Star Trek (2009, PG-13), directed by J.J. Abrams (best known for the television series Lost) is a bold remake of the classic Star Trek with the original characters but of course a different cast. It probably was time for this; another film with the original cast would of been out of the question, the Next Generation is pretty worn out, and fans don't seem interested in films about Sisco or Janeway, let alone a newly introduced crew. Thus, a remake of the original was probably the best they could have done strategically.
I don't want to spend too much time on the plot; much of it centers around the developing friendship of a young Kirk and Spock who learn to work together to stave off a Romulan plot to destroy the Federation. Unfortunately, like Generations, First Contact and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, there is time travel. Explaining the plots of Star Trek films is difficult as it is without time travel; with time travel it becomes much too burdensome.
The plots in franchise starts and restarts are always confusing because they have so much to do in two hours. The plot here was more of a pretext to explore the characters and their growth. These time travel plots can be a bit difficult to wrap our heads around. The interesting thing is that the time travel plot changes the future for everything. All the episodes now are null because the time traveler has created an alternate universe. This could have been the plot of any science fiction film. But again, I don't want to dwell too much on it.
It is more interesting to look at the deeper meaning in the film. I do not know whether Abrams intended it or not, but Kirk and Spock are apt personifications of Faith and Reason. Kirk is faith and Spock is reason. It really works!
First of all I will not give away any spoilers but Spock in the film is a sad figure (like Maximus in Gladiator); despite his Vulcan rationality, he is lacking something that Kirk has. Spock has his reasoning faculties in complete working order but, at the end of the day, Spock is not going to get it done alone just as reason alone is not going to get it done for us either. In fact Spock’s reason alone is taking him and everyone with him to destruction.
Kirk, on the other hand, is brilliant but he operates from his guts, or instincts. The way they show that he represents faith is by making him more of a man led by his passions. He is certainly a ladies man (as seen in one unfortunate underwear scene in the film) which illustrates his ability to follow his passions. You also see it in his ability to trust others abilities. In real life, acting out on faith comes from bringing our passions into conformity with our will, which is fixed on God and His will. The leap of faith comes through being docile to the Holy Spirit and it gets into the intellect but the actual ability to say yes happens more inside the gut (feelings, instincts, passions). I know it is not a perfect parallel, but the analogy does work tolerably well with this film.
Kirk is a kind of messianic figure in this film; even his birth has some tones of Moses and Jesus in it. It conjures images of dragons trying to devour the baby at birth in the midst of eschatological scenes. I think the ship (USS Enterprise) is anther metaphor for a person with faith and reason operating within her. Within her faith and reason are in conflict but end up working together for a common goal.
Getting back to faith and reason, in the film things happen in Kirks existence that show a greater force at work, things that can’t be accidental. There are bigger powers directing the cosmos and Kirk realizes this, though Spock doesn’t. Kirk even takes these divine interactions in stride, almost coming to expect them. The moment of grace in this film for me is when Spock says that the odds of success are very remote, I think it was around 4 percent, but Kirk responds by saying “it will work” (Faith and Reason!). I will have to watch the film again to note any visual ques in that scene but I wasn’t paying attention the first time I watched it. Kirk puts faith into everyone around him and with the Hands of Providence guiding everything works out. Yes, evil has its utterly painful victories but good has to win and Kirk understands this.
Getting back to the ship metaphor, notice how Kirk has to be Captain of the ship and Spock is the first officer. Faith and reason can’t operate properly independent of each other but they are both necessary. Faith must be the captain. I think it is because within us faith must be the guiding force and reason must subordinate itself to faith just as the passions must be subordinate to the intellect.
The underwear scene is regrettable. It is only one scene, and Kirk is foiled in his romantic attempt before anything goes down, but the scene is really steamy. Couple this with the frequence of blasphemy ("GD") throughout the entire film, and I am afraid that the film cannot be really recommended as good viewing. It's a shame because the themes and the character development really was interesting. One more annoyance for me - if you are looking for a classic, epic Star Trek musical score, forget it; instead of that great Star Trek music, we are greeted by Kirk driving a car across the desert while "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys plays.
If it were not for the language and sensuality, I would have given it a 2.5. But, do to the rampant use of God's name in vain and the underwear scene, plus the weird time-travel plot, I have to bust it down to a 1.5
Review by Boniface (with help from M. Sappy)