Saturday, May 09, 2009

Star Trek (*****)

Star Trek. 126 mins. PG-13. Directed by J.J. Abrams. Written by Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci. Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, John Cho, Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Eric Bana, and Leonard Nimoy.

Having eagerly anticipated this reboot of Star Trek for well over a year now, I can say, without even a hint of hesitation, that it is as good as I could have hoped and then some. THIS is how you do a summer blockbuster. THIS is sci-fi action adventure done right. And THIS is J.J. Abrams solidifying his status as the most electrifying filmmaker working today.

I'm a casual fan of the original incarnation of Trek, but I'm a giant fan of J.J. Abrams. Confession time: in the short three years since it's been released, J.J.'s M:I-3 has quickly risen up the ranks to become one of my favorite movies of all time. That was only his first feature, and Star Trek (his second) takes any preconceived notion of a sophomore slump and body slams it to the ground. Working in tandem with the brilliant script written by frequent collaborators, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, J.J. has fashioned a Star Trek movie that everyone can enjoy. It achieves the near impossible - satisfying die-hard Trekkers and honoring all that's come before without getting too mired in technobabble and other geeky stuff. The ads promise that "This Is Not Your Father's Star Trek" and they're right to a certain degree. What they should also add though is that your father is probably going to love this new version of Trek too.

Story-wise, the movie focuses on the early years of Kirk and Spock and gang and their first adventure aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise. As we trace Kirk and Spock's destined ascension to captain and first officer, respectively, we meet the rest of the crew one-by-one as the villainous Nero sets out to destroy Earth and other planets as payback for the destruction of his own. There's a time travel twist to it all, one that is deceptively simple and admirably frees the new films up to explore their own stories without adhering to Trek canon. And if you're a fan of Lost, the time travel here is relatively straight-forward and easy to follow in comparison. J.J. and company have done a superb job, as they did with M:I-3, of pacing this thing within an inch of its life. Every scene is important, and not a second is wasted. The movie lasts two plus hours but it feels like a half hour.

The casting in this movie is flawless. Chris Pine hits a home run as Captain Kirk, and flat-out nails the brash and cocky, yet always likeable, demeanor that Kirk has. It's a star-making performance in a role that was once thought as only belonging to William Shatner. I could go on and on down the line and say the same things about everyone else. Zachary Quinto as a much angrier Spock? Fantastic. Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy? Surprisingly awesome, and gets most of the film's big laughs. Simon Pegg as Scotty? Spot-on. This cast is a joy to see work together on screen, which bodes well for any sequels they have planned. The special effects are top notch and the scale is epic. Another frequent J.J. collaborator, Michael Giacchino, delivers a score that excites and enthralls. He is, quite simply, the best composer working in movies today.

I can't say enough good things about Star Trek. I saw it three times in its first four days of release, and if you asked me to see it tomorrow again, I totally would. You don't have to be a fan of Star Trek to dig it - you just have to be a fan of movies. J.J. is working at a whole other level than anyone else in Hollywood right now. He can do anything he wants. As much as I'd like to see another Star Trek movie with this cast, I hope J.J. moves on and graces another project with his midas touch. Oh, and if you have the option, check out Star Trek in IMAX. It was made to be seen on the biggest screen possible. Go see it now. Go see it often. Live long and prosper. Kirk out.



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