To boldly reboot
Trekkies … you can exhale now.
Director J.J. Abrams has put together some sort of modern movie miracle with his reboot of the Star Trek franchise. He manages to retain the vibe of the beloved TV and film series, while creating something altogether different, fresh and irresistibly entertaining. His Star Trek is the best Star Trek film I’ve seen, and that includes Wrath of Khan and the humpback whale movie. It’s that good.
Beginning with an intense battle sequence that includes the birth of baby James T. Kirk, and only getting better from there, this movie has no lags, no dry spells, no real flaws. It might be part of a well-known franchise, but it’s also an extremely competent standalone science fiction epic.
Somewhere in the future Trek universe, a well-meaning Romulan named Nero (Eric Bana) is given a major reason to be unfathomably angry. It’s no secret that Leonard Nimoy has returned as Spock for this installment, so it’s safe to tell you that an older Spock is part of the reason Nero has become a vengeful monster. Through some nifty time-traveling tricks, Nero will wind up facing off against a younger incarnation of Spock (Zachary Quinto) and his new cadet friend, James T. Kirk (Chris Pine).
Somewhere in time before Nero’s temper tantrum, young Kirk is rabble rousing in Iowa bars and not so sure what to do with his life. He happens upon Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), who knew his heroic dad and advises the young Kirk to enlist in Starfleet.
Kirk, with nothing else better to do, obliges and meets up with his now iconic friends soon thereafter. It should be said that the performances and choices made by every actor placed in these familiar roles are first rate. Karl Urban goes full on DeForest Kelley in his portrayal of Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, and every time he says “Dammit Jim!” is a blessed gift to Trek fans. John Cho creates a different kind of Sulu, and he makes the character his own within this film’s universe without disgracing George Takei.
Anton Yelchin has fun murdering the English language with that patented Chekov accent, getting some good laughs out of an old joke. And Simon Pegg proves the perfect choice to replace James Doohan as Scotty the engineer. Pegg’s role here is relatively small—he shows up late in the film—but he makes the most of his scenes. Thankfully, he does get to scream Scotty’s most remembered line of dialogue during a space battle.
The movie would be nothing if it messed up the casting of Kirk and the younger Spock. Pine and Quinto jump into the roles with remarkable authority. They make a few nods to their predecessors—Quinto actually shares a mind-bending scene with Nimoy—but these are not copycat performances. They prove themselves worthy of the mantles on their own merits. Pine does do one obvious nod to William Shatner near film’s end that is the movie’s best laugh.
Nimoy looks like he’s truly enjoying the role of Spock for the first time since Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. I get the sense he knows he’s part of something special. While Shatner didn’t get a chance to attend the party, Abrams and crew have fashioned a new Trek directory that could have Shatner back in his iconic seat in a future installment. As for Bana, he rocks his role to the core, easily the best Trek villain since Ricardo Montalban’s Khan.
Abrams messes with the Trek universe a bit, and the way he does it is nothing short of brilliant. For those who love all things Trek, this movie should make you more than happy. For those who think Spock is lame, give this premise another chance. There might be movies that make more money this summer, but they will be hard-pressed to be as entertaining as this Trek.