It started a little dubiously, with an action sequence that while impressive, was so saturated with excessive horizontal lens flare, shaky cam and fast pans that my first thought was “Oh no, it’s going to be another Transformers headache-a-thon”. Luckily the director apparantly laid off the amphetemines shortly afterwards and it became more manageable.
Let’s get right to it: the best thing about this film is the characters. That’s entirely appropriate, since that’s exactly what was good about the original series anyway, and clearly the creators realised that and focussed heavily on it. All of the major characters are nigh-on perfect for their roles; Kirk is appropriately swaggering, arrogant, womanising and reckless, and yet somehow still likeable, Spock is infuriating because you know underneath that forced exterior there’s a party animal bursting to get out, Bones is gruff and to the point with a healthy dose of acerbic humour. Simon Pegg does far better as Scotty than I could have imagined, managing to be even more likeable than James Doohan and having by far the best lines. The other characters don’t really get much screen time so apart from looking right and having the right kinds of accents (although Chekov seems a little overdone – but it’s funny anyway) there’s not much to say there, but I guess that’s all they really needed to be, and they’ll be looking for more in future sequels.
The plot – well, I read about how J.J. Abrams had introduced his Lost experience to the franchise with some good twists, but by the end of the film I was still waiting for them. The core twist is that because of the events at the start of the film, this is an alternate timeline and therefore things are similar, but different to the original series and films. This is a very smart move, since it totally frees them up creatively to do whatever they want, and again concentrate on just the core characters and inventing whatever new history they want around them. It’s also a wonderful silver bullet for silencing the more obsessive fans when they do something inconsistent. So, top marks for taking that route. However, the rest of the plot seems entirely contrived around that core premise, and to include Leonard Nimoy’s cameo part, and the need to get the characters ‘in place’ for future sequels. Little of it makes very much sense – so a rogue mining ship captain decides to follow obsessively Spock through time to destroy his entire planet (and Earth), just because he didn’t get there in time to save Romulus from a natural disaster? Okaaay – sounds pretty psychotic and illogical even for a grief-stricken Romulan.
But, it doesn’t matter that much. The characters and the incidental events nestled in this fairly ludicrous overall arc are entirely satisfying in their own right, so you can forgive them that. Barring the occasional misfire – such as a Scotty’s ‘tube ride’ and his weird familiar-like friend – the scenes are in themselves entertaining to watch and I would definitely be up for seeing more of this crew in the future. Definitely recommended.