‘Star Trek’ is back. And how. JJ Abrams’ re-invention of the series will please fans and non-nerds alike, thanks to a movie which appeals as much to those clued into dilithium crystals as to those who have never before encountered James T Kirk.
In true ‘Trek’ fashion, there’s a time travel element in play which changes much of the past as fans would have known it up to now, but leaves us with the original crew of the Enterprise intact and under Kirk’s (Chris Pine) command.
Cleverly, movie scriptwriters Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman penned a prequel comic to this flick, which whetted the appetite of fans ahead of last Friday’s big opening.
Titled ‘Countdown’, it provides some excellent back story detail, but fear not if you haven’t read it.
In one of the movie’s finely crafted exposition sequences, ‘old’ Spock (Leonard Nimoy) quickly brings the audience up to date with the circumstances that saw him zipped back in time.
The comic intriguingly reveals that Spock’s ‘Jellyfish’ ship, sanctioned by his fellow Vulcans, was built by Geordi La Forge, the Engineer on the USS Enterprise ‘D’ and ‘E’.
Spock’s mission to save the past was also executed with the co-operation of Ambassador Jean Luc Picard, now retired from the captain’s chair and the ‘resurrected’ Captain Data of the Enterprise ‘E’.
For non-fans, Data, an android, was killed in ‘Star Trek: Nemesis’ but cleverly downloaded himself into a machine called ‘B-4′, who, over time, becomes Data. It’s ‘Star Trek’, folks, you can do these sort of things!
‘Countdown’, while thinly written in parts, still possessed the bones of a good movie script and could well have provided the perfect cinematic bow for the cast of ‘The Next Generation’ before returning us to the original crew.
Yet it more than serves its purpose by, for example, giving former Enterprise crewman Worf (now a Klingon General) something to do on a heroic scale that the last four movies never permitted.
It also fleshes out the Nero character in a way that the movie itself fails to do, yet in the overall context of the movie, this is an incredibly minor quibble.
So what and who brings about the latest round of intergalactic turmoil?
Enter the vengeful and mourning Romulan miner named Nero (Eric Bana), whose pregnant wife was killed when Romulus (in The Next Generation era) is destroyed by a supernova which Spock attempted to prevent, not that Nero saw it that way.
Thanks to his Borg technology-upgraded ship, the Narada, Nero sets off through time to prevent the destruction of his home planet and sets about obliterating everything non-Romulan in sight, which includes one of Star Trek’s most prominent planets.
In doing so, he alters both time and the fates of the young crew of the Enterprise skippered by Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), whose officers are thrown together by accident rather than design.
Abrams achieves something which even uber-Trek director Nicholas Meyer (‘The Wrath of Khan’, ‘The Undiscovered Country’) couldn’t muster: every member of the crew gets something meaningful to do.
Uhura (Zoe Saldana) intercepts a message which triggers the Enterprise into action against the Narada and, surprisingly, proves a love interest for young Spock (Zachary Quinto), much to Kirk’s surprise.
A 17-year-old Chekov (Anton Yelchin) humorously still can’t pronounce his Ws but figures out how to beam Kirk and Sulu (John Cho) away from certain death on Vulcan.
Sulu gets to demonstrate his swordsmanship, wiping out two Romulans while saving Kirk on Nero’s planet wrecking drill which hovers over Spock’s native soil.
Scotty (played for comic relief by Simon Pegg), after an Augustus Gloop moment in the Enterprise’s engineering section, saves Spock, the Vulcan High Council and the entire crew thanks to his transporter room expertise.
To say this was an enormously enjoyable two hours in the cinema is an understatement: this is, without question, the big summer movie of 2009, breathing new life into a series that had almost reached extinction.
Chris Pine more than captures the essence of William Shatner’s roguish, rule-breaking Kirk while Quinto also pulls off a top job with his take on Spock, all the more admirable given Nimoy’s presence in the picture.
But Karl Urban (Eomer in ‘The Lord of the Rings’) steals the show as Doctor Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy, whose performance resonates of DeForrest Kelley who inhabited the role for almost 30 years.
He unleashes a few timely “Goddamits” and puts Kirk in his place a few times; just the way fans grew happily accustomed to in four different decades.
It’s a wonderful performance in a movie loaded with quality, including well-tempered contributions from Ben Cross (‘Chariots of Fire’) and Winona Ryder as Spock’s parents.
Bana does what he can with Nero and while he’s a major improvement on the past few villains in ‘Trek’ movies, one imagines quite a bit of his character was left on the cutting room floor: the DVD version may do him more justice.
Funny, action packed, poignant and entertaining, ‘Star Trek’ will not disappoint.
‘Star Trek’ is in all local cinemas.