Movie review – “Star Trek”

12May09

By J.A. O’Sullivan

As the prequel to end all sequels, “Star Trek” faces an interesting mission: how to keep the life of outsized original characters like Dr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) while blowing fresh air into a franchise that has more peaks and valleys than Rocky Mountains. Despite that, the 10th franchise film delivers a dreamy, neo-retro feel that fits right into the yearning for hope that has rippled across much of the nation. Playing skillfully on treaded sci-fi ground, “Star Trek” injects a predictable sense of youth and opportunity onto the big screen consistent with other recent releases like “Fighting.” You already know the story with these stories, but you knew it walking in.

The tale begins wrapped in nuggets of American greatness as a youthful legendary Enterprise captain James Kirk (Chris Pine from “Bottle Shock” as Kirk in the grown-up scenes) powers an antique Corvette while blasting the Beastie Boys on the back roads of Iowa outside a Starfleet base. Kirk’s birth (by way of his father’s sacrificial death) is told, juxtaposed with the tumultuous childhood of Spock (Zachary Quinto, “Heroes”), who must wrestle with his half-human, half-Vulcan ancestry. Larger themes emerge as Kirk wrestles with his own red-blooded tendencies and Spock with his icy demeanor – all of which takes place as the cadets complete their training at Starfleet academy. Before they complete their commencement, the cadets are called into battle against a savage Romulan ship staffed by savage Romulans who look like members of a tattooed death-metal band. Thus, the Enterprise makes its maiden voyage with its maiden crew.

Director J.J. Abrams (Co-creator/producer of TV’s “Lost”) mostly stays away from action and produces a lean, funny dialogue that includes terrific one-liners by Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban “Lord of the Rings II and III”) and Checkov (Anton Yelchin “A Man is Mostly Water”), whose thickly accented public addresses to the Enterprise crew deliver as much fun as those from the movie “MASH.” A young Uhuru (Zoe Saldana, “Avatar”) provides romantic foil for Spock that, wisely, is little explored. The film is shot beautifully. The Enterprise looks as sleek and sultry as a ’55 Chevy. Brief shots of an imploding planet mesmerize. The youthfulness of the Kirk and Spock enchant.

A minor role for Leonard Nimoy, the original Spock, as his character form the future, adds a nice touch without overdoing the sentimentality. At movie’s end, Nimoy jokes that his usual salutation – “Live long and prosper” – would seem self-serving to say to his younger incarnation. That, however, is appropriate enough for this sequel.

Grade: B+
Director: J.J. Abrams
Runtime: 2:07
Rating: PG-13

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