Upon learning his home world only has minutes to live, Spock transports to the surface to save the Vulcan High Council and his parents. The movie's even one step ahead of me by stating they are too far underground for the ship's teleporters to grab them. Point, Star Trek. Nero orders the drill retracted, which causes Sulu to fall off it and go plummeting towards the surface. Kirk dives off after him to catch him, screaming into his com for the Enterprise to beam them up. Since they're free falling at speeds I can't even begin to imagine, the cadet manning the transporter is unable to lock onto them but luckily Whiz Kid Chekov has the brains to figure out how to save them.
Just as soon as they materialize onto the ship, Spock kicks them off the teleporter pad so he can go down to the surface. He runs into the caverns where the High Council is, and I just want to stop and say something about this movie that it gets NOWHERE near enough credit for: how REAL it feels. Almost every single scene is shot on an actual SET, and not a stupid green screen. This injects so much atmosphere into the movie it's almost ridiculous. Disney could NOT have chose a better director for the upcoming seventh Star Wars movie.
Spock gets as many of the Council out of the collapsing cave as he can, including his father, but sadly his mother doesn't make it as the cliff she was standing near falls before Chekov can transport her off it. This is topped off by the total destruction of Vulcan as the Enterprise speeds away from the black hole. Spock narrates the situation into his log as we learn only 10,000 Vulcans survived out of the six billion on the planet. Brutal, especially when it's given the right amount of gravity so we can feel what a loss this was.
Uhura tries to console Spock in the elevator as we learn... THEY'RE DATING?! WOW, abuse of authority much there, Spock? She was his student! Logic kind of took a backseat to that one, didn't it? I guess this just goes to prove even logic can take a back seat to a pretty woman. We catch up with Pike, whom is being tortured by Nero for the “subspace frequencies” of Starfleet's border protection grids around Earth. Pike refuses of course, calling out Nero for that little bit of genocide he just committed.
Nero counters that he just prevented a genocide, as we learn his back story. He was an honest Romulan miner, working hard to provide a life for his pregnant wife until their home world was destroyed while Spock and the Federation did nothing to help. Revenge against Starfleet and Spock was naturally the next step, Nero perhaps going a bit crazy in the process. Pike tells him he's confused as Romulus is still intact, which only pisses off Nero further. The Romulan produces a Centaurian slug, a horrific looking bug that he proceeds to cram down Pike's throat in a nice allusion to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
The crew of the Enterprise tries to figure out what Nero is up to, Spock suggesting he's a time traveler which prompts Bones to shout out “Damn it man, I'm a doctor not a physicist!”. Bloody hell, Karl Urban is so freaking awesome. Kirk wants to go after Nero and rescue Pike while Spock wants to catch up with the rest of Starfleet and plan further. This scene also lays out the new movie franchise for all of us, as Nero's appearance in the past created an alternate reality that it now takes place in.
This is the moment I knew Paramount had made the right call handing Star Trek over to Abrams, as this is about the most brilliant use of a reboot I've EVER seen. It's not handwaving away nearly fifty years of continuity, rather it's totally acknowledging it all still happened while respectfully creating its own story path. An alternate reality has NEVER been used to this level of effectiveness, and probably never will be again. Absolute genius, which is probably the only time you'll hear me say that about an Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci script.
Kirk and Spock butt heads over what to do next, Spock ultimately knocking Kirk out with the Vulcan nerve pinch and ordering him sent off the ship. He's put on an escape pod and jettisoned to a nearby ice planet, a recording ordering him to stay in the pod until authorities come to collect him. He's all “fuck that noise!” and heads out to a nearby Starfleet outpost. This proves to me an unwise decision, as a giant fanged beast begins to chase him to be its next meal.
Kirk runs into a cavern to escape, a cavern which I might add SOMEHOW HAS LENS FLARES. That shouldn't even BE possible! The creature traps Kirk, but he's saved by a man wielding a giant torch. The man is revealed to be the elder Spock from the main timeline, which to say he just HAPPENED to be on the same planet that Kirk landed on was slightly lucky. This is one of Abrams' biggest trademarks: gigantic freaking coincidences. In his works, everyone is secretly related to each other and they all live in a world that is the size of a gas station.
Kirk asks Spock how he knows him, Spock responding with his famed “I have been and always shall be your friend” line also from the Wrath of Khan. It's amazing how in a movie such as the Robocop remake referencing the original movie comes off forced and lame, whereas here it completely works thanks to logical writing where such a line FEELS natural.
