It happened later than I wanted (when "wanted"="opening day matinee, or maybe one of those Thursday night premiere screenings"), but I finally got to see "Star Trek" today, and I liked it. A week after the movie opened, and has been dissected ad nauseum by Trekker and non-Trekker alike, I'm not sure what I have to add to the discussion, but I'll offer up a few thoughts after the jump, and anybody who wants to discuss the movie can feel free. Needless to say, this, as my TV reviews are, is being written from and for the perspective of someone who's already seen it, so if you care and somehow haven't (maybe, like me, it took you a while to coordinate a sitter), you may not want to read it. Spoilers coming up just as soon as I lament the fact that I'm probably the 8,000th guy on the Internet to make a "J.J. Abrams really loves glowing red spheres" joke...
I don't often applaud in the middle of a movie, but I was awfully tempted to at least give a polite golf clap after the scene where Spock explained that Nero might have changed the timeline, and all of their destinies. With that one scene, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (and/or Abrams himself, or Damon Lindelof, or whoever had an uncredited hand in it) cleverly managed to circumvent the obvious fanboy complaint about violating the continuity of the original series(*), and gave the film and its inevitable sequels a blank slate on which to work. Kirk is still Kirk (albeit with even more of a rebellious streak than he had originally, due to the earlier death of his father), Spock is still Spock (albeit a more tragic, Superman-esque figure than before due to the destruction of Vulcan, and also somehow Uhura's boyfriend), and the same seven characters are all together on the Enterprise (albeit at slightly younger ages than we first saw them together in the '60s). But Abrams and company are free to tell whatever stories they want about this crew without worrying about how to slot them in between "Dagger of the Mind" and "The Corbomite Maneuever," or if a joke Kirk makes about his brother Sam contradicts the events of "Operation: Annihilate!" And there were enough nods to the original series (the Tribble in Scotty's office, Pike winding up in a wheelchair) that I doubt this creative team is going to be interested in changing too many of the fundamentals.
(*) I imagine there are some die-hards out there who are now upset that the movie has in some way "invalidated" the original series, or the spin-offs, or the previous movies. And to that, all I can say is that the new movie didn't erase the previous stories from our existence. You can still watch "City on the Edge of Forever," or "Wrath of Khan," or "Unification" anytime you want. Hell, you can watch "Spock's Brain" or "Star Trek V" a few hundred times, though doing that might make you wish that Nero's ship had erased them from your DVD library.
As for this particular story about this crew, I enjoyed it. Sure, it was more action-oriented than the old series, but not dramatically more than many of the other movies with both Kirk and Picard. While a lot of people are fond of the way the various "Star Trek" series tackled big philosophical questions, those tended to work best in the short story format of a TV series. The "Star Trek" movies that attempted to do so (notably "The Motion Picture," "The Final Frontier" and "Insurrection") tended to feel flabby and clumsy, so I was okay with more action(**), since there was a lot of attention paid to characterization, particularly with Kirk and Spock.
(**) I should say, though, that while Abrams showed himself to be a very capable action director on "Alias" and with "Mission: Impossible III," I found his work on the "Trek" action to be a mixed bag. The editing of some sequences -- notably the sword fight on the space drill -- was choppier than I would have liked and didn't give a great sense of where the players were and what they were doing. On the other hand, the final space battle -- particularly the arrival of the Enterprise to help even the odds -- was quite nice.
I haven't always loved Zachary Quinto as Sylar on "Heroes," though it's hard to tell how much of that is on him and how much is on the bad writing, but he made a fine Spock. The hair and makeup do a lot of the heavy lifting, as does his resemblance to a young Nimoy (though the scene where Spock met Spock awkwardly pointed out that Quinto is several inches taller), but he did a nice job of showing Spock's struggle to keep his emotions in check, and was particularly good in the brawl with Kirk where he stopped keeping them in check. Nimoy took a couple of decades to really master the role (the Spock from "Wrath of Khan" onwards is a much more nuanced character than the one from the show), and Quinto has obviously learned from the master. I would say his Spock is a bit more smug than Nimoy's at this point, but it's more that his relationship with Kirk is closer to Spock 1.0's relationship with McCoy.
I had no experience with Chris Pine prior to this, but I was impressed. The very idea of doing a Muppet Babies version of "Star Trek" had me worried that the younger Kirk would seem like a lightweight -- a pretty-boy 21st century actor playing at being a classic tough guy -- but he had the charisma and enough old-fashioned grit to carry the role, as well as a Shatner-ian flair for the light comedy demands of the role.
Pine played particularly well off of Karl Urban's "Bones" McCoy. Urban was maybe the biggest head-scratcher of this cast to me, as I knew him entirely as an action type (on "Xena," and in "The Bourne Supremacy"), but he absolutely nailed McCoy. His performance probably came the closest of all seven actors to being an impression of the original actor, but it never crossed the line where it would have seemed like a hollow imitation. Urban just found a way to sound an awful lot like DeForest Kelley whie still giving a performance.
As for the rest of the supporting cast, I imagine George Takei, Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols were all grimacing at how their replacements got more to do in one film than they did for most of their combined TV/film runs. Making Chekhov into a boy genius gives the character some interesting shading (and also plays off how much younger Koenig looked than his co-stars), and Sulu got to save the day a couple of times. Uhura's main contribution was to be Spock's girlfriend ("Star Trek" is still a boys' fantasy first, I suppose), but I did like that the script and Zoe Saldana gave her a backbone and a history with Kirk that will allow her to have more meaningful, and tension-filled interaction with him in future films.
I was surprised it took the movie so long to introduce Scotty, but dammit if Simon Pegg didn't make every second count. Very funny, while still feeling like the Enterprise's miracle man.
Now, a lot of the movie is just about re-setting the universe and putting things in motion for future movies with this crew. But I liked the actors and how they worked with each other (and how Pine and Quinto worked with Nimoy), liked the look of things (the classic uniforms were changed just enough to feel right without seeming retro), and feel comfortable that the franchise is in good hands for now.
What did everybody else think?