Sneak Peek: ‘Star Trek’ Takes Flight
Having been somewhat unimpressed with the first images
from J.J. Abrams
' attempt to reboot "Star Trek
," I arrived at Paramount Pictures apprehensive about what a 20-minute-plus sneak preview would achieve. The movie's trailer was in theaters this past weekend and, as a longtime "Trek" fan (more the movies than the TV series), I was distraught to find the Enterprise being constructed in Iowa instead of in San Francisco and on a space dock (as creator Gene Roddenberry dictated). So, imagine my surprise when I left the sneak actually looking forward to the movie!
With the new Kirk (Chris Pine
), Spock (Zachary Quinto
) and Sulu (John Cho
) in attendance, Abrams introduced four extended sequences by saying he found it "insane" that he was doing this sneak on the same lot to which his father brought him to see Robert Wise's "Star Trek: The Motion Picture
" almost 30 years before. However, having already pitched this road show to press in London and New York, it's clear he knew the reaction would be positive.
(And if you don't like spoilers, now would be a good time to click away.)
Highway to the danger zone:
We start with Starfleet Academy cadet Uhura (Zoe Saldana
) walking through a packed Iowa bar to order a drink, only to be hit on by her future captain. When some of Uhura's fellow cadets inform the obviously intoxicated Kirk to get lost, fisticuffs ensue (the most clichéd moment from the preview). Kirk is getting pummeled when Captain Pike (a fine Bruce Greenwood
) arrives to break it up. Realizing who his students have harassed, Pike has a heart-to-heart with the young man and we discover that Kirk has been running from the shadow of his father, also a Starfleet captain, who sacrificed himself to save his wife and son. Pike tells Kirk that his dad didn't believe in "no-win scenarios" (nice nod) and he would do well to follow in his footsteps. Kirk blows him off, but soon finds himself driving his cycle out to see the new Enterprise under construction. The next morning, he surprises Pike by showing up for the last shuttle to Starfleet Academy. Having previously been told it would take four years to graduate, Kirk gets on board and says, "Four? I'll do it in three."
Good ol' Bones:
Fast forward three years and the Enterprise is on its way to Vulcan to investigate a mysterious attack on the planet. Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban
) has bypassed Starfleet regulations in order to get his friend Kirk on board the ship. The nostalgic interaction between the two is hilarious and something of a surprise. This sequence also features our first introduction to a young Pavel Chekov (Anton Yelchin
) and his continuing problem pronouncing the letter v, most notably when trying to say "vector." It's a funny gag that works better on screen than you'd think. Eventually, the Enterprise arrives at Vulcan and drops out of warp speed. They are soon pummeled by a graveyard of the floating debris from the destroyed Starfleet ships that beat them to engage the enemy. Not a good sign for our heroes.
Eventually, because of a contentious relationship with Spock, Kirk is kicked off the ship and left on the Starfleet outpost of a very icy planet. There, in a scene we didn't get to see, he meets Old Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy. It seems Old Spock has come to this moment in time to make sure Kirk gets back on board the Enterprise and history isn't altered (which seems the aim of the villainous Nero, played by Eric Bana
). Concurrently, it turns out that one of the only inhabitants of the outpost is none other than Scotty himself, portrayed inspiringly by Simon Pegg
. After Old Spock provides Scotty with a formula to transport people from one ship moving at warp speed to another (something he would have eventually invented himself), they ditch the planet and this Spock. But not before Nimoy can give one last "live long and prosper" for the fans.
Sulu and his killer sword:
In a sequence that sold the new direction to this writer, Captain Pike instructs Sulu, Kirk and another officer to do a space jump from the upper atmosphere of Vulcan so they can dismantle Nero's powerful drill that seems to be destroying the planet. The unnamed officer is wearing red, so, in true Trek tradition, he's quickly killed during the jump, but Sulu and Kirk barely deploy their parachutes in time to make it to safety. As soon as they begin destroying the drill, two of Nero's henchmen try to take them out. While Kirk battles the old-fashioned way, Sulu puts his fencing training to good use with a nifty futuristic sword. The scene ends with Chekov transporting them to safety in the nick of time. Considering these characters have hours upon hours of adventures in their futures, it's amazing that audience members were at the edge of their seats hoping they make it back safely.
So, overall, the positives: Urban's Dr. McCoy is fantastic, Pegg has Scotty nailed down, Yelchin's Chekov is endearing, Saldana's Uhura is a tribute to Nichelle Nichols, the effects are top-notch, and the picture appears to have more truly cinematic moments and scope than most people would have expected from Abrams. The negative? Pine is charismatic and fun to watch, but he's not playing Kirk. It's a fun character for sure, but it's not Kirk. Still, I can live with that. The only true concern at this point is Quinto's Spock. From what was shown, it's a weak performance undermined by Nimoy's appearance in different scenes. Besides the physical characteristics, they do not seem like the same character (and even then it's mainly the hair and pointy ears).
But make no mistake, this preview accomplished its goal. It gave a longtime "Trek" fan hope that the complete film will reignite a dormant franchise and kick the summer movie season of 2009 off with a bang.
"Star Trek" opens nationwide on May 8, 2009.