Star Trek (2009)

Rated: PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, and brief sexual content.
Length: 127 minutes
Grade: A+B-AA=A
Budget: $150 million
Box Office: $425 million (257 U.S., 127 Intl., ?40 DVD)

Written by: Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Both did Transformers 1-2, Mission Impossible 3, The Island, The Legend of Zorro, and Alias and Fringe on TV) along with Gene Roddenberry (Shame on you if you don’t know who he is)
Directed by: J.J. Abrams (Mission Impossible 3, and the creative force behind Cloverfield and TV’s Lost, Alias, and Fringe)
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Eric Bana, Bruce Greenwood, Winona Ryder, and Leonard Nimoy.

In this reboot to the entire Star Trek universe, we get to meet the original Star Trek cast under completely new circumstances as they crew the Entertprise in an alternate universe time path created by Romulans from the future who have come back to the time of Captain Kirk’s birth seeking revenge for the destruction of their home planet.

Entertainment Value: A+
When the movie was over and I had been given a few minutes to recover, my wife looked over at me and asked, “So what did you think.” Forming my hands into the hang-ten extended thumb and pinkie shape, I eagerly moved them back and forth saying, “Four thumbs up!” Look, I had heard this was really good, but that did nothing to prepare me for how much I was going to enjoy this movie. Having recently seen big budget action flicks like Transformers 2 and GI Joe: Rise of Cobra, I had already experienced the dizzying action and effects possible in big budget blockbusters. But the real difference is that, unlike either of those movies, the plot here is tight, super-tight even, and the dialogue is wonderful. Combine all that with doing an homage-based recrafting of a universe I have loved since childhood while still being highly faithful to that universe, and I was overwhelmed. At the risk of hyperbole, this is the single best sequel/remake I’ve ever seen. It’s so good that it almost makes up for the sluggishness of the Star Wars sequels (Phantom Menace, Clone Wars, Revenge of the Sith). For those who don’t know the Star Trek universe all that well (particularly the original TV show and movies 2 and 4), this will be just excellent. For the rest of us, look out! And in case I haven’t already overinflated your expectations, it is possibly also the best time-travel movie ever made, and that’s territory well-populated by the excellent efforts like The Terminator franchise, Timecop, Frequency, 12 Monkeys, The Final Countdown, Groundhog Day, The Butterfly Effect, Time Bandits, and (although I’m reluctant to include it in an otherwise truly sci-fi list) Back to the Future.

Superficial Content: B-
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity B, Violence B-, Language B-
Let me start by saying that I’m baffled about this one being PG-13. In a rare case where they didn’t just try to filthy-up a sequel of a kids series, I think they stayed quite faithful to the level of superficial content you would expect from any of the Star Trek series or movies. The profanity is mild and occasional, although they could have done without the S-word twice. Bones, of course, uses his trademark D-profanity. Sexuality includes one scene of Kirk in the bed of a green underwear-wearing space cadet. There is a bar scene in the beginning. The only really obvious concern here would be violence, which includes lots of space violence and people being killed (one by impaling heard but not seen) and general action peril. The opening scene has a young boy stealing and driving a car recklessly. I wouldn’t let Spencer watch this yet, but it’s PG-11 at worst and probably more like PG-8. In the days before PG-13, this would certainly have been PG (as were Top Gun, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and five of the six Star Wars movies), and given the awfulness of most PG-13 movies (like Transformers 2), I think that rating is misleading.

Significant Content: A
Vengeance is an overpowering motivation, which will lead you only to inflict misery on others for no redemptive purpose whatsoever. A diversity of talents all working together form a powerful team. Being logical is not necessarily evidence of no emotion, but often the best coping mechanism for profound emotions. The undauntable belief that success is possible is often the only reason that success occurs. Sometimes rules need to be broken. Authority can coexist with disagreement so long as everyone agrees who is responsible for the ultimate decision and that decision is honored by all. Also, such an open process yields better decisions and better sense of participation by the members.

Artistic/Thought Value: A
The sheer art of taking an entire established universe and undoing it by keeping all the best original elements and sending them off in a completely new direction is brilliant enough on its own to justify an A. But Trekkies will particularly enjoy the loving incorporation of various elements from both the series and the movies (like the Kobayashi Maru, the modified Khanian earwigs, one man sacrificing himself for the greater good of a whole ship, and even the trick of going into the past to give people a technological insight like clear aluminum or transwarp transportation). Pardon me, I’m still giddy.

Discussion Questions:
~Although Nero begins his time quest by trying to save his home planet, this leads him to do so much evil that eventually when that goal is impossible, he is still willing to kill billions just out of revenge. Have you ever talked yourself into doing something evil for a seemingly noble reason? How do you feel about that decision now? Can you think of any particular examples in history, such as the bombing of Hiroshima? What is the difference between justifiable evil done to accomplish good and evil that goes too far? Why does doing evil tend to corrupt us so that we can’t judge rightly about such things after awhile? What is the Biblical answer to all of this?
~The classic Star Trek tension was between the emotional Bones, the logical Spock, and the bold Kirk. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each of these dispositions? In what ways might you say that the Enterprise Crew represents the ideal healthy human mind? What parts might be missing? Considering the cosmopolitan composition of the crew, what ideal of human society is being offered here? Compare this with the homogeneity of other ships’ crews. How does the common devotion to the principles of the Star Fleet bring them together in unity? Compare this with the erosion of class and race barriers which occurs in truly Gospel communities?
~What do you think of the portrayal of discussions on the bridge, where everyone is allowed to argue with the commander? Does this produce better decisions? Does it undermine the command structure? Compare this with what you know about how decisions are made in the military, for instance on board an Aircraft Carrier.
~Spock’s nature as half-human, half-Vulcan is a constant theme in this movie. Why is this so important in the movie? Have you ever felt alienated from a group? How did eventual membership in a group change your outlook? ~What do you think about the idea that logic is a control mechanism for properly channeling strong emotions? Was his response to the childhood bullies logical? How should one respond to bullies?
~What do you think of the purpose of the Kobayashi Maru exercise? What do you think of Kirk’s solution?
~In what sense might it be fair to say that Spock adheres too much to rules (like a legalist) whereas Kirk knows when they need to be broken because the purpose for which they were written would actually be undermined by following them (like Christ)?
Overall Grade: A
I’m happy. So very happy. Just knowing such a movie can be made restores my long-decayed hope in the possibility of sequels and remakes. Thank you, J.J. Abrams.

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