trek2009aWelcome to Reel Rewind, a monthly column in which I’ll take a look back at some of my favorite films, bringing along artists that I can’t get enough of. We’ll team up for some fun collaborations and bridge the gap between film appreciation and art. To commemorate Star Trek Into Darkness, Matt Ferguson and I are looking back at the original crew’s first 6 films plus the Abrams reboot. Energize!

Year: 2009
Director: J.J. Abrams
Writer(s): Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman
Region of Origin: U.S.
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Rating: PG-13
35mm, Color, 127 mins

Talk about a shock to the system. I don’t think anything could’ve prepared anyone, Trekkie/Trekkers or non-fans, for what J.J. Abrams had in store for the Star Trek franchise. At first glance, I would never have considered him as a candidate to reignite the ailing series, but looking back, he was absolutely the right person to transform Trek for a new generation and time. Coming at it from an outsider’s perspective (Abrams wasn’t originally a fan) proved to be his most valuable asset, allowing for a film that stands as the best possible introduction to the Trek universe while giving longtime fans of the beloved characters the justice they deserve. As it turns out, Star Trek is the type of movie that Abrams was born to make, a breathtaking adventure full of heart, wit and imagination.

The catalyst for the story this time has to do with an aged Spock (Leonard Nimoy) who fails to stop a supernova from exploding, inadvertently traveling back to the past while being chased by a ruthless, vengeance seeking miner named Nero. It’s an interesting scenario, in this case creating a new timeline which simultaneously respects Trek canon while creating a fresh new sandbox for Abrams and crew to play in. In this alternate universe, we get a story that roots both Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) as outsiders who ultimately bond despite their resistance to each other and personal differences. It’s a nice move that lets us not only reevaluate each character but also grow together with them, getting deeper into what makes them tick. Naturally, the story is full of nods to old episodes (the red shirt, Sulu’s fencing and lot’s of quick name checks most notably), reconnecting us to the Enterprise’s original crew with a twist while creating an unpredictable experience for both fans and newbies alike.

Needless to say, this isn’t your father’s Trek, and while that may be a bad thing to some, it was a necessary reinvention that needed to happen to make the series appeal to a more restless audience and culture. Essentially, what Abrams has done is add a bit more of Star Wars‘ science fantasy to Trek’s science fiction, focusing on nonstop adventure with massive scope and thrills. Given the biggest pedigree out of anything Trek-related, the film benefits from Abrams’ sheer attention to detail and ability to deliver frenetic action that’s deeply rooted in character emotion. Abrams’ focus on fun also translates into some great humor, always offsetting the film’s darker themes with an awareness that’s never distracting or unintentionally hokey. It’s a natural evolution of the original series’ more colorful elements and makes for a well-rounded experience.

trek2009bVisually, everything looks stunning, from Vulcan’s jagged rock vistas, the modern interiors of the Enterprise (I love the more industrial feel of the ship’s engineering sections), the numerous aliens which line every scene and of course, the massive space battles which are breathtaking to look at. A timeless update of iconic Trek designs keep the universe feeling fresh yet evocative of where it’s been thanks to production designer Scott Chambliss’ colorful set pieces and Michael Kaplan’s colorful costumes. In addition, moments like the destruction of Vulcan, the space jump and the film’s opening sequence are things that I feel Trek has always hinted at but never able to achieve until now, giving a bigger sense of scale to the proceedings and flawlessly executed by some stunning VFX work.

Of course the real reason why the film really works is because its quieter, delicate character moments are just as loud as it’s giant, relentless explosions. The heart of Trek’s message has always been told through the diversity and camaraderie of its crew and the crucial casting of this newer, younger team is pretty much on point. The most important thing to note here is that everyone makes their respective characters their own, referencing their predecessors but never ever offering up a cheap carbon copy. There’s also been minor tweaks to each character that more or less sow seeds for new developments, such as Spock’s relationship with Uhura, part of more emotional entanglements which make Quinto’s Spock much more visibly conflicted than ever before. If I were to nitpick, I’d prefer Nimoy’s more stoic nature to Quinto’s troubled existence, but in context it works just fine and after all, Nimoy is easily the most complex character in the original crew. As Kirk, Chris Pine is more of a jerk, a cheater and even a dick at first, but he starts to change in ways that could lead to a more unique Kirk than Shatner’s version. Heading up the rest of the cast is Karl Urban’s perfect rendition of “Bones” McCoy who is every bit as rambunctious as Deforest Kelley, and with the same kind of stability that threads Kirk and Spock together. John Cho as Sulu, Simon Pegg as Scotty, Anton Yelchin as Chekov and Zoe Saldana as Uhura get more minor roles, but ones that make a big difference; here’s hoping they get more screen time in the next chapter. Another masterstroke here is bringing in Bruce Greenwood as Christopher Pike, a legendary part of Trek canon to play father figure to Kirk. He brings the gravitas that the ensemble needs to push things over the edge. Eric Bana turns in a great performance as always, but his villain is merely a pawn to get the crew together. Though there’s a lot to get acclimated to, there’s never any empty or pandering a lip service, and I can’t wait to see where this new crew goes.

To be fair, the film’s story is nowhere near as challenging as any of the original films or even the show, but this is an undeniably good start that gets us to fall in love again with Trek’s best characters. Not to mention, it successfully carries over the original series’ romanticism with an energy that’s almost completely off the charts. On a side note, how rad is Michael Giacchino’s score? I’m so glad that he embedded Alexander Courage’s original theme into his. Ultimately, I’m sure this take on the material isn’t going to please everyone, and while I’d like to see some sort of a return to the series more weighty themes, Star Trek is still a step in the right direction that boldly goes where Trek has never gone before.

Crome Rating: 4.5/5

Surprise! Here’s Matt’s last Star Trek poster for reals this time! How could we miss an opportunity to look back at this film before stepping into darkness? It’s a great flick and the scene that Matt’s translated is a beautiful moment that evokes the imagination and wonder of Trek. Trek 4 lyfe suckers! In all seriousness though, it’s been such a pleasure to take on this daunting project, but also one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done with the site. I have nothing but gratitude and respect for Matt and can’t wait to see him take over the world! Be sure to check out his website for more art, follow him on Twitter and read a bit about his process down below. Matt also did the art for the recently released Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase One box set.

Star_TREK_2009_matt_ferguson_4_webFrom Matt: With this poster I wanted to show how the film was literally rebuilding Star Trek for a new generation. I wanted to keep the composition relatively simple and straight forward so that it would evoke memories of the film right away.

See our entire Trek retrospective here: Star Trek: The Motion Picture Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,  Star Trek III: The Search For SpockStar Trek IV: The Voyage Home Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.