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star trek

Star Trek
J.J. Abrams
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Leonard Nimoy, Eric Bana, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg

Richard Tara &
Ricardo Barberini

May 11. 2009


This is a first time that we have asked two of our reviewers to review the same movie at the same time.  Ricardo Barberini, our senior movie critic and Richard Tara are collaborating on this project and each will give his review and rating independently, similar to the way that Siskel and Ebert used to do so effectively on Public Television.

First the story.

This is about the early days of Enterprise and Star Trek.  Not only do we get to meet Captain Kirk and First officer Spock as young men but we are also treated to learning more about Captain Kirk’s parents and Spock’s heritage.  In a fantasy sci-fi, everything is possible.  First, we see Captain George Kirk, James’s father sacrifice himself in a battle with the evil Romulans.  Actually, it is not all the Romulans just a renegade Romulan named Nero (must be from the Italian branch of the Romulan empire!) who has been thrown back in time over 100 years and is seeking revenge for the accidental destruction of his planet and his wife.

When the movie starts, George Kirk has just taken over as the captain of Starship Kelvin while the captain has gone on-board, the Romulan ship, Narada, to negotiate a peace treaty with Nero.  Realizing the treachery of the Romulans, Kirk orders the evacuation of the ship and rams the Romulan ship single handedly to give the crew a chance to escape the Romulans. Among the evacuees is his very pregnant wife who gives birth to James T. Kirk as the shuttle craft pull away from the doomed Kelvin.

Over twenty years later James Kirk who is a wild young man in Iowa, of all the places, with a chip on his shoulder follows the footsteps of his father and joins the Federation Academy.  Along the way, he meets Uhura a linguist and Leonard McCoy a doctor.  At the academy, he also meets Lt. Spock who is a science officer with the Starfleet.  To shorten his graduation, Kirk reprograms and beats the computer war game Kobayashi Maru that was specifically designed to defeat all cadets to teach them the value of fear.  For cheating, he is hauled before the board of inquiry and suspended from duty.  Meanwhile the Federation dispatches all available ships to Vulcan in response to a distress call from that planet.  Dr. McCoy smuggles his friend Kirk aboard Enterprise by making him temporarily sick.  Kirk who has studied his father’s demise realizes that this is another trap by the Romulans and warns the captain of the Enterprise, Christopher Pike, who after initial skepticisms accepts the logic of this stowaway brash officer. 

On arrival at Vulcan, they discover that the seven ships of the Federation that had preceded them have all been destroyed and notice that the Romulan ship is digging into the core of the planet.  While captain Pike goes aboard the Romulan ship Narada to negotiate, Kirk and Sulu land on the drilling platform and destroy it.  However, they are too late, the drilling has reached the core of the planet and Nero injects the dreaded Red Matter, which can turn a planet into a black hole into the center of Vulcan.  As Vulcan disintegrates and turns into a black hole the Romulan ship, escapes while Kirk and Sulu are transported back to the Enterprise by Chekov. 

Spock who has lost his mother in the death of his planet takes over command of the ship and decides to join the surviving Federation ships to discuss future strategy against the Romulans.  Kirk angrily protests this action since he feels that Nero’s next target is the Earth.  Spock, who has never liked Kirk, abandons him on the desolate planet Delta Vega.  In Delta Vega Kirk meets Spock again, except this time Spock is over 120 years old. 

The old Spock explains to Kirk that he is from the future.  Many years from now, a star goes supernova and threatens to destroy many planets on its path. Spock will develop a compound called Red Matter that could turn the exploding supernova into a black hole to feed on itself and save the other planets on the path of the supernova.   However, Spock will not arrive on time to save Romulus, the Romulan planet, and Romulus is destroyed. Nero who is in his ship Narada far away from Romulus watches the fiasco in horror.  Nero and his ship Narada together with Spock are pushed back in time by about 25 years by the force of the explosion.  Nero captures Spock and gets hold of the Red Matter.  He deposits Spock on Delta Vega, which is close to Vulcan for him to witness the eventual destruction of Vulcan. 