In the next example of this movie doing practically everything right, it avoids the scene of just having Kirk and Spock sitting there while expository dialogue is thrown around, instead having Spock do the Vulcan mind meld on Kirk so we can get some interesting visuals for said expository dialogue. We learn 129 years from now a star went supernova and threatened to destroy Romulus, Ambassador Spock and the Federation pledging to help them. A prototype ship was built, the plan to outfit it with red matter that'd create a black hole to absorb the supernova.
For some reason Spock was chosen to pilot the ship, which seems odd to say the least. You think they'd want their best pilot on that one, as I can't really recall Spock having extraordinary piloting skills. However the supernova grew faster than anyone could have anticipated, and Romulus was destroyed before Spock could get there. Nero, in his stolen mining ship, tracked Spock down but in the process both got pulled into the black hole into the alternate reality.
This is where things start getting fuzzy, because it's explained since Nero went through the black hole first he arrived twenty five years before Spock did... even though in the shot they're almost side by side when they go through the black hole. When Spock finally arrived Nero was waiting for him, capturing him and his ship full of red matter. Okay, I get HOW Nero knew where Spock was going to be but HOW did he know when he'd arrive? Is interdimensional physics something you learn as a Romulan miner? How did he know Spock was going to arrive at exactly twenty five years later?
In an act of pure maliciousness, he stranded Spock on the ice planet so he'd have a front row seat of Vulcan being destroyed in a sick twist on trying to make Spock feel his pain over the loss of Romulus. They don't write villains like this anymore. No really, they don't. I cannot say enough good about how awesome Eric Bana is in this role. Spock and Kirk head to the outpost where they meet its sole residents: Montgomery “Scotty” Scott and his alien sidekick Keenser.
Scotty is played by the eternally hilarious Simon Pegg, and GODDAMN is he having the time of his life here. A lifelong Star Trek fan, I'm pretty sure his smile is burned into his face at the joy he must be experiencing in every scene. Scotty has been stuck on the outpost for over six months due to an incident involving his theory of “transwarp beaming”, where he tested it out on Admiral Archer's beloved beagle... who is still missing. This is a surprising shout out to the polarizing Star Trek series Enterprise and its main character Jonathan Archer, proving the writers definitely did their homework with this one.
Spock tells Scotty how to fix his theory so Kirk can beam back aboard the Enterprise and stop young Spock from making the mistake of not confronting Nero. Spock tells Kirk he's not coming with him and that young Spock CANNOT be made aware of his existence under any circumstance. Kirk argues, as he has no way of unseating young Spock but luckily future Spock knows exactly what to do: piss off young Spock so he'll lose control and step down from command under the Starfleet regulation of being “emotionally compromised”. Kirk, the master of infuriating people, is all “I got this!” and teleports back to the Enterprise along with Scotty.
They're immediately captured and brought to the Lens Flare Bridge, Kirk taunting Spock over the death of his mother which, if you'll remember, is the last thing you want to do around him. Spock starts BEATING THE SHIT out of Kirk until Sarek steps in, likely saving Kirk's life. Spock, horrified over his reaction, steps down from command and rushes off the bridge.
Kirk takes the chair and sets the ship after Nero, Chekov setting up a plan to sneak onto Nero's ship undetected. Spock, fresh off a pep talk from his father, joins in to help. He sure forgave Kirk's trash talk pretty quickly, didn't he? And just like that, the seeds of Kirk's and Spock's friendship are planted as Kirk and Spock plan to beam to Nero's ship to steal the black hole machine.
Nero arrives at Earth, deploying the drill. Kirk instructs Sulu that if he has an advantage to fire on Nero's ship, then heads to the transporter pad where he finds Spock and Uhura MAKING OUT. Geez, Spock don't give a fuck, does he? Maybe HE should have been the one in Kirk's role in this film! Spock calls her Nyota as she leaves, concluding the running gag of Kirk learning her name. This is actually the first ACTUAL use of his first name in all of Star Trek lore unless you count the novels, which I certainly don't.
Scotty beams them onto Nero's ship, informing them they should find themselves in an empty cargo bay. Instead they find themselves in a control room of the vessel SURROUNDED by Romulans. Wah wah wahhhh. This is fortunate for us though, as this scene gives way to one of the most exciting shootouts ever captured in a recent sci-fi movie not called the Matrix. Sure, you can bemoan Star Trek shouldn't be about violent shootouts, but ONCE AGAIN, it works in the context of the situation. The fast pace of the battle along with the clean cuts and smooth editing really elevate this one.
