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Zachary Quinto
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J J Abrams.
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Star Trek
The slick, hip voyages of the Starship Enterprise...

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Kirk (Pine) runs wild after his dad dies on the Starship Kelvin. Vulcan Spock (Quinto) is an outsider because of his human mother. Both end up at Starfleet Academy, where they clash — can a futuristic threat unite them?

Star Trek
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According to recently discovered 23rd-century history, James Tiberius Kirk was literally born of battle — the last fight he ever backed away from was the one he was delivered into. In purely Darwinian terms though, Jeffrey Jacob Abrams was forged by a 21st-century crucible far more unforgiving than a field of photon torpedoes: network television — not HBO, television.

Two movies in to what promises to be a storied career and the 42 year-old director has yet to find any gear but fifth. It’s as if his apprenticeship pacifying the ADD generation has inculcated a native fear of flipping. The heart-stopping second act of Abrams’ underrated M:I-III is a real-time mercy dash that would even leave Bourne breathless. For his latest mission impossible, Abrams sustains this improbable pace for even longer: Star Trek — yes, your dad’s Star Trek — moves like a racehorse that’s just been force-fed dilithium crystals.

Advance word that Abrams’ franchise reboot would witness fulfilment of the near-mythical Starfleet Academy project proves misplaced. The director and his Trekkie-credentialed writers, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, are so impatient to pitch their neophyte crew into full-blown battle that the Academy years are largely covered by a single title card — “Three Years Later”. Phasers permanently set on stun are not much fun, after all.

From the moment ‘Bones’ McCoy comically smuggles an academically suspended Kirk onto Captain Pike’s U.S.S. Enterprise, Star Trek XI hits warp factor IX and, save for an obligatory sojourn with Spock senior, maintains a velocity that would give Scotty night terrors. This is perhaps NCC-1701’s most radical refit yet — for the first time in the franchise, the Enterprise is a genuine thrill-ride.

Not that the crew are just along for the V-necks. Abrams can do character on the run and the plot deftly deals in decent-sized roles for all of the famous seven. Karl Urban’s gruff McCoy and Zachary Quinto’s piercing Spock stand out, and despite internet rumbling, Chris Pine is also absolutely fine. Of course, as you might expect, the acting mostly requires shouting declarative Trekbabble or wedging witticisms between set-pieces, but both Bruce Greenwood’s stoic Captain Pike and Eric Bana’s wounded Nero forage earthier notes amid the SFX sheen.

That Trek weakness for warping plotlines does bring the usual convolutions, but whenever the Vulcan side of your brain is tempted to pose frequently asked questions about time travel, the breakneck pace drags you forward through the movie’s own brisk running time. On the downside, Abrams is not quite able to apply the brakes in time for the third act, which prematurely climaxes before you have time to drink it in. Kirk has a nice Indy moment and the Enterprise does a good impression of the Millennium Falcon in the Battle Of Yavin, but Spock’s dogfight with a drill is unlikely to enter Starfleet legend — what is pointy ears doing flying anything? — and Bana’s Nero deserved at least one villain’s mulligan.

Those hoping for a battle of wits to equal Kirk and Khan — or for hardcore Trekkers, to rival the Balance Of Terror episode that introduced the Romulans — will be left wanting. This is a Sulu-sized miscalculation. The Enterprise is a handsome ship, as evidenced by the hero shot Abrams gives her in the rings of Saturn (let’s call it the screensaver), but she was built for games of Battleship, not Asteroids.

Indeed, where XI ultimately falls short of the very best Trek, or indeed of all great science-fiction since Jules Verne, is in its want of big ideas. As a MacGuffin the movie boasts red matter — like a massive snooker ball, only deadlier — but it doesn’t find enough time to showcase the grey variety.

Very much like its dynamic young cast, this Trek is physical and emotional, sexy and vital even, but it is not cerebral. The movie is not exactly empty-headed; indeed it has some smarts, but it doesn’t live up to the high-mindedness that was part of Gene Roddenberry’s original mission statement.

Where overarching themes can be discerned, they primarily relate to the nature of friendship and teamwork, which is all very well, but it’s a grunt’s eye view of battle. Even a captain would appreciate the importance of battlefield tactics and how they intersect with military strategy and, ultimately, political vision.

For anyone who has endured the longueurs of both the Star Wars prequels and Matrix sequels, the distinct lack of politicking and speechifying will doubtless come as a blessed relief, but in a time when the United States is engaged in two wars, the failure to even acknowledge the issues arising from space imperialism and the Prime Directive is to flinch from battle. Harsher critics may even deem it a dereliction of duty. Season three of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica turned half its cast into Iraqi-style insurgents — and that was on television.

Ultimately, any boldness one can attach to the going here really belongs to the rescue of the Trek franchise from cultural irrelevance. This is a not insignificant achievement. As Abrams has noted himself, making 45 year-old tricorders desirable for the iPhone generation is a hell of a tough gig. Doing this while simultaneously pandering to the doctorates in Klingon is a task of Herculean, nay Sisyphean, proportions.

