The rebooted Star Trek series introduced a ton of changes to the well established science-fiction franchise. Suddenly, Iowa had huge, rocky canyons in the middle of it and Starfleet built the Enterprise on Earth instead of in space where it made sense. It was a lot for fans to adjust to.
Obviously those weren't the only alterations in the new "Kelvin timeline." Thanks to the changes in history from the 2009 movie's villain Nero traveling back in time, Kirk's father didn't live as long as he should have.
We also hope you weren't too attached to Vulcan because that went away, too. However, on a more basic level, all of the major characters got new actors to play them, and we got some new characters as well.
It's hard enough getting the casting right in any movie, but the creators of the reboot had an even bigger job than most. It wasn't enough just to get good actors-- they had to get good actors who could also recapture the spirit of people some fans had been following for over 40 years.
Things turned out mostly fine, gratuitous lens flares aside, but that doesn't mean that we were happy with all the choices.
That's not to say that these were bad performances, necessarily. Some were, but others were just bad or weird choices. Also, in the spirit of equal play, we're including some casting decisions that were spot-on and accomplished everything they needed to.
Here are the 10 Casting Decisions That Hurt Star Trek Movies (And 10 That Saved Them).
20 Hurt: Chris Hemsworth
Nobody involved in Star Trek had any idea that two years after their movie came out, Chris Hemsworth would join the MCU as Thor Odinson. However, he did.
Like all of Hemsworth’s pre- and post-Marvel work, it’s hard not to see him as the beloved (but not strongest) Avenger-- even without the beard.
He does just fine during his brief appearance as James Kirk’s doomed father, George. His inclusion here isn’t his fault at all. However, we’re still stuck thinking of him as the god of thunder.
We have similar trouble watching The Cabin in the Woods now-- and that came out after Thor.
We admit that this is mostly our inability to compartmentalize actors’ roles and not anything that the makers of Star Trek did. However, it’s still weird in retrospect.
19 Saved: Idris Elba
Krall, the antagonist of 2016’s Star Trek: Beyond, is a one-dimensional baddie. He wants to blow things up because of Space Madness and some flimsy, militaristic reasoning straight out of Michael Bay’s The Rock.
Truly, the only thing he has going for him is that Idris Elba plays him.
Idris Elba has made a chunk of his career out of making even mediocre movies way more palatable.
He did this for Prometheus, Pacific Rim, and The Dark Tower. Even if you liked these movies, which is fine, you have to admit it was at least partly because of him.
Beyond is a fun time, honestly, but that villain needed some presence-- and Elba saves him.
18 Hurt: Simon Pegg
Simon Pegg’s performance as Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott is really good. Nobody’s here to claim that. However, we have a couple issues with it that aren’t his problem.
The main one is that while he does a great job and we enjoy him in the role, he doesn’t quite “feel” right. Original actor James Doohan provided the defining version of the character, and it’s a tough performance to replicate.
Newcomers to the franchise don’t have this issue, obviously, and we kind of envy them.
Pegg does a great job, but the difference between him and Doohan is big enough to be distracting. Also, it also doesn’t help that we have the same Hemsworth problem in that we associate Pegg more with his work in director Edgar Wright’s movies and the Mission: Impossible series.
17 Saved: Shohreh Aghdashloo
Fans of rescued sci-fi series The Expanse were probably thrilled to hear the distinctive voice of actress Shohreh Aghdashloo in the trailers for Beyond.
Even people who have never seen a single episode still had to be pretty happy because we could listen to that woman read biscuit recipes, and it would completely enthrall us.
Aghdashloo plays Commodore Paris. She’s Captain Kirk’s direct superior after Christopher Pike’s demise in Into Darkness, and he comes to her with his doubts about continuing his command.
She’s only in a couple scenes, but they’re great because every time she says anything, it sounds incredible.
The filmmakers made the perfect call having Aghdashloo’s lines form the voiceover for the trailer. It made us want to buy tickets immediately.
16 Hurt: Noel Clarke
Noel Clarke has a tiny role in the punctuation-free Star Trek Into Darkness. He plays a Federation officer who Khan blackmails into destroying an intelligence compound with a bomb that looks like a ring and activates in water.
Of all the things in the movie that make no sense, this makes the least sense.
Clarke is another actor whose appearance suffers from our previous associations. He appeared for a few seasons on Doctor Who as Mickey Smith. Unfortunately, that’s how we’re always going to think of him.
That’s nothing against his work in either series.
However, for the brief time he’s on screen, we just kept thinking, “That’s Mickey. What’s wrong with Mickey?”
This is far from our biggest problem with this entry, but it’s another chunk we can chip out of it.
15 Saved: Sofia Boutella
Like Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella elevates almost every movie she’s in, even if it’s not that great to begin with. However, this isn’t true of the botched Universal reboot of The Mummy, which is beyond even her powers.
