*** Copying over my review last week from the original spoiler thread:
I had the pleasure of getting to watch the movie last night at a Denver advance/press screening. A few random observations:
- First off, I absolutely loved the movie. Yes, I was bummed when I found out (ahead of time) about Vulcan. But I'm telling you, Vulcan's destruction absolutely gives this film the emotional impact and gravitas it needs and elevates this movie so far above every other Trek film in the last couple of decades. I'm angry that Vulcan got destroyed, but I'm not angry with JJ, Orci, etc. On the contrary, I applaud them for their boldness. Instead, I'm angry with Nero. And isn't that the whole point? I CARE about what happened in this movie - it has resonance, it MATTERS. When Kirk and Sulu are trying to take out the drill, I'm actually sitting there hoping against all odds that they can succeed. When they don't, it sucks. It sucks that Vulcan is gone. But it also means the events of this film have meaningful implications. No lazy reset button. And Star Trek is better for it.
- With one exception, every actor was fantastic. I'll stop short of saying that Chris Pine now "owns" the role that William Shatner originated, but I will say that Pine was absolutely wonderful in the part and will very likely vault himself to superstardom as a result. His role as a developing Kirk involves a lot more physical and subtle comedy than Shatner had to do, and Pine knocks it out of the park. Quinto is equally brilliant as he struggles to balance the emotion and the logic. Nimoy is heartbreaking as Spock, in a good way. Saldana brings Uhura to life in a way that I've never seen before. Her very unexpected romance with Spock is great, as you see her dancing around his emotional control problems. That said, Spock never takes anything out on Uhura. She's basically his rock, it seems. Urban is like watching DeForest reincarnated - 'nuff said. Yelchin actually made Chekov likable again, which is a high praise from me as I was not formerly a Chekov fan. Yelchin's wide-eyed excitement is infectious. Simon Pegg was the big surprise for me. I expected his Scotty to absolutely pale in comparison to Doohan, but Pegg was fricking hilarious! Definitely a slightly "goofier" Scotty than I'm used to seeing, but Pegg just nailed the excitable nature of Scotty. I'm sure his little assistant will annoy some folks (particularly when he shows up on the Enterprise at the end as a crewman, apparently), but I thought the little guy was awesome. Especially when he seemed to tear up when Scotty leaves him earlier in the film. John Cho lacks the bass rumble of Takei, as many have stated, but he also brings a new badassedness and overall humor to the character. In fact, their initial moment leaving spacedock almost seemed like a bit of a nod to Galaxy Quest, when the helmsman didn't seem to know what he was doing for a sec. But all doubt about Sulu's abilities is erased by the end of the film, and his swordfight atop the drill was, in a word, awesome. Ryder brings a quiet dignity to Amanda. Would have liked to see a bit more screentime for her, and I'm sorry that the baby Spock stuff was cut. That said, when her section of the cliff begins to fall just as the transporter tries to take hold, it's absolutely gut-wrenching. That scene really stayed with me, particularly when Spock rematerializes on the transporter pad, hand outstretched, shock etched on his features. Bana is interesting as Nero. His character seems a bit all over the place, sometimes very formal, sometimes almost comically casual with how he addresses people. But 100% scary when he's mad. The only weak point for me was Ben Cross as Sarek. For some reason, he just didn't do it for me, lacking the deeper qualities that Mark Lenard could convey in the role with a mere look.
- Architecturally, the hanging buildings on Vulcan were visually interesting, descending down from various rock formations. The Vulcan training pods, where young Spock has a fight, were a little "Attack of the Clones-ish" for my taste, but okay.
- I loved all the Kelvin stuff. Seeing George Kirk in action is well worth the wait, even if his final dialogue with Winona is a little soap opera-ish as it progresses. Also, the eyes of baby Jim's delivery nurse = pure weirdness.
- I know the Klingon stuff got cut, but I was very surprised at the lack of well-known alien Federation races. I didn't see any Andorians, Tellarites, etc., though maybe I just missed them in the crowd scenes. The new aliens are great, some subtle, some very imaginative, but I would have loved a glimpse at more of the "classic" aliens.
- The brief 2 minute scene that establishes Nimoy Spock's and Nero's history together is seriously waaaay too brief and could have used a lot more explanation for the average movie-goer. I had read the Countdown prequel comic series ahead of time, which I'm very grateful for, as Nero's history and motivations are so much better explained there. I think they did Nero a severe disservice in this film but not devoting a little more time to his backstory. Don't get me wrong - I want to watch Kirk and Company most of all (in other words, I don't want another Shinzon-style villain where he's being given more screentime than the main characters), but I do think they should have devoted just a bit more time to Nero to flesh him out. As it stands, his personality remains slightly unclear if you're going just by the movie.
- I'd heard there was going to be lots of humor in the film, but I was pleasantly surprised that A) it actually WAS funny, and B) they were able to work in the funny moments in unobtrusive ways. Such as the looks on Kirk's and Scotty's faces when they witness Spock and Uhura kissing on the transporter pad. Or Kirk and Spock's quick conversation before they decide what to do about Nero at the end. And lots of little "physical comedy" bits that really played well. It's when they go the other extreme - Kirk's swollen hands, Scotty's trip through the engineering tubes - that the humor falls a bit flatter. That said, I'm sure some of the audience will still love that stuff too.
- Love the new warp effect. I don't mean the warp tunnel itself, which I also like. I'm talking about watching a ship going into warp. It's literally like a gunshot. Very cool effect.