MovieMantz Review: 'Star Trek'

“Star Trek”
Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Eric Bana
Directed by J.J. Abrams

Finally, a “Star Trek” voyage that boldly goes where no “Trek” has gone before. Vibrantly and idealistically directed by J.J. Abrams (“Mission: Impossible III”) and smartly co-written by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman (“Transformers”), the eleventh feature in the long-running series is not just a great “Star Trek” movie — it’s a great movie, period. And for that reason alone, Gene Roddenberry — who created “Star Trek” 43 years ago — would have been proud.

And it’s about time, too. Years before “Trek” was a lucrative franchise fueled by die-hard fans (known as Trekkers), conventions and a merchandising empire, it was a struggling TV show that had a meager budget, flimsy sets and cheesy special effects. But thanks to great writing, compelling stories and fully realized characters, the original series — which aired on NBC-TV from 1966 to 1969 — has endured to this day and is still the greatest “Trek” of them all.

But the last movie, 2002’s “Nemesis,” stalled out at just $42 million domestically — the lowest grossing in the series. And the last TV show, “Enterprise,” was canceled in 2005 after just four years — three seasons short of its spin-off predecessors. What “Star Trek” needed was a fresh set of eyes to re-energize the stale series, similar to the way “Casino Royale” and “Batman Begins” re-invented the James Bond and Batman franchises, respectively.

By giving the Starship Enterprise a brand-spanking new refit, Abrams, Orci and Kurtzman have effectively re-booted “Star Trek” as a spectacular adventure for everyone — especially for younger moviegoers. Liberties have been taken to break away from the original mythology (which may irk some fans), but this is first and foremost a “Trek” film for people who have never seen “Trek” before. It’s an epic, fun, humorous and action-packed movie first and a great “Star Trek” movie second — and that is exactly what “Trek” needs to truly live long and prosper.

Long before the voyages of the U.S.S. Enterprise made Starfleet history, James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) was a rebellious young farm boy from Iowa who was trying to find his place in the galaxy. Across the universe, the young Vulcan Spock (Zachary Quinto) was an outcast torn between his father’s logical legacy and his mother’s emotional human ancestry. Despite being worlds apart, their destinies would soon bring them together to defeat a renegade Romulan warrior (Eric Bana) and, in the process, mark the beginning of a legendary friendship.

Longtime fans will have a lot to smile about, especially when they see the name “U.S.S. Enterprise” proudly emblazoned across the hull of a starship for the first time in a very long while. This was obviously a labor of love for co-writers Orci and Kurtzman, who make numerous references to some of “Trek’s” finest moments. The uniforms and the hardware have a retro look to them, but they’re still advanced enough to reflect the best special effects that a reported $160 million budget can buy. That’s especially true with the Enterprise, which finally feels like the vast starship that it is (especially in the Engineering section).

Perhaps the biggest hurdle in mounting this new “Trek” was getting past the baggage that comes with the iconic performances of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley. But the younger cast members make the beloved characters their own while still embracing the traits that made them so endearing in the first place. Chris Pine shines with confidence as the brassy young Jim Kirk, Zachary Quinto (TV’s “Heroes”) is uncannily perfect as the conflicted Mr. Spock and Karl Urban is flat-out brilliant as the irascible Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy.

As for the supporting cast members, Zoe Saldana brings a sexy vulnerability to Uhura, who reveals a surprisingly effective romance with an unlikely candidate. Simon Pegg has a ton of fun playing the miracle worker Scotty, despite the fact that he doesn’t show up until 80 minutes in. John Cho and Anton Yelchin are also effective as Sulu and Chekov respectively, and of course, Leonard Nimoy’s presence as the elder Spock is alone worth the price of admission.

Admittedly, the film suffers from periodic exposition, stunt casting (Winona Ryder as Spock’s mom?) and a one-dimensional villain, but director J.J. Abrams keeps “Trek” on course with a fast-paced 126-minute adventure that’s full of surprises. Unlike the “Star Wars” prequels, “Star Trek” is not bound to the original episodes, which may be a hard pill to swallow for fans who’ve seen them hundreds of times. But it also means that this new “Trek” can follow its own destiny, and the Enterprise will once again boldly go…well, you know the rest.

Verdict: SEE IT!

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