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Movie Review: Star Trek and J.J. Abrams’ Obsession with Big Red Balls

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J. J. Abrams has an obsession with big red balls.

I’m not sure what Freud would say to this, but Abrams seems to have an odd preoccupation with large gelatinous red balls. One figured prominently in the mythology on Alias and its sister figures into the plot of the new Star Trek. Will one show up on Lost or Fringe? Was there one on Felicity I didn’t know about?

I’ll admit it. I enjoy Star Trek – in almost all of its incarnations. I thought the original series was neat and different when I was a kid. I was in a fan club for Star Trek: The Next Generation and even suffered through Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise yet I wouldn’t call myself a Trekker (yes, the correct term is Trekker, not Trekkie). So when Paramount decided to revive – yet again – the Star Trek franchise with a prequel to the world of Star Trek I was intrigued. When they hired J.J. Abrams to direct it, I was excited. When they cast Chris Pine (son of Robert Pine – Sgt. Getraer on CHiPs) as Captain Kirk, I wondered. When they cast Zachary Quinto, Sylar on Heroes, I thought, “Okay, he’s got the build, but will I be waiting for him to split open Troi’s head to get her empathic ability?” When they added Simon Pegg on as Scotty and John Cho as Sulu I was ready to buy my ticket and boldly go where everyone was waiting to go.

After seeing the movie, let’s just say Abrams cast the right actors in most of the roles and revived the franchise yet again with a mix of fresh new blood and enough colloquialisms from the original characters to retain the nuances of the past.

The movie starts with enough backstory on the long-loved sci-fi characters to get even those unfamiliar with the billion dollar franchise on board. We see Kirk as a rebellious young child and Spock rebelling against the “purists” who torment him for being a Mudblood. (I’m pushing for a mash-up between Harry Potter et al and the gang from Star Trek – "The Half Blood Romulan Prince" or "The Dilithium Chamber of Secrets." What do you think?)

Since the Trek universe had long been established, the writers had to think up ways to mix it up and what better way to do that than inserting time travel into the mix? That always messes up what was established before and the writers are free to do whatever they want! My only problem with time travel is this: If you come from the future to alter the past – well, wasn’t your past predetermined by the time travel in the future and therefore really wasn’t altered in the first place as the past you knew was meant to change anyway? Answers and theories welcome.

Insert Abrams' fascination with the big red ball as the catalyst for time travel and you have yourself a hit movie!

While none of the actors tried to duplicate their predecessors – Pine didn’t attempt Shatner’s uneven staccato vocals (thank God, though it would make for a bit of comedy in a future film) – the actors made the characters their own and have a long future ahead of them in the Trek franchise. Wrath of Khan re-do, anyone?

And while Quinto did a good job as Spock, any fan of Heroes can’t help but wonder if Sylar would appear and logically slice open someone’s head to see what’s inside. He did appear to absorb all that is Leonard Nimoy’s Spock – looks like Spock, smells like Spock, thinks like Spock – must be Spock, right? And with Leonard Nimoy on board, you can’t stray too far from the established.

The central storyline revolves around Kirk and Spock. The rest of the characters are secondary and really only there to round out the original cast from the series. John Cho is underused as Sulu (and did I see Kumar – Kal Penn – as a member of Starfleet?) and Karl Urban is surprisingly charming as Dr. McCoy (dammit Jim, I’m a doctor, I’m not charming!). Zoë Saldana is simply cast as eye candy as Uhura – much to my dismay. The only female officer in that group and they can’t give her something more substantial to do than peel off her already skimpy uniform down to her skivvies and be the love interest? The film might be set in the future but the gender roles were definitely from the past. At least Sigourney Weaver’s character in Galaxy Quest poked fun at the role of the lone female officer and resident sex kitten. Uhura is just… disappointing. Simon Pegg’s Scotty is predictably the comic relief, while Anton Yelchin’s Pavel Chekhov is unpredictably funny as well.

Without giving the plot away other than saying it involves Romulans and time travel and the obligatory big red ball, the film is more than enjoyable and is bound to introduce a whole new legion of fans to the Star Trek universe. I’m looking forward to future sequels to this prequel. Perhaps they can time travel forward and interact with the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation and assist in the fight against the Borg! (Do I get some back-end profit share for that idea?)

The film is great summer fare, but will eventually get lost in the shuffle of the other predetermined blockbusters on the summer slate.

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  • Kyle

    This is like the 5th time I’ve read about how people keep believing Uhura is only eye candy. I’m beginning to believe that her stripping off her uniform actually blinded the rest of you from her role in the movie. Look, Zoe is gorgeous, you’re not going to get around that and its going to get marketed that way. But they didn’t stop there. The entire plot practically revolved around her ability to decode and translate a klingon transmission. Without that they would have rushed straight into Nero with no shields or anything. Also she replaced a male member on the bridge. Uh… look people who sit on the bridge are the best at what they do. Period. Even on modern day naval ships thats the way the cookie crumbles. We also see her as a huge emotional support to Spock in a time when normally he would have no one to find comfort in because of the loss of his mother and planet. You’re also dealing with a new and very independent Uhura who is no longer the girl the Kirk can get, but has now become the girl that Kirk CAN’T get. Yes all of this happened early on the movie, but as you stated, this movie revolves around Kirk and Spock, but to say that Uhura was only eye candy is absurd.