Beyond is decent even without her, but she enhances it, regardless.
Her character, Jayla, provides some of the humor and fun that the series badly needed after the exercise in grimness that Into Darkness was.
Besides that, Boutella gets to show off her awesome fighting and acrobatic skills later on. Unlike her role in Kingsman: The Secret Service, the special effects team lets her keep her real, humanoid legs.
Of all the new characters we’ve met in the reboots, we’re most hoping to see Jayla again in sequels.
14 Hurt: Eric Bana
As a series, Star Trek has a bit of a villain problem. This is true in both the original movies and the Kelvin ones.
Other than The Wrath of Khan, The Undiscovered Country, and First Contact, the franchise is full of dull, one-note baddies who don’t stick with the audience much longer than the movie lasts.
A good performance, however, can make up for shortcomings in a character or a script.
Unfortunately, the 2009 movir doesn’t have that. Its antagonist, Nero, is willing to snuff out billions of lives to avenge his family. We get why that sounds good on paper, but it becomes increasingly implausible while we watch it.
Sadly, the worst Bruce Banner can’t make up for these issues. He just scowls and yells a lot.
13 Saved: Greg Grunberg
Director J.J. Abrams loves to put Greg Grunberg in his projects. He’s almost a human Easter egg most of the time. In fact, he provided the voice-over for Kirk’s stepfather in the 2009 movie.
However, his beefier performance in Beyond (which Abrams didn't direct) was an even bigger treat for fans of the actor, who somehow made a movie called Big Ass Spider charming.
He plays Commander Finnegan, the first officer of the space station Yorktown, which becomes the target of Krall near the end of the movie.
Finnegan relays the order that gets The Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” blasted out into space to destroy the alien fleet heading straight for them. That’s several steps up from yelling at young James Kirk not to steal his car.
12 Hurt: Tyler Perry
Writer/director/actor Tyler Perry appears in Star Trek as Starfleet Academy commandant Admiral Richard Barnett, and it is distracting.
Even beyond this, it didn’t really feel like Perry wanted to be there.
He really just wanted to work with J.J. Abrams, and we’re happy that worked out for him. However, when he took the job, Perry was apparently not a fan of the series.
“I'm telling you it was J.J Abrams,” Perry said. “He talked me into it and it's a good thing I didn't see the last Star Trek movie or I would have said no,” he said.
While we harbor similar feelings toward Nemesis, the final cinematic outing for the Next Generation crew, that’s a bit harsh.
11 Saved: Peter Weller
Into Darkness makes a lot of missteps in its plot, characters, and adherence to the franchise, but we’re glad Abrams and the producers at least bothered to bring Peter Weller in as Admiral Marcus.
The Robocop actor is always nice to see in anything. The guy managed to sell The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across the 8th Dimension, for one thing, and that movie is just amazing nonsense from beginning to end.
Into Darkness is so uneven that we appreciate having him to anchor the whole thing, even if only tenuously.
We can’t honestly say that he saves the movie-- that would be pushing it-- but at least we could depend on him to make his scenes mostly watchable.
10 Hurt: Winona Ryder
Okay, we grew up watching Beetlejuice and Heathers, so it gives us no joy to do this, but we spent the first part of Star Trek wondering what Winona Ryder was doing there.
She was acting, obviously, and doing a good job. Somebody had to play Spock’s human mother, Amanda, and why not her?
However, she continues the trend of casting inexplicably recognizable actors in the tiny roles of the main characters’ parents.
In addition to Ryder and (retroactively) Hemsworth, Jennifer Morrison from House plays Kirk’s mother. Old people might also recognize Ben Cross as Spock’s father, and we do.
The grown ups don’t last long as it is, so we just assume the actors were big enough fans to want the parts.
That’s especially true for Ryder, whose character ends up under a rock and then explodes.
9 Saved: Zachary Quinto
Savage onscreen beatings aside, Heroes actor Zachary Quinto has proven across the past three movies that he is a worthy successor to the role that Leonard Nimoy originated on the original series.
We weren’t sure about him when the announcement first came down, but luckily, he proved us wrong.
Despite his usual lack of emotion, Spock seems like a challenging role that demands an actor be wry and charming while not showing it at all.
Quinto doesn’t get the full challenge in the Kelvin movies, since two of them include Spock going berserk at some point and punching other characters a lot. This part definitely isn’t the hard part of playing the Vulcan science officer. But Quinto’s great.
8 Hurt: Alice Eve
We hate having to keep coming back to Into Darkness, but have you seen it? Alice Eve plays Carol Marcus, a character who long-time fans will remember from the first Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Marcus is a brilliant scientist who helped create the Genesis Project. She and Kirk also have a son together. Her inclusion in Into Darkness serves as a nod to the earlier movie and sets up some potential future romance.
