â€œSpace, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise.â€ Yes, boys and girls, Hollywood's long winter of Oscar-primed weepies is over and that glorious summer of box office boffos is upon us. If the new â€œStar Trekâ€ is the opening salvo, we're in for an exciting time.
Without any previous experience of the vast and variable â€œStar Trekâ€ lore, director J. J. Abrams has taken a tired trope from the 1960s Cold War and turned it into a spiffy new thrill ride. All the favorite characters of a dyed-in-the-wool Trekkie are in place but fleshed out by new, fresh faces. The actors portraying the seven principals â€” the Our Gang of Outer Space â€” Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Sulu, Chekov and the gang's token female Uhura, have done their homework. They've mastered mannerisms, voice patterns and the twinkle in the eye that was always the original TV â€œStar Trek'sâ€ secret weapon.
Although careful attention is paid to each character and his or her relationship with the others, inevitably the story focuses on the relationship between the young James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and his Vulcan alter ego, an equally young Spock (Zachary Quinto), and the actors are up to the challenge. Pine delivers a nicely tuned version of a fatherless rebel-turned-starship-captain who saves his ship and the universe besides. Quinto is especially effective in channeling the idiosyncratic Spock and a brief scene with his older self, Spock Prime (cameoed by an always welcome Leonard Nimoy), is poignant without being sentimental.
The screenplay by writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman pays homage to the interplay, humor and comradeship of the original TV show while production has embraced the possibilities of cutting edge computer-generated graphics. Based on the spectacular photos taken over the last few years by NASA's Hubble telescope, outer space has never looked so realistic or so sumptuous.
The story is the usual good versus evil but the writers have given it a modern twist by providing a back story in which Romulan bad guy Nero (Eric Bana), a brooding goth with interesting facial tattoos, is on a mission of revenge against an aged Spock, for whom he blames the destruction of his home world. Nero flies a spaceship that looks like a cross between a giant black squid and a box of razor blades and everything inside and out is very, very sharp. There are time warps, time travel, black holes, ice planets and red matter, daring escapes and inescapable bravery. Kirk the rebel morphs into Kirk the hero and when Spock Prime informs him, â€œI am and ever have been your friend,â€ you feel the inevitability of the universe.
Gorgeous to look at (except for that flying squid), full of action flecked with glimmers of humanity and humor, this â€œStar Trekâ€ should be on course for a cosmic number of sequels. Somewhere Gene Roddenberry is smiling. See you at the movies!
SUSAN JAMES can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.