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STAR TREK (director: J.J. Abrams; screenwriters: Alex Kurtzman/Roberto Orci/based on “Star Trek” created by Gene Roddenberry; cinematographer: Daniel Mindel; editors: Maryann Brandon/Mary Jo Markey; music: Michael Giacchino; cast: Chris Pine (James Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Leonard Nimoy (Spock), Anton Yelchin (Pavel Checkov), Zoe Saldana (Uhura), Karl Urban (Leonard “Bones” McCoy), John Cho (Sulu), Simon Pegg (Scotty), Eric Bana (Nero), Clifton Collins Jr. (Ayel), Winona Ryder (Amanda Grayson, Spock’s mom), Ben Cross (Sarek), Bruce Greenwood (Christopher Pike), Rachel Nichols (Gaila), Tyler Perry (Starfleet Adm. Richard Barnett); Runtime: 127; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: J.J. Abrams/Damon Lindelof; Paramount Pictures; 2009)
“Should please a wide cross-section of viewers.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

J.J. Abrams (“Mission: Impossible III”) directs the 11th Star Trek film as straightforward sci-fi melodrama with no political or social agenda. He keeps it faithful to the spirit of the series while still juicing the story up, which should please both its hardcore fanbase and newcomers (smartly making familiarity with the franchise not a necessity). The director does a seamless job of blending the past, present and future of the members of the Enterprise into the current happenings. Writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman give it a pleasing youthful zest that’s keeping with its trim new look in its visuals and do a good job establishing the dynamic relationships aboard the Enterprise.

The sci-fi film is a reboot (it returns to the beginning to show the origins of James Kirk and Spock and the launch of the U.S.S. Enterprise). It’s based on Gene Roddenberry’s enduring and reputable sci-fi series that imagines the 23rd century. The original TV series aired from 1966 to 1969 and after being cancelled it developed over the years a large cultish Trekkies following and morphed into an animated series and theater releases and there were also five other series on TV. It has accumulated 716 episodes from its volume of work. Its mythos about exploring the last frontier of space involves a sense of hope for the future, a call for a lasting friendship among the characters, a cherishing of team spirit and for possessing a curiosity about exploration. Good virtues for looking at the future in the troubled times of 2009, where there’s so much unrest and uncertainty in the world (not unlike the sixties when the franchise began).

It opens with a lively action prologue that depicts the dramatic birth of the future-captain of the Enterprise James Tiberius Kirk and how his dad heroically sacrificed himself to save his crew while in command of a spaceship while his wife safely gave birth; then it shows Kirk as a rebellious thrill-seeking misfit rural Iowa teen played by Chris Pine, who will be convinced by Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood), someone who respected his dad’s hero rep, to attend the Starfleet Academy; and then it follows the very bright, know-it-all and cocky young Spock as he grows up on Vulcan where he’s shown as an outcast who is bullied by bigots for his half-Vulcan and half-human ancestry (mom’s an earthling). Zachary Quinto plays Spock as an adult, who after graduation is chosen by the Vulcan council to work with them on a cushy job that no one ever refused before but joins Starfleet instead when he feels insulted hearing bigoted comments about his ancestry.

Before too long we’re aboard the new Enterprise with Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood). The other crew members besides Spock and Kirk, being the comical pessimistic ship doctor Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban); the intense sexy communications chief named Uhura (Zoe Saldana), who becomes the love interest of both Spock and Kirk; the resourceful Sulu (John Cho); the chatty enthusiastic genius engineer Scotty (Simon Pegg); and a 17-year-old Russian goofy brain named, of course, Chekov (Anton Yelchin), who speaks with a puzzling accent. An elderly Leonard Nimoy will also make an appearance via time travel, to help pass the torch onto a new generation of Trekkies while in his exile on an ice planet called Delta Vega.

The film’s villain is aptly named Nero (Eric Bana). He’s a snarling toughie Romulan with facial tattoos that Mike Tyson could sign onto, who as revenge for the destruction of his planet travels back in time to try and annihilate the Federated planets–especially Vulcan and Earth. He has the technical means to do it by releasing drills that can create a black hole and cause a planet to implode (this set piece action sequence is the film’s special effect highlight). It will be up to Kirk and Spock to stop their rivalry and fight over who is to be captain (someone bold or someone who reasons things out by logic) and figure a way together to stop the madman Romulan from destroying the world and they also must rescue the brave Captain Pike who was taken hostage by Nero. It’s a plot that’s much too shop-worn to arouse excitement and the heavy seems just like your run-of-the-mill cinema psychopath with a megalomaniacal lust for power and destruction (seen in every Bond film). But the updated film was so well-executed, was so much fun and should please a wide cross-section of viewers, as it lacks only in imagination to be an important sci-fi film.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”