But Abrams and his crew pull it off. Save for the typically muddy motives of the modern bad guy — oh, for a truly Evil Empire — there is nothing much to confuse the multiplex masses, while there are plenty of in-jokes and visual details for the forum-dwellers to chew over. More to the point, the film is sassy, young and hip in a way the franchise has not been since the ’60s. It’s neither The Hills in space nor fan fiction with a $150 million budget. Kudos is due.

There will, of course, be some disquiet from the faithful, and not just because Kirk’s birth is yucky and his besting of Kobayashi Maru comes off as cocky. Fans of the TV show will note planet-sized deviations from accepted Trek lore. To excuse their creative licence, writers Orci and Kurtzman have Uhura explain that Nero’s time-travelling misdemeanours has fashioned an “alternate reality”. It’s a nifty enough trick often used on the show, but what will really bamboozle the keepers of the canon is that unlike the many episodes that dabbled in fractured timelines, there’s no smallscreen amnesia to put things back in place for next week. The franchise has been permanently shifted to new rails: this is a world where Kirk doesn’t grow up to look like William Shatner. Trekkies had better get used to it. Welcome to the new ’verse.

The fanbase placated and a brand-new generation blooded, there is undoubtedly even better to come. The characters feel thin right now, not just because of the limited range of the new cast, but because ultimately they are characters playing characters, actors imitating icons. Once the new Enterprise crew are established in their own right and the franchise freed of all that expectation, the characters should start to feel properly human again — or at least, half-human.

Odd-number curse be gone. The most exhilarating Trek to date marks a new future for Kirk and co. If this can boldly go on to seek out ideas to match its speed and style, a franchise is reborn.

Reviewed by Colin Kennedy

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Star Trek

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Star Trek
Empire Star Rating

A fun, exciting blockbuster

I've never been a Trekkie but boy was I surprised by how much I liked this movie. Very entertaining stuff. This is what the Star Wars prequels should have been like. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mr Gittes at 09:41, 05 February 2013 | Report This Post


Awesome bar mr pegg! Blagh..he aint no scotty. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by satchwannad at 20:46, 01 January 2012 | Report This Post

Star Trek Review

Star Trek reignites a classic franchise with action, humor, a strong story, and brilliant visuals, and will please traditional Trekkies and new fans alike. The best in the film series by far. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 11:52, 20 December 2011 | Report This Post


n' awesome - five stars ... More

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Posted by JIm R at 10:25, 16 August 2011 | Report This Post

tp://]Star Trek (2009)ersonally I never really wasn`t into the whole Star Trek thing but because I read that J.J. Abrams` origin story was worth checking out for non-initiated as well I went out on a limb and bought the blu-ray. And I didn`t regret it! Right from the get-go you`re thrown into the story and action in a brilliant pre-credits scene. It looks like it all goes way too fast but after the Star Trek logo has passed the screen it slows down and you`re quite... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheGodfather at 21:53, 15 August 2011 | Report This Post

RE: Entertaining, But Not Thinking Cinema

I also enjoyed and am generally a big fan of Simon Pegg, but he was incredibly irritating in Star Trek. Fucking awful performance, the only one who didn't hit his mark. ... More

Posted by Keyser Sozzled at 21:01, 18 October 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Entertaining, But Not Thinking Cinema

Never been a Trekie. but I thoroughly enjoyed this movie - fun from start to finish. And Simon Pegg - Awesome performance! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bozo at 21:31, 17 October 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Entertaining, But Not Thinking Cinema

L: KaeruJim I wish people would stop calling fantasy films "Sci-Fi" because it has space ships and lasers in it.hen call it "speculative fiction". re young and have low expectations this will hit the spot. .... Three stars for at least having some life and zing to star for being condescending. ... More

Posted by Emyr Thy King at 18:38, 15 October 2010 | Report This Post


This film is one of the best sci fi films Ive ever seen, I am a bit of a fan of trek, not a trekkie but loved the next generation and some of the films, wrath of khan, first contact, this film is excellent in every department, the casting for every character is spot on, Dr McCoy is genius, as is Spock, I even enjoyed Scotty, brilliant re-boot to the Star Trek series. Also the effects are superb, bring on trek 2 ... More

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Posted by mossy101 at 04:31, 26 August 2010 | Report This Post


I give this film 3 stars because while it's okay as a mindless popcorn film, the old school Trekker in me wants to grab JJ Abrams by the lapels, get in his face, and yell, "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!?" ... More

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Posted by StephSCO at 17:31, 19 June 2010 | Report This Post


Absolute brilliance ! ... More

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Posted by elimonator at 14:28, 05 May 2010 | Report This Post

Immensley good space opera

The new Star Trek is a blazing return to the space opera we all loved until The Phantom Menace came along. Everything you would expect from the genre is right here, thanks largly to the capable cast and director JJ Abrams. The writing does have its flaws, but you'll be having so much fun that you won't even notice. Still, Kurtzman and Orci manage to keep the feel of the series while adding their own traits which blend beautifully with the material. Abrams pretty much does the same thing, and the... More

