Star Trek is a 2009 film directed by J. J. Abrams and written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. This is a reboot of the entire brand that had definitely lost popularity after the great revival of the Eighties and Nineties had slowly lost its momentum and had died with the last The Next Generation movie in 2002 and with the cancellation of Star Trek: Enterprise in 2005. As of mid-2021, there are so many Star Trek products that it is difficult to know them all, so from this point of view the reboot of the brand was a resounding success (I recently wrote about one of these products, Lower Decks). But this post is dedicated to the 2009 film by J. J. Abrams, so let’s start with some plot.
2233. A futuristic Romulan ship commanded by Nero (Eric Bana) appears out of nowhere and, in search of some “Ambassador Spock“, destroys a Federation ship, the USS Kelvin, causing the death of George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth). He manages to save his pregnant wife (Jennifer Morrison) who will then give birth to little James Tiberius. Many years later, Starfleet faces that same Romulan ship (the Narada), and this time the young James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) also arrive on board of Captain Pike’s (Bruce Greenwood) Enterprise. Nero defeats an entire Federation fleet, then destroys Vulcan by creating a black hole inside the planet, and then heads to Earth to do the same.
And here I stop. This quick summary should make it clear that there is no subtlety at all about this script. In the first adventure of the new Star Trek course, Vulcan is destroyed, and that’s the planet which gave birth to one of the most iconic characters ever, Spock. Then Starfleet loses the majority of its ships in a battle, and an alternate timeline is created in which to set new adventures. And Romulus is destroyed too, right?
In addition, the movie also establishes all the main characters, all very young but with extremely speedy careers: both Kirk and Spock, fresh from the Academy, become captains of the Enterprise, and there are also Bones McCoy (Karl Urban), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Sulu (John Cho), Scott (Simon Pegg), and Chekov (the unlucky Anton Yelchin).
I understand the choice of setting up an alternative timeline. It was perhaps the only way to allow old characters to experience new adventures. But here’s a question: did we really need to see alternate versions of Kirk, Spock, McCoy and all the others? We can still see them by watching The Original Series and their six films, wouldn’t it be better to follow new characters? Especially since these new incarnations of the characters don’t look much like the earlier ones, with Spock who seems to be angry all the time and Kirk who instead of being nice, even if borderline arrogant, here comes out as simply unbearable.
But even assuming that this was the only way to reboot Star Trek, there are many other things about this film that didn’t convince me at all. First, the plot feels really forced and gives the impression of being written following the logic of connecting the dots. Let me explain: the writers had to introduce young Kirk and the others and then put them on the Enterprise. They also had to find a way to use an important cameo like Leonard Nimoy’s. How to do that? Asking the viewers to accept unacceptable things, of course. For instance, think of the very fast promotions aboard the Enterprise and of coincidences that are nothing short of incredible like Kirk abandoned on a random planet where he finds elderly Spock (Leonard Nimoy) who had been abandoned right there, in that same area, some time before. What are the chances?
Second, I didn’t like Abrams‘s super-dynamic direction along with Dan Mindel’s desaturated cinematography which is commonly used in recent movies but that I don’t like at all. And why did they add all those lens flares everywhere? Sure, they made us laugh with the honest trailer, but was it worth it?
Third, but let me stop counting, why did Abrams and company completely ignore everything Star Trek created between 1966 and 2004? I understand the need to do something new, but then why call it Star Trek? Abrams could have done something completely different, in fact both the aesthetics and the style are much closer to Star Wars than Star Trek. It’s no surprise that Abrams had never been a trekkie, but fortunately for him, a few years later he managed to get his hands on the brand that he really loved (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, 2015). As for the screenwriters Orci and Kurtzman, I doubt they knew the source material particularly well either, given how they handled it.
And then it makes me laugh a bit that after the Nemesis dumpster fire, it was chosen to have an Romulan antagonist with a large ship capable of destroying entire planets (again). The tone of the two films is similar too, with entire planets wiped out and starships disintegrated in over-the-top space battles, it’s hard to make a funny light-hearted movie with that! So what exactly does this Star Trek have of the previous Star Trek? Aside from the names of the characters, I would say nothing… Ciao!