Director J.J. Abrams makes “Star Trek” respectable again with this origin tale that sets up everything we’ve seen in six TV series — I’m including the underappreciated cartoon — and 10 movies. (Well, “Enterprise” takes place before this, but who’s counting?) He also makes “Star Trek” cool for the first time.
I smiled a lot during this movie, and I suspect serious Trekkies will like all the insider humor (but it’s not too inside; general “Trek” knowledge will get you by). Vulcan bullies, anyone?
Abrams didn’t know much about “Star Trek” when he tackled this project, which isn’t a bad thing; Bryan Singer didn’t hadn’t read “X-Men” until he got that directing job, either. But Abrams, the creator of “Lost” and “Fringe,” gets the tone right, from those soft pinging noises on the Enterprise bridge to the near-perfect casting.
On-the-rise actors from various ethnicities play the young versions of our old favorites, starting with Chris Pine as all-American Kirk, who joy-rides across corn country in an antique car. Is this Heaven? No, that’s in “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier”; this is Iowa.
There’s also Karl Urban as gruff Southerner McCoy, Zoe Saldana as sexy Uhura, Simon Pegg (“Hot Fuzz”) as Scottish Scotty, John Cho (“Harold and Kumar”) as Asian Sulu and Anton Yelchin as Russian Chekov.
In the scene-stealing role, Zachary Quinto plays Spock. He always seemed a bit Vulcan as Sylar on “Heroes,” and it’s nice to see him have less-silly material to work with.
Leonard Nimoy, the original Spock, also pops up, spouting familiar lessons about the value of his friendship with Kirk, which is decidedly strained when they first meet. Dumping Kirk on a dangerous ice planet? That’s a bit harsh, even for a half-Vulcan. Kirk almost died.
Abrams approaches this as a “Star Wars”-ish good vs. evil story (if you’re keeping score at home, it’s a nutso Romulan villain) rather than an intellectual “Star Trek” lesson. And while the phaser fights and space battles aren’t memorable — even on an UltraScreen; sorry I’m jaded — the action approach is OK for this relaunch. Just so long as Abrams’ next “Trek” outing is nerdier. Yes, I think a movie can be cool while also having something to say.
Escapism is all well and good, but the world is in rough shape right now, and I wouldn’t be opposed to a “Star Trek” movie taking us to task; that’s what Gene Roddenberry created the franchise for 43 years ago. But Abrams & Co. get the style right, so I’ll give them a pass on the substance this time.
What did you think of this “Star Trek” relaunch? Was I the only one who didn’t realize Winona Ryder was in it until I saw the end credits? And did anyone else think Uhura’s green roommate was kind of hot? Discuss these important issues below.