It has been a long, long time since I have given a four star review to any science fiction film released in the theater of late. I was beginning to think the endless sequels, remakes, retreads and prequels had Hollywood in a funk they could not get out of, which certainly did not justify the recent writer’s strike and does even less to fuel the rationalization of the pending actor’s strike. In short, there are very few new ideas out there, and even fewer new ideas that are actually decent and play well from beginning to end without being mucked up by the Hollywood machine. So, in these times of uncertainty, unoriginality and unappreciation, we turn our eyes to what offerings ther are on the table and hope for the best. Sadly, more often than not, we are disappointed with the results.
Make no mistake, Star Trek is back, not only in a big way, but in a way that will please fans both young and old and also give chance to newcomers to the saga to hop on board without needing any previous knowledge of the canon or its characters. This is not a reboot. This is not a remake. This is (slightly skewed) fresh start for us to see played out the first meetings of the beloved Original Series characters and many of the snippets of their pasts that were mentioned or alluded to in episodes but were not actually seen. This is no easy task since director J J Abrams needs to walk the fine line between diehard fans, and deeply entrenched legendary history, established and beloved characters, the demands of special effects and action sequences of today and the board of critics, both novice and professional, that have been waiting anxoiusly for this much-hyped recalibration. An impossible task at best, but the results are as mindblowingly close to perfect as anyone could possibly hope to come.
First and foremost, if the cast doesn’t work, the rest of the film doesn’t matter. You can’t just have anyone don a classic Trek uniform, have them deliver tagline references and hope to pass them off as the iconic legends these characters have become. But there are absolutely no worries in that department. Chris Pine’s Kirk is savvy, rebelious, slightly egotistical, reckless and has a weakness for the opposite sex. Equally inpressive is Zachary Quinto’s portrayal of the emotionally and logically divided Spock, who is still trying to determine who he is and sort out what sort of man he is to become. Everyone else – Sulu, Uhura, Chekov, Scotty – is more than passable, even if the looks don’t exactly match or the character developmen is a bit off. But above them all, dead on, perfect-for-the-role is Keith Urban’s portrayal of the late, great DeForrest Kelly’s Dr. McCoy. Just close your eyes as he delivers his crusty county doctor repitoire and try to separate him from his predecessor. Then open them and copare the mannerisms, gestures, expressions and side-of-the-mouth dialogue delivery and try not to believe he is Kelly reborn. The comparisons are staggeringly uncanny.
Then there’s the plot. Well, whenever you have a villain that goes dickering around with time, there are bound to be a few flaws, not to mention inconsistancies that result due to the interference with the space/time continuum. However, since this is not an exact history and some latitude needs to be given for plot devices, the few changes to what history we know of Star Trek are both forgivable and understandable. We can suspend our belief and accept a few minor changes here and there for the sake of the Trek we have all been so eagerly and patiently been waiting for.
And finally, the finishing touches. Special effects; check. Music; check. Surprising and unexpected castings for the supportng roles; check. classic taglines that don’t feel forced or out of place; check. All systems; check. An a kickass ship to put them all in; absolutely.
For so many years the “blockbuster” start of the summer has been a mixed bag of disappointments, half-hearted attempts and critically bashed tripe. This year, without question, the summer film season has begun on an extremely positive note. And with the Enterprise out in front, with any luck, this time it will live long and prosper.
Star Trek **** (out of four) Rated PG-13 for violence, language, sexual situations, alcohol consumption, and scary situations. Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Keith Urban, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saladna, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Eric Bana, Ben Cross, Wynona Rider, Deep Roy and Leonard Nimoy.