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Posted by djphilips at 10:26, 09 April 2010 | Report This Post

My fav film set in Space

Thank you so much J.J I adore you for making this, and other great work like Cloverfield and Mission Impossible 3 Nothing I can say can do it justice, it's definetly in my top 20 ... More

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Posted by monkeyhumour at 07:57, 22 March 2010 | Report This Post

My fav film set in Space

Thank you so much J.J I adore you for making this, and other great work like Cloverfield and Mission Impossible 3 Nothing I can say can do it justice, it's definetly in my top 20 ... More

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Posted by monkeyhumour at 07:57, 22 March 2010 | Report This Post


As a spectacle the best film ive ever seen including avatar. And I thought the story characters and acting was good too. ... More

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Posted by suleiman at 15:49, 01 March 2010 | Report This Post


As a spectacle the best film ive ever seen including avatar. And I thought the story characters and acting was good too. ... More

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Posted by suleiman at 15:49, 01 March 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Entertaining, But Not Thinking Cinema

I agree it's better/as good as TNG films. It's probably as good as most others in the franchise, but there have been some Star Trek stinkers over the years. I think I only like Wrath of Khan so much due to nostalgia, and the older ones had a certain charm to them. You CAN find fault with any movie, even "five-star" movies, but personally if something in a film breaks my suspension of disbelief I can't gloss it. I think, personally, Avatar is a five star film because despite its signific... More

Posted by KaeruJim at 16:28, 17 January 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Entertaining, But Not Thinking Cinema

I think it's better than all of the Next Generation film efforts personally which were pretty dry and it felt closer to the better original crew efforts to me. I can see where you're coming from in terms of focusing on every flaw, but I cut down on doing that years ago because I found if I over analysed things I could find fault with any movie no matter how good. Now I just let things go and try to absorb films as a whole without analysing things too deeply. It makes watching films more enjoyab... More

Posted by Fluke Skywalker at 16:10, 17 January 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Entertaining, But Not Thinking Cinema

Flukey that would depend on how you describe sci-fi, and for me this is more lowest common denominator fare. For me there were several parts where I just laughed at the implausibility of it all. You don't have to be high-brow to be consistent and believable do you? I never said my opinion mattered more, the whole point of film is the interpretation and what it means to you. Neither does my opinion matter less because I'm on the minority on this thread. Is this film really "sci-fi"? Ab... More

Posted by KaeruJim at 15:56, 17 January 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Entertaining, But Not Thinking Cinema

I'd give it five stars for the overall impact - I do agree it has it's contrivances but frankly so does many a film and it's not just Empire that has highly rated it. (Totally agree about the Superman Returns review by the way, although that got a lot less across the board support than Star Trek has). By the way just because you've watched a lot of sci-fi over the years it doesn't mean you're opinions matter more than any others! There's a bucketload of sci-fi fans that love this movie. ... More

Posted by Fluke Skywalker at 15:07, 17 January 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Entertaining, But Not Thinking Cinema

I've watched a lot of sci-fi and seen a lot of star trek over the years; if you think this is a five star incarnation on either score and you haven't got inexperience on your side, I'm not sure how I could explain it politely did say it was OK in my humble, but just cannot understand some of the gushes for this film. The fact that lots of reviewers thought it was brill means nothing to me. Empire tends to review any big "boys own" films favourably, I still haven't got over their benign v... More

Posted by KaeruJim at 11:52, 17 January 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Entertaining, But Not Thinking Cinema

L: KaeruJim If you're young and have low expectations, this will hit the spot. hat's youth got to do with it - this movie has been consistently praised by the press and not all of them are straight out of nappies as far as I know. ... More

Posted by Fluke Skywalker at 10:53, 17 January 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Entertaining, But Not Thinking Cinema

Looks like I'm in the minority here then! The film was entertaining, yes. Action-packed, yes. Re-vitalising for the franchise, yes. It was also horribly contrived, bringing the usual suspect characters together in ever more improbable circumstances. You have to be a Deterministic to get this film on any meaninful level. The whole time-travel thing didn't work for me, this film wasn't clever enough to pull it off, and there were just too many points where the suspension of disbelief wa... More

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Posted by KaeruJim at 00:49, 17 January 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Entertaining, But Not Thinking Cinema

I thought this was a brilliant re-boot. Right from the fantastic opening which managed instantly to capture the finest elements of the Star Trek movie franchise in a breathtaking first 10 minutes. The emergence of the gigantic ship, the visually stunning attack, the shocking sudden death of the Captain all the way to the truly moving final moments of Kirk Senior manually guiding the ship to a suicidal collision to save his family and crew. Plus the music as well which added to the emotion sup... More

Posted by Fluke Skywalker at 17:21, 16 January 2010 | Report This Post

Entertaining, But Not Thinking Cinema

Furiously paced, exceedingly stylish and thoroughly entertaining. However, there is no need to think at all throughout the film and the humour doesn't always hit the mark. Aside from this, it is definitely worth a watch if your solely interested in being amused. Bana is brilliant as the villain. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Kieran94 at 10:35, 10 January 2010 | Report This Post

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