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Star Trek

A New Star Date Mantra: Beam Me Up, J.J.!

By Omar P.L. Moore/     SHARE
Friday, May 8, 2009

Zachary Quinto as Spock in "Star Trek", directed by J.J. Abrams.  The film expanded its release today across North America on IMAX and 35mm.  (Photo: Paramount Pictures)

The talented J.J. Abrams (television shows "Alias", "Lost", "Felicity" and the movie "Mission: Impossible III") is right at home with "Star Trek", which opened yesterday evening in North America and blazes across the big screen across the country in its first full day today in both IMAX and 35mm.  Mr. Abrams begins the film with a perilous situation and doesn't let go, and viewers of his previous work will recognize the formula.  Trekkies will recognize a difference, for the high-minded television series originated by Gene Roddenberry in 1966 and the ten movies that have since preceded this new feature film entry have been endeavors that have largely taken themselves too seriously and are now supplemented by an entertaining, fun-loving, wise-cracking, free-wheeling crew on the good ship Enterprise.

The film sets up its contrasting characters but not before the Romulans are seen losing their planet, and of course, someone will have to pay for that.  Nero (Eric Bana) leads the displaced and aggrieved populace.  This is the ancillary story for Mr. Abrams' film, which delights in poking jabs at itself and previous "Star Trek" films and characters while diligently staying on course to deliver special effects that neither dominate the landscape nor override the narrative written by Roberto Orsi and Alex Kurtzman and maintain the language and atmosphere of the original series.  "Star Trek" gets its biggest thrills, mileage and entertainment when it sets up the back stories and evolution of James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Dr. Spock (the especially good Zachary Quinto) as polar opposites, one from Iowa, the other from the planet Vulcan.  This study in contrasts is the key to and heart of the entire film, for the introduction of these two, one a cocky and cocksure daredevil, the other a measured and emotionless thinker that Rodin would be proud of, engage in an oddly funny, largely testosterone-free test of wills.

Zoe Saldana adds a touch of sensuality and empathy as Nyota Uhura, a role Nichelle Nichols graced so well way back when, bridging the emotional bandwidth gap existing between Kirk and Spock.  Several priceless moments are milked to the maximum in scenes where Miss Saldana is on screen.  Simon Pegg offers comic relief with a number of one-liners as Scotty, while the always reliable Bruce Greenwood conveys the sure-handedness of Captain Pike.  There's also good screen work from Karl Urban as Bones McCoy and yes, Leonard Nimoy reminds of us the past (and future?) in a mildly touching cameo. 

"Star Trek" is at times as loud and gargantuan as "Armageddon", and its production design by Scott Chambliss showcases some of its biggest strengths.  While Mr. Abrams' "Star Trek" lacks the power and visceral qualities of the original television series, it sustains itself for the most of the way as a good two hours of entertainment.  Discerning Trekkies may be crying out for more, but Mr. Abrams shows that he knows better to steer the U.S.S. Enterprise in a new and invigorated direction.

With: John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Keri Russell, Winona Ryder, Clifton Collins Jr., Jacob Kogan, Akiva Goldsman and a cameo from another famous person whom you will instantly recognize when you see him.

"Star Trek" is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association Of America for sci-fi action and violence, and brief sexual content.  The film's running time is two hours and six minutes.


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