Nero (Eric Bana), who wants revenge against Ambassador Spock for destroying the Romulan homeworld in their time. When the Kelvin’s captain is killed, George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth) takes command and sacrifices himself to save 800 lives, including his newborn son James. Decades later, James Kirk (Chris Pine) is on the U.S.S. Enterprise where the temporal vortex re-opens and the Romulan ship returns. When the Enterprise’s captain is taken hostage, young Spock (Zachary Quinto) takes command and is forced to watch as Nero destroys his home planet of Vulcan using an artificial black hole. Kirk argues with Spock on their next move, and in a fit of rage, Spock kicks Kirk off the ship and down onto an ice planet. And that’s where Kirk bumps into an out-of-his-time, and much more elderly Spock (Leonard Nimoy).
So Lens Flare: The Movie is about… Wait, what am I doing? Yes, there’s a lot of lens flare in this movie, but you get used to it. For the most part. As the first Star Trek movie not (technically) based on any TV show, they had the freedom to do a truly fresh take on the source material and follow a structure that’s much more suited to cinema than ever before. It’s the most epic Star Trek story they’ve ever told, beginning shortly before Kirk’s birth, covering some of his childhood, as well as Spock’s, then proceeds to their early years in Starfleet Academy, meeting other familiar characters along the way, and finally uniting them all on the Enterprise where they do what they do best. If that feels like an origin story, it’s because it is. Very much so. Each of the cast meets Kirk in their own unique and often humorous way. Kirk hits on Uhura (Zoe Saldana) in a bar. Bones (Karl Urban) sits next to Kirk on a shuttle, and complains about the conditions of course. Spock takes Kirk to trial for cheating on his unwinnable test, the Kobayashi Maru. Sulu (John Cho) is already working on the Enterprise but has experience in hand-to-hand combat (fencing). A young Chekov (Anton Yelchin) is also there, putting his superhuman math skills to use. And finally Scotty (Simon Pegg) is found in a bunker on the ice planet, and because of his wizard-like skills with transporter technology, is brought on board the Enterprise. It’s not how I envisioned the crew all meeting each other, especially since it’s so quick and neat, but in a 2hr. movie it works. The fun factor is very much present, coming across as a sci-fi adventure that really feels like it takes you places. It’s highly imaginative with great action set-pieces throughout. The personal stakes between Kirk and Nero are powerful, and there’s real character growth, something Star Trek has previously been criticized for lacking. This is not a cinematic sequel to a TV series. This is the first movie in what I now hope becomes a long-running film franchise.
As a returning fan, I had extreme reservations about a whole new set of actors portraying characters I’m already very familiar with. Naturally, I was worried that their chemistry would be forced, and that each actor would simply try to channel the actor that came before them. Thankfully, their chemistry is surprisingly strong. I laughed out loud more than a few times, particularly in scenes with Kirk and Bones. Chris Pine is probably the most unlike his counterpart, William Shatner; more reckless than rebellious, but also funny, likable, and believable as a leader. Zachary Quinto I had some problems with, as it often looks like he’s smiling when he talks, but he does well when struggling to suppress his Vulcan emotions. Karl Urban is probably my favorite new actor, being a perfect blend of his own style with a hint of DeForest Kelley. Zoe Saldana is definitely an Uhura for the 21st Century; tough, educated, and professional. John Cho, Anton Yelchin, and Simon Pegg have much smaller roles, but they each have their moments to shine and play their parts well. Leonard Nimoy hadn’t played Spock since 1991, and the elder version here is quite changed from what we’ve seen before as he’s much more accepting of his human emotions at this point in his life. This is an alternate timeline after all, and an older Spock being caught in the middle is a good way to bridge both timelines. But one can’t help notice the juxtaposition in how William Shatner’s Captain Kirk travelled through time near the end of his life and now Leonard Nimoy’s Spock seems to be suffering the same fate. But they’ve done themselves a great service with this alternate timeline: they can do whatever they want from this point forward without disrupting the established history. But I just feel the need to say: Spock and Uhura as a couple? That’s just weird.
2009’s Star Trek is quite different from everything that’s come before it. It’s much bigger, much more epic, and even though the mythology had been around for over 40 years at this point, they succeeded in making something fairly original with the established material. Non-“Trekkies” could easily jump into this movie and learn everything they need to know within its two-hour runtime. It works extremely well as a reboot without going the overly-dark route like Batman Begins. It’s Star Trek for a new generation (I’m not saying “next”; that’s copyrighted). As long as you can handle the lens flare, then anyone, Star Trek fan or not, should be able to thoroughly enjoy this movie.
4 out of 5