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"It makes this Trek, mixing warp speed action with tongue in cheek humor, beam brighter than a supernova."
 
"The story affectionately retains key character traits, notable sound bytes, and a flair for action."
"Voyages that will live long and prosper, thanks to an inspirational effort by J.J. Abrams and a cast of Trek worthy, young stars."
Star Trek  

Cast

James Kirk: Chris Pine
Spock: Zachary Quinto
Spock Prime: Leonard Nimoy
Captain Nero: Eric Bana
Captain Christopher Pike: Bruce Greenwood
Leonard McCoy: Karl Urban
Uhura: Zoe Saldana
Montgomery Scott: Simon Pegg
Sulu: John Cho
Chekov: Anton Yelchin
Review May 2009

Boldly going where no Star Trek film has gone before, director J.J. Abrams, known for thrilling episodic television series like Lost, Fringe, and Alias, revives the classic science fiction franchise on the big screen with origins of the original crew. The early days at Starfleet. Kirk's tumultuous relationship with Spock. And the assembly of the Enterprise crew. Tormenting and testing the rookie crew this go around is Nero, a Romulan captain who travels back in time to destroy the United Federation of Planets. Although plot and logistics frequently get muddied, the casting is near perfection. In particular, Zachary Quinto, who effortlessly juggles between emotion and logic as Spock, the half human, half Vulcan First Officer. And it makes this Trek, mixing warp speed action with tongue in cheek humor, beam brighter than a supernova.

Stardate 2237. The Narada, a Romulan mining vessel, intercepts a Federation starship. As the massive Romulan ship lays siege to the USS Kelvin, Captain Robau boards the Romulan vessel for negotiations. But peacekeeping fails as the federation captain is unexpectedly executed. And First Officer George Kirk is thrust into the Captain's chair. After ordering an immediate evacuation, Kirk stays aboard and attempts to fight off the Romulans while providing cover for the remainder of the crew, including his pregnant wife. Moments later, aboard a jettisoned space shuttle, James Tiberius Kirk is born.

Years later, Kirk grows into a cocky, rebellious young man. Following a bar fight with Starfleet cadets, Captain Christopher Pike confronts Kirk and challenges him to 'be all he can be.' Kirk responds, completing his training in record time. But during his final test, the Kobayashi Maru, is accused of cheating and temporarily suspended. In the midst of his academic hearing, a distress signal from Vulcan is received, prompting Starfleet to postpone their decision. As Captain Pike's crew is assembled for the maiden voyage of the starship Enterprise, Kirk's friend, Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy, smuggles him aboard. A risky move that proves vital to the success of the mission and the formation of the legendary crew.

It's been nearly seven years since Star Trek has graced the silver screen, with the Next Generation's dismal finale, Nemesis. And four years since Enterprise faded into television oblivion. Channeling the creative genius of Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek's success over the years has always involved great storytelling and an inquisitive mind. 'To boldly go where no man has gone before,' as it were. The exploration of science, technology, philosophy, ethics, politics, interracial relationships, etc. Over the years, Star Trek has teleported viewers to new worlds and pushed the boundaries of possibility.

But the last several reincarnations, both large and small screen, have begun to sputter. And with an opportunity to reboot the franchise, Paramount turned to J.J. Abrams, a writer/director who knows how to mix mythology with suspenseful adventure. Without sounding like an American Idol sound bite, Abrams takes something familiar, something we've all seen and heard before, and makes it his own. Applying his own unique vision and energy, Abrams brings teenage angst to Kirk's rebellious ways, he infuses slapstick comedy in various forms, and carefully allows silent pauses to amp up the tension. More importantly, Abrams recognizes his core audience, offering up enough surprises and nostalgic moments to satisfy new and old fans alike. The simple charm, the camaraderie between characters, the subtle nuances and lingo, the 80's style credits, and a reciting of the Star Trek mantra that, no matter how many times you hear it, will put a smile on your face.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Star Trek has always been the diversity in characters - humans, aliens, and artificial life forms. In fact, the main characters are so unique and so vivid, they have properly engrained themselves in the annals of pop culture. Spin offs, spoofs, and recurring roles in subsequent series. And nervous Trekkers everywhere know that any attempt to recapture those performances would stand out like a troublesome tribble. Appearing as an impersonation rather than an interpretation.

But this is really where the film soars. The casting could not have been more precise. At the heart of the film is Spock, played expertly by Zachary Quinto. Quinto must have spent a lot of time on set with Spock Prime, Leonard Nimoy, because he makes his internal conflict so sublime, so effectual, and so effortless. Likewise, Christopher Pine captures Kirk's swagger and charisma without falling into a rigid, Shatner impression. And the rest of the crew delivers in their own unique way, respectful of the old, with a touch of new. Saldana's Uhura is smart and sensitive, Urban's McCoy is gruff and forthright, and Simon Pegg provides an abundance of comic relief as Montgomery Scott.

Like many great science fiction adventures, Star Trek employs time travel as a means to retell familiar origins while simultaneously, giving it the flexibility to welcome change. It's an alternate universe, but a much more friendly one than depicted in Mirror, Mirror. Thanks to Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman, collaborators on the script, the story affectionately retains key character traits, notable sound bytes, and a flair for action. Not to mention, good-natured humor and fun, which curiously disappeared from the film franchise after Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. I mean, how many times did Picard run through the Enterprise with his hands and tongue swollen, in slapstick fashion?

Yet, as delightful as it is seeing the crew come together, the story lacks a complete villain and a comprehensible conflict that you can sink your teeth into. The Romulans are notable adversaries, but depicted less as ancestors of the Vulcans and more like tattooed cave dwellers with a big ship. And Captain Nero, while simplified in his methods, is just not given enough screen time, enough conflict with the crew, or a compelling back-story to make him dangerous. Vengeance can be powerful motive if given room to breathe. But Nero is limited and far less effective than the wrath of Khan.

Watching Star Trek, it was readily apparent the summer movie season had begun. With strong leading characters, overpowering special effects, and thrills a minute, the film explodes onto the screen, offering something old and something new for everyone. While there are obvious scientific gotchas, plot holes, and unrealized antagonists, there's no doubting the fun factor. Star Trek accomplishes its mission, satisfying our taste buds today while whetting our appetite for the future. "These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise," Nimoy recites. Voyages that will live long and prosper, thanks to an inspirational effort by J.J. Abrams and a cast of Trek worthy, young stars.



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