Pros: Great characters, action, humour, SFX, plot...
Cons: ... a couple of small niggles, that's all...
One of the most hotly-awaited movie releases this decade, Star Trek takes on not one but two notoriously tricky challenges - making a prequel to a series fans know in obsessive depth, and introducing a time-travel element to the plot. However J.J.Abrams and co have managed to produce an excellent film that both Trekkies and neutrals will love.
Set in the years when Kirk and chums are in Starfleet Academy, it actually starts a bit before that - on the day of James Kirk's birth, in fact. We see the beginnings of a plot involving Romulans, time travel, and involving Spock; we see Kirk Sr become the ship's captain, albeit briefly, and become a hero; forward a few years and Kirk Jr is a reckless, hard-living youngster who seems to know no limits. Cut to Vulcan, where another young man is similarly in crisis - half-vulcan, half-human, young Spock is trying to find his path one way or the other, or maybe somewhere down the middle. The way the film shows the similarities between Kirk and Spock, who we view as very different from the original show and movies, is an intriguing angle and adds considerably to how interesting the film is.
While the main characters in the movie are inevitably James Tiberius Kirk and Spock, all the other main characters from the original series get some good scenes. I have too say that all the cast do a fantastic job; sometimes it's quite uncanny watching them and you almost feel that they really are the original cast members. When I'd first heard that Simon Pegg was to play Scotty I really wasn't too sure about it, but his character really works. Zachary Quinto perhaps just edges the accolades as Spock, for his performance is quite outstanding, but Chris Pine is also excellent as Kirk, Karl Urban gives a wonderful performance as Bones (Dr McCoy to the uninitiated), and John Cho / Zoe Saldana / Anton Yelchin are good as Sulu / Uhura / Chekov. The way the characters are developed is very good too - they create their own personalities while still bearing a close relation to the people they will become later. The other characters such as Captaind Pike (Bruce Greenwood) and baddie Nero (Eric Bana) are also very good, while Leonard Nimoy's appearance as Spock from the future is tremendous (especially given that it's the sort of thing that could have gone so badly wrong... "Generations", anyone?!)
The whole film works that way, in fact - it has a lot of affection for the original series while still being determined to stamp its own personality on the proceedings. Trekkies will absolutely love it. Not only that but any sci-fi fan or simply people who like good action movies will find it gripping stuff. While knowing the characters beforehand is a nice bonus, it's actually not at all essential to enjoying the film. The plot manages to throw a good few surprises too, which was... well, surprising. The special effects were superb as was the music (lost its way a little right at the end perhaps, but mostly very good). Humour is used very effectively to break up the action and suspense, and some of the dialogue is superb (as is the delivery).
One thing that I particularly liked about Star Trek 2009 was how it showed each member of the bridge crew as being the elite in their field, something which didn't really come across in the series or previous movies. Uhura's character in particular was pretty much just a pretty woman repeating things from the comms area before; in this she is shown as an extremely skilled linguist. Chekov's moment of glory in the film was particularly enjoyable, though I thought it was a shame that at no point in the movie did he try to claim that something had, contrary to popular belief, been invented by Russians.
Overall Star Trek 2009 (or Star Trek XI) has everything - it's exciting, it's funny, the plot twists and turns but stays coherent, the characters are interesting, the ending is satisfying but suggests that much more is to come... It's already received great reviews in the press and deservedly so.
If I had to make any criticisms of the film, they would only be small ones - the way Scotty and Kirk manage to get on the Enterprise (a seemingly impossible thing to do given their situation at the time) just seemed a bit too easy (though nothing like as preposterously easy as the "how do we get back to our own time?" bit at the end of First Contact!) and Spock's father looked unintentionally comical. Seriously, that's about it - I really struggled to find negatives with this film.
So what are you waiting for? Go and watch it already! Despite being fond of a few of the Star Trek films from years gone by, without a shadow of a doubt I view this one as being easily the best Star Trek movie yet.
Rated 12A (UK) PG-13 (USA) for sci-fi action and violence, and brief sexual content.
My Top Ten Star Trek Movies (yes I know there are only eleven so far...)
Star Trek: Nemesis review
Star Trek: Insurrection review
Star Trek: First Contact review