I was both excited and a little reserved. I'm not a mammoth Star Trek fan, but at the same time I do love the characters and some of the films, I'm a big fan of The Undiscovered Country and, obviously, The Wrath of Khan, so I was wondering if this new Star Trek would live up to the old.
Of course there are a lot of considerations to factor into that question, and it's not really one for the review. Instead I'll confine that to the next feature on the site and reserve for here the review. Still, some comparison has to be made, but let's have a look at how the film did first.
They await Spock's return, and when he does their plan to exact a terrifying revenge that will affect the entire Federation begins.
When the Romulan craft arrived something else has happened, it instigated an event that changes Star Trek history forever, altering James T. Kirk's life from a very early age and putting it on a different path to the history we know.
This path seems far from Starfleet until a chance encounter brings him face to face with Captain Pike who reminds Kirk of his father's achievements and offers him the chance to follow in his footsteps.
It's then that the crew that we know and love begins to come together. Uhuru is already in Starfleet and training, Spock is finding it hard to come to terms with his human side as he fights the racism with Vulcan society by succeeding, and while Kirk is joining Starfleet he meets McCoy on the leaving shuttle.
From the opening of J.J. Abrams Star Trek two things are very clear. The first is that this is going to be a strong action/adventure film in the same style of his previous big screen outings such as Mission: Impossible III, and the other is that this new Star Trek franchise is going to, very boldly, cut it's own path from the outset.
I think that was a brave move. Immediately he, and the writers Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman create events that begin to alter and change the Star Trek universe we know from moments before James T. Kirk's life.
This could have easily turned Star Trek fans away from the film, but the change is wrapped in Star Trek visuals and fast paced action, that there's not much time or an inclination to call it to task. The change seems somewhat unimportant in the grand scheme of things and can easily be put down to the creators just changing early events for their story. It's not until later that the ramifications of these events start becoming clear, and the realisation comes that they've successfully managed to alter Star Trek history to enable a new franchise to be distanced from the original without necessarily having to end up in a place where the first Star Trek film would begin.
Clever indeed, from here on out the franchise could do anything with the crew and the mythology, and it's done well enough that I found I didn't actually mind it happening, although I'm sure the frantic pace of the film helped in distracting me from thinking about it at the time and relegated it to my post film thoughts.
The action begins from the outset and continues on through the film, it felt as though it was racing at a pretty high pace and didn't have much room to breath. While that was good and gave for a great action/adventure feel to the film it did feel a little rushed and it struggled to find time to build all the characters.
We get a decently created Kirk, Spock, and some time spent on McCoy and Uhuru, but to be honest Chekov, Scotty and Sulu are all treated very lightly. Even the time spent on the bigger characters is relegated either to shorter, sharper bursts between the action to catch up on the historical moments, or it's during the action sequences racing onwards.
This is one thing that I think it failed to do as well as the previous Star Trek films, well the better ones anyway, is the characterisation during the slower moments of the film. I felt that looking back at those previous films there was a lot more time to slow the action down and bring forward the characters, giving them centre stage and allowing them some time to develop and connect. In this Star Trek everything is done on the run and during big action sequences, and in the instances where it's not, there are plenty of pushes towards the next scene.
Although we had time to delve into Kirk and Spock there was another major aspect missing from the original films, the bad guy.
If we look at some of the best baddies in Star Trek we're looking at characters like Khan or General Chang, characters who had depth, drive, and much more complexity than Nero seen in this new Star Trek. What about a megalomaniac Klingon who quotes Shakespeare as he does battle with his great adversary of Kirk, what about Khan filled with that controlled rage which is so strong when released?
Well to be fair you can see a little of Khan in the character of Nero, but there's next to no building of that character, and his short explanation of why he's so angry at everyone is raced through on way to another scene.
Saying all this the main crew members were given enough for us to make a connection with and see some clever link with the characters that they were, or rather become, in the previous series of films. Each has a nice little nod to his abilities or quirkiness that is welcomed by the general audience as well as the Star Trek fan.
Personally I think that after Kirk and Spock it's Karl Urban's superb capture of Dr McCoy that comes out as the best character. I really enjoyed his one liners and his moments on screen, he seemed the most real and fleshed out character for me, perhaps because he appeared so much out of the action and was often the counterbalance to both Spock and Kirk at different times.