With the help of the old Spock, and engineering officer Scott, who is stationed on Delta Vega, Kirk beams back to Enterprise and takes command of the Enterprise. Enterprise heads back to Earth and discovers that Nero has already started drilling to reach the core of the planet. Spock and Kirk devise a plan to beam aboard Narada, destroy the drill and rescue Captain Pike.  The final battle between the forces of good and evil follows.

Richard Tara’s Review

As a Star Trek fan, I have seen all Star Trek movies and most of the television series.  It is amazing, if not miraculous, that a 1960’s TV series, which was dropped because of low ratings after barely 3 seasons and 79 episodes, could become such an international phenomena. The reason probably is the time.  The 60’s were such turbulent times for the world and many people latched on to the escapist fantasy of Star Trek, which relied on good stories and good acting rather than expensive sets and high salaried actors.  People identified themselves with the characters and wished they could be whisked away by Scotty into a fantasy world of future where, at least, people of Earth lived in harmony with each other.

This movie relies heavily, and in my opinion unnecessarily, on special effects (FX.)  The story is convoluted and rather illogical but it is well crafted by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman into a highly entertaining script.  The direction by veteran director/ writer/actor J.J. Abrams is professional and does not allow the audience to become conscious of the many holes in the story line.  As a rule, flashbacks are not very successful in movies or books, except in dramas.  However, the director and the writers manage to incorporate a series of flashbacks and flashbacks within flashbacks to entertain the audience.   When I asked people how much of the plot they remembered after the screening, they generally remembered the outline of the story. They just wanted to remember it without the intricacies of the complex plot.  There lies the genius of the director and his crew.

The Cinematography by Daniel Mandel is effective and effusive; however, the real credit belongs to the special effects crew, actually Industrial Light and Magic, Evil Eye and about forty people in the makeup department of Paramount/Spyglass studio. 

Overall, the actors selected for their respective roles fitted well within the limited criteria for this movie.   There was no outstanding performance by any one actor.  This is what I think of the different actors.

Leonard Nimoy gave the movie class and injected certain calmness into the otherwise frenzied story line.   The makeup artists did a wondrous job to make Spock look like death warmed over.  Zachary Quinto, who incidentally was born in 1977, as the young Spock looks quite like the Spock of the 1960’s series, but his character is too wooden and does not carry the same panache of the old Spock. 

Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy is the most believable member of the new crew.  Not only he looks like a young McCoy but also he acts the part of a sensitive caregiver who is destined to take care of his younger friend Kirk forever.

Chris Pine as James Kirk does not fit the bill that well.  He does not have the mischievous charm of the young William Shatner and most of his acting is physical which is obviously handled by the stuntmen. 

Eric Bana as Nero is disappointing.  His main contribution to acting consists of long menacing whispers and torturing prisoners and performing acrobatic acts that even stuntmen could not perform. 

Another big disappointment is Simon Pegg as Scotty.  Instead of the calm and yet witty Scotty of old, we are treated to an idiotic cartoonish performance by Simon with his over the top Scottish accent.  I hope that they will replace his character by a better actor next time or maybe he will learn to act. 

Zoe Saldana as Uhura is the one outstanding member of the new crew who outshines the old Uhura in looks and acting ability.  She is a real asset and provides emotion and compassion to a movie that otherwise would have been too much like a marvel comic remake.

Anton Yelchin as Chekov and John Cho as Sulu are splendidly typecast in their respective roles.  Other actors such as Winona Ryder, Ben Cross and Chris Greenwood play minor roles in this movie. 

As for story line, I will give it starstar1/2, for acting, 2 stars, for directions, special effects and makeup 3 stars.  It is a thumb up from me for the entire family.

Ricardo Barberini’s review:

I found the movie enjoyable, if rather pedestrian in approach.   It somehow reminded me of a Spider Man movie projected into the future.  The same fragile relationship is portrayed here between two would be friend.  Like when Spock abandons Kirk to a deadly planet to face almost certain death. In addition, the nemesis, Nero, seems to have no compunction in killing billions of living souls.  Contrast that with Superman where the villains, as vicious as they are, are more humane and apart from the fact that they have super human capabilities are more believable, so to speak.

