Star Trek: A stellar achievement

Rating: ***1/2



STARS Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto


If it's true that each generation grows more reluctant to embrace the pop culture of those that came before (and, yes, that seems to be the case), then Star Trek provides a real hoot during the scene in which a teenage James T. Kirk rocks out to a Beastie Boys tune a good 250 years in the future. Then again, the Beastie credo would certainly apply to Kirk, who, as he has demonstrated since the 1960s, clearly would fight for his right to party. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Before TV wunderkind J.J. Abrams (Lost, Alias) came along, there had been five Star Trek TV shows and 10 motion pictures, a total sum that outpaces even such laughable franchises as the Friday the 13th and Halloween series. But nobody will be chuckling at what Abrams has managed to create with this reboot. While I've enjoyed most of the movies — yes, even some of the odd-numbered ones — I'm by no means a Star Trek fanatic (you say "Trekker," I say "Trekkie"), yet this new series entry qualifies as one of the better sci-fiers to hit theaters in recent times.

The fans will doubtless quibble over some of the changes made by Abrams and the screenwriting team of Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, yet the overall tone is reverential, not dismissive. Basically, the trio takes us back to the early days of its leading player, detailing the circumstances that defined him first as a kid and then as a young adult (I suppose this could have been called Star Trek Origins: Kirk). Yet Abrams and his writers also introduce a wild card in Romulan warrior Nero (an unrecognizable Eric Bana), whose nefarious actions lead to an alternate reality for the members of the Enterprise. Yet while destiny might take them on different adventures than the ones glimpsed in previous movies and episodes, at least the core crew remain united: the brash Kirk (Chris Pine), the brainy Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the wisecracking Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban, pleasingly cast against type), plus their support staff of Uhura (Zoë Saldana), Sulu (John Cho), Scotty (Simon Pegg) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin).


While the studio naturally pushes the angle that this picture can be equally enjoyed by those who are familiar with the Star Trek brand and those who are not, that isn't exactly accurate. A complete newbie would fail to see the significance of having Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) originally at the helm of the Enterprise, nor would he or she feel a pleasurable tingle at seeing a series vet turn up in a key role. On the other hand, Abrams & Co. lace the movie with plenty of humor as well as a few exciting battles, so it's unlikely the uninitiated will find themselves bored.

Abrams peppers his film with many familiar names and/or faces, some of them fleeting. Winona Ryder turns up as Spock's human mother, as does Tyler Perry as a Starfleet admiral (my girlfriend had to point him out, as I'm only used to seeing him in drag as Madea). But surely nobody will be able to recognize A Beautiful Mind's Oscar-winning scripter Akiva Goldsman (as a Vulcan council member) except maybe for Russell Crowe and Ron Howard. Then again, this casting seems to echo Abrams' whole approach to this revamped Star Trek: Be playful, be unpredictable, and full speed ahead.

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