Star Trek, 4.5/5

Rated PG-13. Click here to view the trailer.

I have very, very little background in the Star Trek cannon. The extent of my Trekkieness is that I’m vaguely aware that I should have strong feelings about who could kick who’s butt, Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (Star Trek: The Next Generation) or Capt. James T. Kirk (the original series).

I’ve never seen more than a few minutes of either show, but that didn’t take a single iota away from the fact that J.J. Abrams has banged out one heckuva movie. (If I were hard pressed to pick a favorite, I’d probably go with Picard. At least he got to work with LeVar Burton.)

This is the 12th, 6th, 43rd or 109th movie in the Star Trek series, but I really don’t care. As far as I’m concerned, we’re starting fresh. And what a way to start.

James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine) is an aimless young man, eschewing the responsibility of a career for joy riding in his step-dad’s car (it’s good to know vintage Corvettes – and the gas to fuel them – will survive hundred of years into the future) and hitting on college chicks at the local bar. In short, he’s a 23rd Century townie.

After a one bar fight too many, he accepts the challenge of his father’s old grizzled commanding officer to enlist in Star Fleet Academy (located in San Francisco, of course!). There he meets our beloved characters from the original series: Dr. Bones McCoy (Karl Urban), xenolinguist Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Cmdr. Spock (Zachary Quinto), navigator Chekov (Anton Yelchin), pilot Hikaru Sulu (John Cho) and engineer Scotty (Simon Pegg). It’s overwhelming when you write it all out like that, but I’m telling you, it’s not that bad in person.

A victim of his own stubbornness and charm, Kirk soon finds himself on academic probation for cheating, even as an interstellar emergency presses the cadets into service aboard Star Fleet’s newest flagship, USS ENTERPRISE.   An alien ship has mysteriously appeared just off Spock home planet of Vulcan, blaming those two pointy ears for a genocide that supposedly happens 25 years in the future. Of course Kirk somehow smuggles himself on board and he alone has the background, disrespect for authority and good ole American swagger that can unlock the secrets to saving billions of lives. Toss in some time travel, warp drives, “space parachuting,” fencing (?), classic catch phases (“Beam me up, Scotty”*), some black holes and the occasional love scene with the green alien and you’ve got a movie.

Abrams did a fantastic job casting Star Trek. Pine and Quinto’s performance as enemies-then-buddies did an especially fine job breathing new life into a franchise that has always been on the fringes of my cultural radar. The tension between Spock’s faith in the power of pure logic and Kirks Id is thoroughly entertaining. Simon Pegg’s Scotty stole the show and brought in just the right amount of slap stick when the movie was beginning to drag entering the third act. If there is a weak link, I think it’s with Saldana’s Uhura. She was fairly bland and one-note. It’s also interesting to note that Uhura’s regulation uniform includes go-go boots and miniskirts. My, how progressive the 23th century is! There’s a little bit of impersonation going on as each actor tries to build off the previous generation’s work, but by and large it’s just the right amount of camp.

The tone is happy and upbeat. Hopeful, even. This is not a future of nuclear holocaust, stateless terrorism, famine or poverty. This is a sugar-coated future in which people have banded together in a global melting pot. Earth has become the America of the Universe, spreading democracy and freedom as they swat down intergalactic, time-traveling Saddam Husseins. Space may be the final frontier, but it’s only a matter of time before Kirk and Co. seek out the strange new worlds and offer them a McNugget Happy Meal and a Sprite. If every crew of every spaceship is as fun and entertaining as that of the ENTERPRISE, it’s a future I welcome.

This is an excellent way to start the  summer movie season and my face hurt I was smiling so much.

But can I have my Happy Meal with a Diet Dr Pepper? And some extra ketchup.

*Others included “Set phasers to stun,” “I can’t do it captain! I’m giving it all she’s got!” “Darn it, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a physicist,” “It would be illogical,” “Live long and prosper,”


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