That would be great if Carol’s part wasn’t mostly embarrassing. She screams a lot and gratuitously takes off her clothing in one scene.
None of this is Alice Eve’s fault. The casting problem here is including the character at all if this is how they were going to use her.
7 Saved: Karl Urban
Any actor playing Dr. Leonard H. “Bones” McCoy has the opposite of the “Spock problem.” He is basically all emotions all the time, and the skill comes from balancing being the guy who’s always mumbling and grumbling with staying likable.
When he was researching the role, Urban couldn’t ask his predecessor DeForest Kelley for advice. That’s because the older actor sadly passed away in 1999.
He had plenty of research material, of course, and whatever work he did paid off.
His McCoy really feels like he’d grow up to be the Original Series version, and we’re not alone there.
Reportedly, when Leonard Nimoy saw Urban’s performance in the 2009 movie, it moved him to tears, so we’re pretty sure he got it right.
6 Hurt: Jeff Bezos
We have no shortage of special requests from famous people to appear in Star Trek things. Musician Mick Fleetwood showed up as a fish-headed alien in a Next Generation episode and then-prince of Jordan Abdullah bin al-Hussein (he’s the king now) popped up on Voyager.
The billionaire head of Amazon said that he had been “begging Paramount for years" for a role in a Star Trek movie, and he finally got his chance in Beyond.
He’s under all those prosthetics on the right up there.
Other than appearing, Bezos demanded that he have dialogue and appear in a “central scene,” both of which he got.
His line, by the way, is “Speak normally,” and he’s in the movie for almost a second. However, he’s there because he’s rich enough to demand it, and it feels gross.
5 Saved: Chris Pine
Rounding out the “big three” of the original Enterprise, Chris Pine’s job was to re-create William Shatner’s bravado and swagger, while still making it plausible that people would actually follow him. He achieved this.
As a younger version of Kirk, Pine got a little leeway to play a little more loose with the character than Shatner did.
However, he still manages to stay on this side of charming without seeming like a big jerk. That is, other than the scenes during which the point is that Kirk is kind of a braggart.
Over the three movies so far, we’ve seen Kirk grow into the captain we met in 1966, and Pine has managed the transition expertly.
4 Hurt: Benedict Cumberbatch
Our complaint with the villain of Into Darkness is similar to our issues with Carol Marcus. It’s not that we don’t like the actor or their performance-- we just wish the characters had been used better.
Benedict Cumberbatch is, of course, a great actor. The decision to cast him as Khan in this movie was surely more of a marketing decision than a creative one.
It just never really works because people who have seen the earlier version will wonder why he’s white now, and people who haven’t will wonder why his being Khan is such a big deal.
Fans have had to do extra work to make this casting make sense, and that’s not a sign of a good decision.
3 Saved: Zoe Saldana
The Kelvin timeline expands the character of the Enterprise’s communications officer far beyond anything we’d seen in the original series or movies-- and we don’t just mean that weird romantic relationship she has with Spock. She actually has things to do in these movies.
So whoever ended up playing Uhura was going to have a job in front of her. She had to capture the original character while making room for all that new stuff.
Zoe Saldana has proven herself up to the task, and that was even before we saw how good she was as Gamora in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies.
This was the same year she appeared as a huge, blue alien in Avatar, however, so it could have gone either way.
2 Hurt: J.J. Abrams
Choosing the right director for a project is at least as important as putting the cast together.
This is the person who’s going to handle almost every creative decision for the whole movie. That is, of course, unless a billionaire wants a cameo. That’s more up to the studio.
J.J. Abrams is a reliable, bankable director, and he puts out capable work. His first Star Trek film was fine, really. It did its job and introduced a new audience to the franchise.
However, we do have a complaint: it’s a good space-action movie, but it isn’t Star Trek.
It’s way closer to the first Star Wars movie. Kirk is Luke, Vulcan is Alderaan, and Nemo’s unstoppable, enormous battleship stands in for the Death Star.
Into Darkness just feels like ultraviolent fanfic, so that also wasn’t perfect.
1 Saved: Leonard Nimoy
Traditionally, a member of a previous Star Trek series will show up to pass the baton to a new crew. An extremely old Dr. McCoy appears in the Next Generation pilot, and Captain Picard makes an appearance in Deep Space Nine’s premiere.
The 2009 reboot brings Leonard Nimoy back as a time-displaced Spock-- and this, more than anything else, makes it “feel” like Star Trek.
Nimoy brings his familiar grace and charm out one more time (that Skype call in Into Darkness doesn’t quite count), and he’s our favorite part of the movie by far.
Nimoy bridges the past and the present more successfully than Shatner did in Generations, and it’s exactly what the reboot needed.
What are your favorite (and least favorite) casting picks in the Star Trek movies? Sound off in the comments!
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