I feel the director J.J. Abrams has done an almost adequate job.  His experience has been limited to several B movies and mundane gigs as TV series director.  None of his works has made any impact or merit artistic contribution.  So far, in his career, he has tried to be a musician, a writer, an actor and a director without showing much talent in any of those categories.  I would recommend that he stick to one profession and hone his talents accordingly.  

The story is too complicated for most audiences and I agree with Richard that most moviegoers will have forgotten the twisted plot as soon as they leave the theatre and will only remember that they saw an enjoyable movie.

The cinematography in this movie is mostly special computer generated effects which make up for the lack of expertise by Daniel Mindel who has limited experience in big budget movies. 

It is a pity that actors such as Eric Bana have to stoop so low as to have their head shaved and face tattooed (temporarily we hope) to play a banal role as Nero. 

Leonard Nimoy who looks like a cross between Moe Howard of three stooges with his fake wig and a very old Ronald Reagan with his false teeth did a cameo like appearance.  He used to be good and people still remember and respect him for his roles. 

Most of the other actors were part of the young crowd of new Hollywood with great looks and little if any talent.  None is versatile enough to play anything major and deep in the future.   I agree with Richard about one exception being Zoe Saldana as Uhura who demonstrated great empathy while kissing and embracing a stone faced Spock.   As a side note, I was impressed by Rachel Nichols who plays Gaila.  Green was never my favorite color but I think I will revisit that color.

Despite complicated plot and poor acting, I will give this move an overall rating of starstarstarand will recommend it for the entire family.

Contact Ricardo Barberini at

Contact Richard Tara at

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star trek

Star Trek
J.J. Abrams
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Leonard Nimoy, Eric Bana, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg

Stewart Armstrong

June 27, 2009


“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

So go the famous words that introduced each weekly episode of the classic Sci-Fi television series Star Trek which premiered in 1967. Anybody who has seen or heard of Star Trek pretty much knows them, if not by heart. Four series, two spin-offs, six movies with the original cast, four with the “Next Generations” cast, and now the current incarnation Star Trek, make a total of 11 movies since 1979. Now that’s a franchise if I ever saw one. With those stats most people would say -- hate it or love it – that the franchise has longevity. Directed by J.J. Abrams and written by Transformers scribes Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, Star Trek turns out to be a nice romp, but just how nice depends. It depends if you’re a Star Trek fan or not, hate it or love it, if you are a Shat-man fan or not, or if you like Sci-Fi or don’t really care.

The beloved franchise gets of reboot of sorts this time around. It starts off with a bang and never lets go, taking you on a wild ride. A mysterious ship out of nowhere attacks a Federation starship and quickly disables it. A figure (Eric Bana as the Romulan, Nero) appears on the ship’s screen and asks if the crew has seen a particular person? He then asks the ship’s Captain to come aboard his ship in a shuttlecraft? Did I just miss something? The Captain – he looks like he just finished wrestling Baustista from the WWE. I didn’t know being a starship Captain required one to buff upK -- gives his First Officer instructions, hands him command of the vessel, and “shuttles” over to the ominous and frightening mystery ship. Meanwhile, the First Officer evacuates the crew including his wife who’s in labor. Finally, with all essential personnel off the ship, he makes a decision that we would consider “illogical”. Does he survive? What of his wife who’s in labor and the other crew members? Ahh, the fun. I’m telling you, this is one fun movie to watch, but it doesn’t come without flaws.

So, let’s start with the characters. They should be very familiar. Chris Pine has the lead role of James T. Kirk. Does he measure up to the inimitable William Shatner’s Kirk? Um, no, I don’t think anybody could touch William Shatner’s portrayal with a trillium conductive rod, but Pine does a nice job though. He tries to put a different spin on the character and he avoids some of the traps that most young actors might fall into. Pine seems to get most of what makes up Kirk, but he misses the essence of the character. In this movie, Kirk becomes irrelevant. He serves more as a background character – he’s expendable, you wouldn’t miss him. If Pine had imitated the Shat-man’s version a little bit he might have portrayed Kirk more fully, character-wise.

