Everything old is new again for “Star Trek” fans
If it were easy for studios to make films based on popular TV series from the 60s and 70s, then the movie highway wouldn’t be littered with so many junkers. Taking on a franchise like “Star Trek” must have been foreboding for the filmmakers, considering the show originally aired just 79 episodes on the small screen but has become larger and more well-known than virtually any piece of entertainment from that era and includes a passionate legion of Trekkies (or Trekkers, as many prefer.)
The seeming ease with which director J.J. Abrams (“Mission Impossible: III”) apparently melds the old and the new while rebooting the beloved series is impressive. He restores the campy humor, introduces a slew of unknown actors into incredibly familiar roles while producing a thrilling, fun, blockbuster.
It couldn’t have been easy, but Abrams and crew make it seem effortless-a sign that these people know what they are doing.
Although there are some terrific special effects, and amazingly detailed sets, Star Trek is not just trying to impress with its visuals. Along the way there is a good story that includes answers to a lot of questions; long-time groupies will be satiated and a whole new crop of fans could be ignited. Among the essential elements included by screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman-whose talents were only hinted at in “Transformers”-in this prequel to both the TV series and the many previous, and inferior, film adaptations:
The maturation of James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) from cocky car thief raised in Iowa to second in command on the Star Fleet Enterprise. We learn about his birth, the death of his father, and the origin of his edgy relationship with a certain pointy-eared Vulcan.
We also see how the young Spock (Zachary Quinto, mesmerizing and perfect), scorned as a half-breed, rises to the top of his class-and how his testing methods are challenged by Kirk the upstart cadet.
Each one of the major Starfleet members Uhura, Scotty, Dr. McCoy, Sulu, and Chekov receives ample screen time, at least enough to establish the well-known characters, giving fans plenty to chuckle about while cementing the flawless casting.
What would a “Star Trek” film be without evil Romulans? This film has a snarly evil one named Nero (Eric Bana), who wants to settle the score with the Federation and who exploits a time-space continuum to travel back and give the story a legitimate raison d’etre. Even those of us who usually have time travel issues in movies will accept the logical explanation here, since it is lovingly and convincingly explained by “Spock Prime” (a charming Leonard Nimoy).
There may be some narrative cracks (feel free to e-mail me, you Trekkie killjoys!), but the excellent action sequences-which draw heavily upon Spielberg and Lucas for inspiration and that’s not a criticism-plus a upbeat tone, an important element maintained from the source material make for an adventure that zips by at warp speed.
The result? The new “Star Trek” is the summer blockbuster to beat.
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, and brief sexual content.