The Star Trek reboots did the impossible, they saved the franchise from the brink of cinematic extinction.
After Star Trek: Nemesis bombed at the box office and Paramount decided to cancel Star Trek: Enterprise (the only Star Trek show on the air at the time) it seemed like the Star Trek license was more dead than a Red Shirt on an away mission.
Then in 2009, a film simply titled Star Trek (directed by J.J. Abrams) was released and is to date the second most profitable Star Trek film (behind its sequel).
Due to the time travel shenanigans of a mad Romulan captain named Nero (played by Eric Bana), the film takes place in an alternate timeline with younger versions of Kirk (played by Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Bones (Karl Urban), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Sulu (John Cho), and Checkov (played by the late Anton Yelchin) trying to stop him.
With all the references to the original series, the film was clearly made by people who absolutely love Star Trek and were passionate about the film: Checkov having a hard time pronouncing his V’s, Sulu saying he’s proficient in fencing, Scotty saying he once beamed Captain Archer’s dog and accidentally killed him in the process, or the original series background bleeps and bloops show up in many parts of the film.
The film itself is a fun ride, with the crew keeping true to the original characters. For example, it shows that Kirk is such a great starship captain not because he does everything by the book, but because he always thinks of outside the box solutions that can get him out of almost every precarious situation.
Something for which I’ll commend the film is that it clearly states that it is an alternate timeline and that the original timeline isn’t gone. It would have been very easy to just say “all those other shows and movies no longer matter anymore,” but instead they went out their way to ease fan worries, and I commend them for that.
The music composed by Michael Giacchino is also very well done. Every time the music comes up, it makes the scene sound epic.
The film is not perfect. The villain Nero shows up 25 years earlier than intended and seemingly waits around all that time until he can act on his evil plan. Why not just warn the Romulans of the past what is to come?
It doesn’t help that Nero himself has a temper tantrum every time he’s on screen, making any scene he’s in unintentionally hilarious.
Another problem the film has is Kirk himself, Chris Pine does a great job playing a younger, less refined Kirk who clearly has what it takes, but just needs more experience. The problem I have with Kirk himself is that he comes off a little too strong whenever there’s a woman in the room; it is doubly creepy with Uhura because he eventually becomes her boss. Thankfully they tone down the womanizing in the later films.
After Star Trek (2009) made Paramount a lot of money ($385 million, on a budget of $150 million), Paramount decided to green light a sequel, that film would become Star Trek: Into Darkness, once again directed by J.J. Abrams and released in 2013.
The film is about the Enterprise crew going after Kha- uh, I mean John Harrison (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) for the crime of blowing up an archived building full of innocent people and killing a large number of Starfleet Admirals in an attack. However, it would appear that not everything is as it seems.
The film tries to go for an allegory of the 9/11 attacks, with Starfleet’s militarization being a stand in for the Patriot Act and other actions taken by the U.S. government after the 9/11. This idea has been done in Star Trek before, most notably in Deep Space Nine where it was very well done.
This film, however, can’t seem to make up its mind if it wants to be a 9/11 allegory or a Wrath of Khan remake, so it decides to do both and the two do not fit. Whenever they decide to do a scene that was done in the original Wrath of Khan, it doesn’t measure up.
No offense to Cumberbatch (a phenomenal actor in his own right), he does a great job with what he’s given, but Ricardo Montalban will always be Khan. No ifs, ands, or buts.
The end of the film completely jumps the shark with magic blood that can bring a person back from the dead, and is never used or commented on again.
However, despite what the internet might tell you, this film isn’t all bad.
The film’s music, once again composed by Michael Giacchino, is still great and epic sounding.
The action is very well done, with a great sense of scale showing just how big the enterprise really is.
Just like the first film, it has its fair share of comedic moments that are legitimately funny, with Special Mention going to Simon Pegg, who is almost always funny.
And I do like how they handle the continuation of Spock and Kirk’s friendship, with them still being friends but still butting heads with each other.
Even though the film got mixed reviews when it came out, it still made Paramount a boatload of money ($467 million on a $190 million budget) so they demanded another film. However, J.J. Abrams took a break from the director’s chair and was instead a producer for the next film, Star Trek: Beyond (released in 2016). The film was instead directed by Justin Lin.
The film is about the Enterprise crashing on an alien planet ruled by a tyrannical ruler named Krall (played by Idris Elba) who is after a device capable of killing millions of people.
This film hands down is the best of the reboot films! The big reason for this is because the film feels more like Star Trek in tone, characters, and set design; by contrast the prior two films felt more like Star Wars than Star Trek.
The film is decidedly more of a comedy, having more quips and jokes than the previous two films and especially Into Darkness. Thankfully all of the jokes are very well done with most characters having a funny line or moment, with special shoutouts going to Scotty and the new character Jaylah (played by Sofia Boutella) who have some of the funniest interactions and lines with each other.
Unlike the last two films, these characters feel a lot more like their original series counterparts instead of younger versions, especially Kirk.
Another thing worth mentioning is how they pay tribute to Leonard Nimoy in this film. I’m not going to spoil it, but let’s just say it even made my stone-dead heart beat.
The villain Krall is very generic, however, and doesn’t get very interesting till near the end. That is fine in this film, because it’s trying to go for a less complex and dark tone. However it probably would have been better to explain who he is earlier in the film.
The reboot films are all an incredibly fun time and worth watching if you want to get into Star Trek. My mother managed to follow what was going on and she was on her phone half the time.
From best to worst it goes Star Trek: Beyond, Star Trek (2009), and Star Trek: Into Darkness.