Zachary Quinto stars as Spock. The same criticism I have of Pine’s Kirk applies to Quinto’s rendition of Spock. To be fair, Quinto does a good job, but not much else, except in his emoting of Spoke’s anger management problems. You get brief glimpses of the Vulcan/Human conflict raging on inside of him and the challenges he faces externally, but little else in terms of onscreen presence, even though he is central to the plot.

Karl Urban steps into the role of the venerable Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, and he steals the show, and I that mean literally. He must have channeled the spirit of the late DeForrest Kelly because he had him down pat: his mannerisms, facial expressions, the whole enchilada. Too bad Pine and Quinto didn’t do as good a job with their characters. I would have loved to see more of McCoy on the screen.

Simon Pegg of Hot Fuzz fame stars as Montgomery Scott. Um, can I say scene-stealer here, too, because his portrayal of Scotty was also spot on. I didn’t know Simon Pegg had the spirit of a Scot in his bones, but it seemed he did. Then there is Zoe Saldana as Uhura. Talk about another wasted talent! With little screen time, her character is not fleshed out with any detail. I’m not saying Saldana’s bad, but she gets nothing to work with here. Next we have John Cho as Hikuru Solo. His performance was good, yes, but with the exception of one very funny scene, there didn’t seem to be any reason for his presence. What I will say is that I’m surprised he didn’t make a White Castle burger run. And then there’s Anton Yelchin playing Pavel Chekov. His performance? Ditto. I think you’re beginning to see a pattern here and it doesn’t take a tricorder to figure it out.

The great Leonard Nimoy returns as Spock. Didn’t see that coming, did ya? Given the fact that Mr. Nimoy has played this character for so long it should come as no surprise to anyone that he always does a remarkable job. However, in the immortal words of Spock, his presence in the movie is “interesting”. And though he was pretty good as the Romulan, Nero, Eric Bana unfortunately played a character that is not much more than a stock bad guy who lacks any real motivation. I was just waiting for him to Hulk-out at one point. It would have ratcheted up the movie’s entertainment value for sure.

And finally, I come to the very fine actor Bruce Greenwood on board as Captain Christopher Pike. He delivered a solid performance. Maybe if the movie featured him a little bit more, hmmm? I dunno. It seems like he was more like Captain Kirk than Pine was as Kirk. However, the big surprise of the movie was the casting of Tyler Perry. Tyler Perry?! Yes, freaking Tyler Perry. Wow! Madea must have busted outta jail and hijacked a starship.

Now, let’s look at the plot. Basically, Spock inadvertently goes back in time and is pursued by a mad miner. Yes, a mad miner. No, there is nothing else to it. See how simple it is; but though simple, it isn’t flawless. Moreover, the movie is missing something. I can’t put my finger on it, but something is definitely missing. I think it has to do in part with the dumbing down of Star Trek to attract a larger audience. The fact that Pine’s and Quinto’s portrayals of the two most iconic figures in the Star Trek franchise prove less then stellar or even average and lack onscreen presence, could also be a part of it. But, I think most of all it has to do with the fact that the movie lacks a message. It makes no statement.

However, on the flip side, there are a few good things about Star Trek. It’s positive and bright and good fun to watch, especially with all the in-jokes and references to other Star Trek movies. You’ll find something here for non-Star Trek fans as well as for the Trekkies, but I would say mainly more for the non-fans. So, despite its drawbacks (missing message, overlong characters intros, poor character development, no standout performances) it is fast paced and funny, funnier than most comedies today, with a few surprises and a breath of fresh air. It serves as evidence that a fun movie doesn’t have to be dark and gloomy, but can be bright and optimistic. To me, this movie tells what feels more like a “What If?” kind of story. In fact, one of the most interesting plot points involves the evolution of the character of Spock into a tragic figure.

So I would sum up my impressions of Star Trek like this. Story and plot it gets a 3 out of 5 points. Characters and performances, a 2.5 out of 5. Special effects and action sequences, a 4 out of 5. The overall rating: 3.2 out of 5. Yep, I being a little generous – just don’t become too accustomed to my generosity. As an aside, if you are really interested in reading about Kirk and Spock’s first meeting in detail, I would recommend William Shatner’s “Collision Course (Star Trek: Academy)”

star star1/2