Star Trek (2009) Director: J.J. Abrams
In 2007, when J.J. Abrams accepted Paramount’s offer to direct a new Star Trek film it was a troubled time for the franchise. The Star Trek Enterprise television series had been canceled and the the two most recent Star Trek films were widely panned (Star Trek: Insurrection in 1998 and Star Trek: Nemesis in 2002). The idea for a new film was to reboot the original series with a twist. They hoped to create a qualified prequel to the original Star Trek series which initially aired on NBC in the 1960s, but grew in popularity through syndication later through CBS. The filmmakers had a daunting task ahead of them: to reinvigorate the series, bringing appeal to a wider audience, yet also pleasing Trekkie fans, many of whom are notoriously fickle. To a large extent, they succeeded in this first film which was released in 2009.
The new Star Trek movies are often referred to as the “Kelvin” timeline in reference to the name of the ship in the series, the USS Kelvin (an homage to J.J. Abrams’s grandfather).
The year is 2233 (prior to the original series of Star Trek). At the outset of the film, the USS Kelvin is investigating a strange interspace phenomena when it is suddenly attacked by a Romulan ship known as the Narada headed by Nero (Eric Bana). The captain of the Kelvin beams aboard the Romulan ship where is interrogated about a man he has never heard of named “Ambassador Spock” and he is promptly executed. Thus First Officer George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth) takes command. He orders the entire crew to abandon ship, including his pregnant wife, Winona, who is mid-delivery, giving birth to a son James Tiberius Kirk. George Kirk sacrifices himself by staying behind to fight the Romulans.
Many years later his son, Jim Kirk, has become something of a delinquent, and then even more time passes and we meet a young Spock (Zachary Quinto) on the planet Vulcan who disappoints his parents by joining Starfleet under the United Federation of Planets instead of the Vulcan Science Academy. Next, we meet an adult Jim Kirk (Chris Pine) during training at Starfleet. He has become a scrappy and pompous playboy, yet he somehow manages to defeat an impossible simulation devised by Spock (Kirk cheats to win). While in Starfleet Kirk encounters a variety of classic characters such as Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Doctor “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban) and Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood -the character is a nod to the unaired pilot of the original series).
At any rate, activities are interrupted by a Vulcan distress call (Vulcan is Spock’s home planet). The fleet makes haste for Vulcan while Pike, Kirk, and crew board a new ship called USS Enterprise, but the new helmsman Sulu (John Cho) makes a small delay and they arrive moments later to find the rest of the fleet ambushed and destroyed while the Romulan ship Narada sits drilling a massive hole into Vulcan. Captain Pike surrenders to Nero and the ship’s command falls to Spock and Kirk becomes First Officer. Kirk, Sulu, and another character drop down onto the drill and destroy it (of course, in standard Star Trek fashion, their newly introduced and semi-anonymous compatriot dies). Nevertheless, Nero manages to destroy the planet Vulcan, leaving only enough time for Spock’s father to be resuced, and the Narada heads for Earth.
Spock dumps Kirk on a nearby planet (Delta Vega, a remote mining planet from the original series) as punishment for staging an attempted mutiny, however while on the planet Kirk encounters a much older Spock, reprised by the now late-great Leonard Nimoy. Spock explains that he and Nero are actually from the future. They were sent back in time by an artificial black hole in an effort to save Nero’s home planet of Romulus from destruction by a supernova, however they failed so as punishment Nero marooned Spock on Delta Vega to witness the destruction of his home planet Vulcan. We learn this timeline is wholly unique as an alternate reality from the original series. Kirk and Spock wander through a snowy Delta Vega until they find a remote outpost and a quirky Scottish engineer named Montgomery “Scotty” Scott (Simon Pegg) who devises a method for them to beam aboard the Enterprise thanks to the advanced knowledge of the elder Spock.
Kirk takes his rightful place as Captain and he and Spock beam aboard the Narada and rescue Captain Pike. Meanwhile, Spock sets his ship on a collision and crashes into Nero thus activating the “red matter” and Nero falls back into a black hole. Kirk, Spock, and the Enterprise narrowly escape. Back on Earth Kirk becomes the official Captain of the Enterprise and the elder Spock convinces a younger Spock to commit to the Enterprise even though it is not necessarily logical. The moment of connection between the elder and the younger Spock is particularly sentimental for fans.
The Star Trek reboot is at best a fun adventure that dutifully pays lip-service to Star Trek fans, at worst it is another standard dizzying Hollywood break-neck paced thriller that sacrifices substance for style. However, it is a surprisingly enjoyable ride, Star Trek was in serious need of a shot of adrenaline in order to remain relevant for a new generation. Perhaps the most amazing aspect of the movie is how similar each character looks to the original series -Zachary Quinto as Spock is a dead-ringer! It was a smart move on J.J. Abrams’s part to recreate the story in an alternate universe of sorts so as not to disrupt an already complex and lengthy fan lore.