All right, first things first: I'm not a big "Star Trek" fan. (Because Trekkies apparently hate being called Trekkies, I'll refrain from calling them and myself that.) I must have seen only a couple of episodes of the original series, and I've never really gotten into the subsequent spinoffs. (However, I admit I found myself watching a few "Voyager" episodes when Jeri Ryan hopped on board as that delicious Borg Seven of Nine.) I haven't seen an actual "Star Trek" movie in years -- and I didn't even like the last one I saw.
With all that being said, I am pleased to note that the new "Star Trek" movie (simply titled "Star Trek") is, for lack of a better expression, off-the-chain. This movie's so decent, so enjoyable, so downright good, I'm still a bit shocked about it.
I had my reasons for greeting this movie with low expectations. For starters, it's directed by J.J. Abrams, whose last summer movie, "Mission: Impossible III" was about as fun as an extreme case of eczema.
Luckily, Abrams surrounded himself with avowed "Star Trek" geeks (in this case, producer Damon Lindelof and screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman) who led him down the right path with a story that will keep the diehards at bay while not alienating novices or folks who just know the "Trek" world through pop-culture osmosis.
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This "Trek" takes it way, way back to the beginning, catching the crew of the Starship Enterprise when they were callow and wet behind the pointy ears. These space travelers don't have crow's feet, bulging guts or obvious hairpieces. No, sir, they're young and sexy! This is "Star Trek" for the "Gossip Girl" generation! But this is more watchable than that show.
Chris Pine leads the baby-face charge as the one and only James T. Kirk. A brilliant, authority-defying troublemaker whose rebelliousness stems from losing his father during a space mission on the day of Kirk's birth, he gets recruited by Captain Pike (the indispensable Bruce Greenwood) to follow in the old man's footsteps and join Starfleet Academy. That's where he meets a bitterly divorced "Bones" McCoy (Karl Urban) and the attractive, dedicated Uhura (Zoe Saldana). He also butts heads with Spock ("Heroes" villain Zachary Quinto), the overachieving son of a Vulcan father (Ben Cross) and a human mother (Winona Ryder).
They all end up on Pike's Starship, along with a 17-year-old Chekov (Anton Yelchin), a sword-wielding Sulu (John Cho) and a wisecracking Scotty (English comedian Simon Pegg). Their voyage pits them against a vengeful, time-traveling Romulan (Eric Bana). hellbent on destroying Spock and the planet he came from. Good thing an older Spock (Leonard Nimoy) from another time shows up to aid these young bucks in their mission.
Because of the predictably baffling, time-traveling, alternate-reality conceit (anybody who has been watching Abrams' show "Lost" this season knows the man loves to go to the time-travel well), Abrams and the writers get the opportunity to reboot the "Trek" universe, giving a fresh look at characters even people who've never seen the show practically know by now.
Most of the movie is centered on its iconic protagonists, Kirk and Spock, and how these men with night-and-day lives start a contentious relationship that will have them becoming the brothers-in-arms we all know and love. (The movie might as well be called "Kirk & Spock: The Early Years.") But the movie also scores by capturing the chemistry and camaraderie of all the characters, giving each member a moment to shine.
Of course, Abrams sprinkles the movie with enough in-jokes and references to make the fan boys chuckle. (Yes, Kirk gets it on with one of those fine, green Orion chicks -- I looked that up on Wikipedia). But with its thrilling set pieces, an engrossing, unexpectedly emotional plot, and a cast that sincerely plays these characters, with nary a wink or a raised eyebrow, "Star Trek" is just a fun, endlessly satisfying movie. The film even manages to give a respectable role to Tyler Perry that has nothing to do with him wearing women's dresses. Man, this movie's unbelievable!
I can't believe I'm gushing about this movie like a little girl who has just seen a Jonas brother. But it's been a while since I've seen a blockbuster do everything it possibly can to be as entertaining as possible, and actually deliver. We just started the summer movie season, but "Star Trek" appears to be the only mission worth taking.