While this is a special effects-loaded, action-packed film, it let me down in two respects. First, much of what happens is incomprehensible. There are just too many things that don’t make sense, like the fights, which are shown with quick cuts so you can’t really see what’s going on. I’m sure that the science fiction was too difficult for them to devise something that would be understandable, so it is like the fights, thrown out there so you see it but then finessed. Producer/director J.J. Abrams must have had the confidence that the audience wouldn’t care whether or not it made sense, just so it looked good. After all, it is science and fiction, isn’t it?
But regardless of whether or not the story is good or the special effects are wonderful or the color is dazzling or the huge screen is overwhelming, this movie stands or falls on how the actors shape up with the people who made their roles iconic, specifically, William Shatner (Captain James Kirk) and Leonard Nimoy (Spock). So let’s forget about the story and the special effects and the color and the huge screen, and cut to the chase.
Chris Pine gives an outstanding performance as the young Captain James Kirk. You can easily see how he could seamlessly evolve into the Kirk of Shatner. He’s got good looks, charm, smarts and is cunning.
But Zachary Quinto completely misses the boat as Spock. The weakness is even more glaring because the real Spock, Leonard Nimoy, not only appears in the film, but appears in the same scenes with Quinto. While the look is close, the personality isn’t. Nimoy played the putative-emotionless Spock with a glint in his eye; Quinto is squarely humorless, playing Spock as an arrogant effete. Nimoy’s Spock was arrogant but he seemed to be laughing at himself. There isn’t a hint of humor in Quinto, even though he is given some lines that could have been funny (and would have been if handled by Nimoy). When Lt. Uhura (Zoe Saldana) kisses him, it’s a moment to cringe. Remember, he’s supposed to be half human (the half with emotions), and from all we get from this movie, he does have emotions. One thing for which this film truly stands is what a wonderful actor Nimoy is, and what outstanding performances he gave as Spock.
As to the others, two are exceptional, maybe better than the originals. The best is Simon Pegg as Scotty. I’ve seen several of Pegg’s movies, and it would be too faint to say that I didn’t like them. I detested them. But Pegg’s Scotty (well-played by James Doohan in the original) is terrific. Karl Urban also gives a good performance as the doctor “Bones” (Dr. McCoy played by Deforest Kelley in 76 episodes of the original). Urban is more friendly and less unhappy than Kelley but his performance is admirable.
Pike (Bruce Greenwood), Kirk’s predecessor, was played by Jeffrey Hunter and then Sean Kenney in the first three episodes of the TV series as the first captain of the Enterprise. Greenwood surpasses his predecessors and gives a commanding performance as the unquestioned leader of the Enterprise.
The story is clearly third to the characters and the special effects. The Enterprise is out to save the galaxy in its maiden voyage. The bad guy, Nero, is played by Eric Bana. Almost all we see is his face, but Bana gives a commanding performance as a real bad guy.
The best scene in the movie is when young Kirk rides his motorcycle to where they are building the Enterprise and we see the huge ship under construction. This is a scene that is used in trailers, so most people have seen it. Even so, when you see it on the big screen, it is impressive, a scene to be remembered over the decades.
While it might be a little long and while Spock is disappointing, this is still an entertaining movie.