There are a few moments for Spock, both current and Prime, that I have to write about and discuss. I loved the reappearance of Leonard Nimoy as Spock and I did think that Zachary Quinto managed to play the younger Spock without making me think too much of Sylar, however, and here's where I turn to the closing sequences of the film, his final glib comment to Kirk feels very much like Sylar, very much like a human.
Perhaps this is another demonstration of his battle with his human self, or more to the point a show that he's coming to terms with it. However that battle was demonstrated perfectly well with the fight with Kirk on the bridge, and the idea that he might be reconciling his human half with his Vulcan half is called into question later when he talks to Spock Prime.
For me this was a huge moment for the film, Spock meeting himself, realising that the future had been changed, and realising that he can be something much stronger and not only in control of his human self, but embracing and using it. However it seems all too quick and the weight of the moment lighter than it should have been for such a coming together between the two characters, and it wrapped things up a little too neatly and nicely.
Yet it is a cool moment to see the two characters together, and Nimoy plays Spock Prime perfectly, showing a fine and comfortable balance between his human and Vulcan side, using his human side to manipulate people and events. This discussion between the two Spocks is a nice moment though, even if it is far too short and rushed, and Prime's explanation of why he did things the way he did is a lovely hark back to the way the characters were before the reboot and modernisation.
The discussion between the two could well have been a great moment of the film, but it just isn't quite as effective as the moment promises. We see a sense of the difference between the two Spocks, the level of maturity and emotional control between the two is palatable, and reflects a similar disparity between this Star Trek and previous such as The Wrath of Khan or The Undiscovered Country.
However as strong as this short meeting is, and the nostalgic meeting between Spock Prime and Kirk earlier on in the film, there's a distinct feeling of emasculating the character. Against the enemy he does nothing more than get captured and stranded off camera, there's no retribution for the character, there's no moment of confrontation with his enemy, and no real pay off for him being there. Of course if you analyse it then his purpose was to push Kirk, but that moment carries such little weight it hardly feels worth it. Spock Prime's potential is hardly even touched upon, another victim of the overly fast pace of the film.
Let's look at what's good though, because the film is far from bad. There's some great action sequences and the pace is high and keeps you pulled along with the film, the reason it falls well short of a Star Trek film is the same reason it works as a high paced action film.
Then there's the scale and effects, the battles in space look fantastic and really do pull you right into the thick of things, and the scale and detail of the ships is amazing. Here the film doesn't put a foot wrong and the visuals are astounding both in and out of the ships. Except for those damned lens flares. We know the future's bright, but it's not blinding. Surely they would have thought to turn down the brightness of all those panels inside the bridge so people could see their screens and instruments?
Throughout the film there are some great nods to the franchise and the television series, like Rachel Nichols playing the green lady at the beginning, and as I was listening to the audience you could hear the group of those in the know laughing and clapping, and the remaining audience sitting watching and enjoying.
Star Trek is a good film, it's a strong action/adventure/science fiction film with non-stop action from start to finish. There are some good elements there from the original Star Trek films, and this is a strong attempt to mix the requirements of a modern action film with the strong character based Star Trek films such as Wrath of Khan and Undiscovered Country, however the non-stop pace is what holds it back from being a good Star Trek film, and quite possibly a great film.
The constant requirement to keep action going and ignore character development, slotting them in during action sequences and trying to build them on the run, is what lets that Star Trek feel slip away. For a couple of the main characters it works, but some key characters and plot lines get left behind, far behind, and characters like Nero, the bad guy, and Spock Prime are some of the ones to suffer.
Star Trek fans might be disappointed for this, but I suspect those who aren't fans of the old franchise will be drawn into the pace and action of the film. Abrams was right when he said that this is for a new breed of Star Trek fans, but it might just push the old away a little, I know I definitely felt a little distanced from the film and not as engaged as I have with previous Star Trek films.
I've been struggling long and hard on whether to give this a three or a four review, and the more I think about it the more I feel that it has to be a three. Sure on it's own it's an action film that hits the four, but it's the fact that it's a Star Trek film that means it should be something more and although it does start to bring the characters to life, a lot of it gets lost in the ongoing action.