It’s the eleventh Star Trek movie and it’s the best–a successful re-boot of the timeless Star Fleet mythology that will satisfy the die-hard Trekkies and capture a whole new generation of fans. Characters you care about, a villain worth snarling at, a compelling story unimpeded by any demands for logic, spectacular effects, warp speed pacing, incredible sets, adrenaline-pumping music, and the aging Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy.
Understanding that the only real place to take the Federation was back in time, director J.J. Abrams and his able writing team (all veterans of Mission Impossible III) decided to do two things–pay dutiful homage to the style of the venerable TV series–heroics, humor, heart and friendship–and flash it up with the latest in movie effects. The double-pronged goal is a whopping success.
In perhaps the most rocketing open sequence in memory, we see the beginning, literally, of the Trek myth as baby James Tiberius Kirk is born at the same time his young spaceship captain father sacrifices himself in an act of galactic bravery. On earth, the boy Kirk, raised in Iowa, shows early signs of his speed-demon personality. Meanwhile, the boy Spock, torn between his dual nature of Vulcan and human, makes his decision which path to follow.
Both characters meet at the space Academy, instant rivals. Chris Pine (Bottle Shock) as Kirk is the perfect archetypal hero, whether he be Celtic or comic book–he’s arrogant, decisive, flirty and funny, and he’s learned from 24’s Jack Bauer that he must be a leader who does whatever it takes. After a few minutes with the new Kirk, your pangs of longing for William Shatner might not disappear, but they will definitely be lessened.
Zachary Quinto (TV’s Heroes) on the other hand is the perfect Spock, conflicted, contemplative, wise beyond his years and yearning for acceptance. The story of the friendship between this lovable odd couple is the thrust of the story. Their competitive jousting carries both of them, and us, through a tortuous path to save the world from a crazed villain, the Romulan pirate named Nero, played with gleeful tattooed nastiness by Eric Bana (Munich). It turns out that Nero is from the future and is seeking revenge against an older Spock who accidentally destroyed Nero’s home planet. This is how a favorite science fiction plot device, time travel, gets into the story and how–wonderfully–the young Kirk gets to meet the old Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and try to set things right, regardless of that old warning that you can’t fix the future by messing up the past.
One by one Kirk meets the characters who will become his basic crew. First he finds and unsuccessfully tries to chat up brilliant neo-linguist Nyuto Ohara (Zoe Saldana, Vantage Point) in the local bar. She gives him the heave-ho because he’s acting like a jerk. But a great fist fight ensues in which Kirk gets challenged to try to live up to his father’s greatness and enter the cadet academy. In the academy shuttle, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban, The Bourne Supremacy) complains bitterly about his recent divorce and threatens to vomit on Kirk. They become fast friends.
When Kirk gets marooned on an ice planet, he meets the motor-mouth genius Scotty (Simon Pegg, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People), who, with the help of the older Spock, figures out how to “beam” people up onto the spaceship even though it’s traveling at warp speed. On the S.S. Enterprise is champion fencer/engineer Sulu (John Cho, Harold and Kumar…) and boy genius Chekov (Anton Yelchin, House of D) and hundreds of other crew members who work the various floors of the spaceship. Through a series of galactic circumstances, Kirk becomes captain of the Enterprise and must not only squire the spacecraft but also save the civilized world from what seems like imminent destruction–there’s nothing like having a lot at stake to keep the audience on the edge of its seat.
Final note: Among all these crew members, there’s only one woman who has any authority or any lines to speak and that’s the linguist/love interest Nyuto Ohara. Zoe Saldana does a good job and my comments are not meant to diminish her contribution. But, just as I complained about Wolverine’s woeful lack of women’s parts, I make the same justifiable complaint about Star Trek. Regardless of its 1960s inspiration, the movie does take place in the future and there should be more women’s parts–thus an annoyed half-point off the film’s rating.
Okay, Star Trek is stuck in the testosterone pit. It’s still a wonderful movie, thrilling, entertaining, and at times, very touching. As the old Spock tells the young Kirk, “I have been and always shall be your friend.” That’s a line worthy of a great movie. Grab your friends, take the kids and as Captain Kirk says, “Buckle up!”