“This is where the frontier pushes back.”

The latest film in the Kelvin Universe of Star Trek debuted today, a little short of the series’ 50th anniversary. With a new director and new writers, how does this entry fare?

Cast & Crew

Directed by Justin Lin

Written by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung

Chris Pine as James T. Kirk
Zachary Quinto as Spock
Idris Elba as Krall

Full Cast List on IMDB

Synopsis

Just over half-way through their five year mission, the crew of the Enterprise meets a powerful foe bent on their destruction and the end of the Federation.

Review

Short Version: It’s the best of the Kelvin Universe series. Go watch it.

Long Version: Despite being helmed by a purely action-oriented director, this is a surprisingly character-driven movie. All of the cast have moments that allow them to shine. It’s clear the long duration mission has worn down the crew, they continue to be there for each other.

Pegg and Jung have done a great job creating a film that feels like a long episode, albeit with higher-than-usual stakes (so like a season-finale/season-premiere two-parter). There are a lot of touchstones to older forms of Star Trek, namely the last series, Enterprise. To the casual viewer, it’s nothing, but it does ground the film in the same universe, making fans feel at home.

I was especially moved by how they integrated Leonard Nimoy’s death into the film’s plot. In a way, much of Spock’s dialogue about his older counterpart is a form of eulogy for the actor. It’s not overwrought, but just right.

There’s some truly over-the-top stuff in the final act but it’s all good fun (at least the audience I was with laughed along).

I was leery going into the film, particularly with the fate of the Enterprise being given away in all the trailers. I will say this, the old girl does not go down without one hell of a fight.

High Points

  • The action is in service to the plot. It’s over-the-top in places, but it fits.
  • Memorializing Spock Prime/Nimoy
  • Sulu’s family. It just is. Not a big deal, just a family. I liked that.
  • “I ripped my shirt, again.”

Low Points

  • Some of the scenes are (wait for it) pretty darkly lit. I almost feel like a hypocrite for mentioning it.
  • Not enough Chekov. He’s in plenty, but with Yelchin’s passing, I wished he could have had more time.
  • Krall didn’t really get fully formed, until the very end. Then suddenly it’s almost info-dumped on us.
  • Elba’s acting was a little muffled due to so much make-up.
  • Playing really fast and loose with how transporters work.

The Scores

Originality: This is all-new stuff here. No rehash of previous films with re-imagined classic villains. 4/6

Effects: Excellent effects work, particularly with the first encounter with Krall’s ships. 6/6

Story: It’s a good story that feels familiar, but not a retread of old ground. 4/6

Acting: The cast is solid in their roles and it’s a blast. Urban’s McCoy gets much more to do and it feels great. Cho’s Sulu is older and more mature (as he should as time goes by). Yelchin’s Chekov is great, something that will be sorely absent from the next film. 5/6

Production: The sets and setting feel much more real and less like an Apple ad. Yorktown station seems a little weirdly put together and stretched plausibility. 4/6

Emotional: You’re moved in all the right ways this time. You feel the cast’s loss of Nimoy in how the approach the loss of Spock. Additionally, losing the ship isn’t something that’s just glossed over. Kirk and company fight tooth and nail to keep her together. 5/6

Overall: Like I said, this is probably the best of the newer films. It’s a good mix of old and new and an actual treat for the 50th anniversary (of which we fans have had precious little this year). 5/6

Total: 33/42