They shoot their way to future Spock's ship, Spock quite interested to learn the ship recognizes him as it addresses him as an Ambassador. He learns this ship is from the future as Kirk quickly GTFOs to avoid an awkward conversation, going to rescue Pike. He runs afoul of Nero, who beats him down and begins choking the life out of him. You know, I think there's more “Kirk getting the crap kicked out of him scenes” than NON “Kirk getting the crap kicked out of him” scenes at this point.
Meanwhile Spock blasts his way out of the ship and destroys the drill, Nero leaving Kirk to Ayel... at least I think. I don't want to sound racist or anything, but the Romulans look WAY too alike to me. They really need to follow Starfleet's stellar example of colour-coded uniforms. Nero fires on Spock but he warps away, Nero ordering his ship to follow. That's the Earth saved so they're doing good so far, my question is WHERE THE HELL IS STARFLEET during all of this? You mean to tell me there's not a single other ship in the vicinity of the FREAKING HEADQUATERS of the Federation right now? Or hell, there's not even some kind of missile based Earth defense system down on the surface? This is all nitpicking, but it's the stuff you start thinking about when you see the same movie multiple times.
The Enterprise intercepts Nero ships, opening a major can of space whoop ass on it. Spock runs a collision course on Nero's ship, his way more formidable than the Kelvin's due to the black hole machine. Kirk dispatches and rescues Pike, teleporting back aboard the Enterprise with Spock. With all the places in piece, the red matter in Spock's crashed ship begins forming a black hole and sucking Nero's ship back into it. Kirk hails him as the movie takes time to remind us this IS still a Star Trek movie as Kirk offers to help save Nero and his crew. This was just the icing on the cake to me, because Star Trek was always about being the better person and not giving in to petty vengeance.
Nero tells Kirk to cram it with razor blades, so Kirk has Sulu and Chekov open up on the Romulan ship with full fire. The ship explodes as it's sucked into the black hole, but now the Enterprise has spent so much timing destroying the Romulans they're getting sucked in too. Fortunately Scotty is on top of things, ejecting the ship's warn core and detonating it, the blast field pushing the ship well clear of the black hole... which then conveniently closes itself for some reason. Well, that was nice of it at least.
We jump ahead to later, where Spock is confronted by future Spock outside of Starfleet Academy. So, uh, that whole “he can never know I exist” thing is null and void now? Aww, the credits are right around the corner, we gotta wrap this thing up! Future Spock tells him he's staying in this timeline to help rebuild the Vulcan race, wishing his younger self good luck as he departs. At the Academy, Tyler Perry promotes Kirk to captain of the Enterprise, relieving the now Admiral Pike. Everyone in the room begins clapping as the camera pans out to future Spock watching his old friend proudly. Our final shot is of the Enterprise blasting out into space, while the classic Star Trek theme plays and future Spock narrates us out. Sing along if you know the words!
“Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Her ongoing mission to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new lifeforms and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”.
Cue the credits, which I want to mention end with a card saying “In Memory Of Gene Roddenberry And Majel Barrett Roddenberry”, which is 110% class because Majel was damn near as much Star Trek as Gene was.
It still holds up! Yeah, I saw a few more flaws than the previous times but I still absolutely loved this movie. It's only real negatives are things out of its control: it isn't as moving or powerful as early Star Trek films but those had almost seventy hours of character development behind them to back them up. My only REAL complaint was they pretty much wasted Karl Urban, who was barely in this thing. Star Trek has always been the Holy Trinity of Kirk, Spock, and Bones, three of the best friends in all of fiction. I can kind of forgive this because this is just the first movie and they had A LOT to establish, but Bones' prominence should have been towards the top of their list.
Overall the acting is excellent (especially Zachary Quinto and Eric Bana), the dialogue is pretty much perfect, the movie looks FANTASTIC thanks in a huge part to using set pieces, and the story is top notch. Even more so when you consider Kurtzman and Orci were writing the first two reprehensible Transformers movies around this time. Abrams kept them honest, which is one of the highest compliments I can pay his superb direction.
An excellent movie still excellent five years later, and will continue to be excellent in the future. Just steel yourself for the hundreds of moths that are going to dive bomb your television screen while chasing the lens flares.