Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Beloved Enterprise Is Reborn

Star Trek:
4 out of 4

I may not be a follower of "Star Trek," but that didn't make any less excited about director J.J. Abrams' ("Lost," "Mission: Impossible III") reinvention of the adored intergalactic franchise. I don't know about "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," but it'd be safe to say that this movie has officially kicked off the summer movie season right into warp speed. The original space opera of the 1960s TV show gets the reinvigoration it desperately needed after a countless number of series spin-offs (a total of six) and movies (a total of ten) that created a drawn-out, downward spiral in popularity and praise. So now, here comes Abrams to kick everything off to a fresh start all over again. This "Star Trek" isn't simply for the diehard Trekkies to get their fix; on its own accord, this is pure moviegoing bliss as we're transported to an alternate universe that is irresistibly fun. It's a sci-fi fantasy that fantastically mixes the nostalgic with the fresh, opening up the possibility to take this once fatigued franchise, now newly reinvented, in bold directions.

We're presented Capt. James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine) as a rebellious young boy who grows to being a bar-brawling punk to a Starfleet Academy cadet, and then ultimately to becoming captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise. He has a rough attractiveness and a carefree bad boy demeanor that at first gets him into trouble but rewards him in the end. His surefire cockiness shines through when he beats a simulation created by the seemingly level-headed, half-human/half-Vulcan Spock (Zachary Quinto). These two butt heads immediately as Spock is purely driven by logic suppressing all emotion while Kirk is hotheaded and just the opposite. Consider the sexy communications officer, Uhura (Zoƫ Saldana), who turns away from Kirk's flirtatious advances and falls in love with Spock. The kisses they share together show Spock as a conflicted soul who not only has to hide his sensuality but every other emotion, as well. Quinto gets beneath Spock's calm exterior showing the turmoil brewing inside. His delivery of the infamous phrase, "Live long and prosper," hints at a deeper meaning.

From its lyrical beginning sequence before the title even graces the screen to its explosive conclusion, the movie is exhilarating. A great supporting cast anchors all of the necessary dramatic entrances of familiar characters on board the Enterprise, and even if you're like me, a first introduction to this cleverly cast team is equally as exciting as being reintroduced. Bruce Greenwood plays Captain Pike, Karl Urban plays the head medical officer, Bones, Anton Yelchin lets his Russian side out to play the know-it-all Chekov, and John Cho (as known from "Harold and Kumar") plays helmsman Sulu alongside Chekov. It's comical to watch as Sulu's first attempt to kick the spacecraft into warp speed fails miserably. The scene-stealer, though, is Simon Pegg who is expertly cast as the genius engineer, Scotty, and he provides ample ammunition for the movie's cheeky humor. And the catch phrases such as, "Beam me up, Scotty!" and "I'm giving it all she's got!" are accounted for, too, which act as little treats for those faithful fans.

Eric Bana does an admirable job playing the sinister Nero, who is a revengeful Romulan seeking retribution for the destruction of his homeland planet. He kidnaps Captain Pike, and the film's plot goes on to revolve around this dangerous rescue mission that is reminiscent of the sad fate faced by Kirk's father. There is also a time traveling, alternate reality twist to the plot, which not only creates a storyline that is more dense, elaborate, and thought-provoking than one may first expect, but it also provides an ideal outlet to bring in the man who originally played Spock, Leonard Nimoy.

J.J. Abrams goes for pure spectacle with his "Star Trek," and it works. The special effects are swirling and majestic alongside some shockingly gorgeous cinematography. Just watch what Abrams does to three free-falling bodies in space or how he orchestrates Kirk's frightening encounter with a giant beast that resembles the monster from "Cloverfield." Abrams tends to indulge himself throughout, which is not unlike him to do anyway, but it never detracts from the overall experience. There's even a nod to "Lost" if you notice the font of the subtitles announcing new locations. He also brings in composer Michael Giacchino who provides an excellent musical score and rightfully holds off on the original theme until the end credits, which acts as a fitting triumphant finish. Abrams, along with his writers, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, have created a prequel without all of the baggage of a prequel. Things slow down when necessary but keep moving with fantastic action sequences that flash across the screen like a series of perfectly choreographed somersaults. This is a summer popcorn flick done absolutely right.

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