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Film lights rocket-fuelled fire under franchise

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/5/2009 (4162 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Zachary Quinto, left, and Chris Pine play the young Spock and Capt. Kirk in J.J. Abrams' kinetic re-imagining of Star Trek.


Zachary Quinto, left, and Chris Pine play the young Spock and Capt. Kirk in J.J. Abrams' kinetic re-imagining of Star Trek.

As the Borg like to say: Resistance is futile.

Hardcore purist fans of the first Star Trek series may moan about how this prequel from director J.J. Abrams gleefully reinvents and re-interprets Star Trek canon. They may kvetch about relationships that have no basis among Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's characters. They may certainly take issue with plot developments that slot the entire original series (1966-69) into an alternate reality courtesy of a time-travel anomaly.

But those voices are destined to be dust in the solar winds. Abrams has first and foremost jump-started the exhausted Star Trek franchise and given it a fresh new life with a fresh perspective.

Star Trek is not to be confused with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the cumbersome 1979 TV-to-movie vehicle Harlan Ellison famously dubbed Star Trek: The Motionless Picture. In fact, Abrams, working from a script by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, establishes kinetic overdrive in the first few minutes as we bear witness to the under-fire birth of future captain James T. Kirk, jettisoned from his doomed father's starship as it is destroyed by a mad Romulan warlord named Nero (Eric Bana).

Back on Earth, the fatherless "Iowa farm boy" grows into a swaggering young stud (Chris Pine, the hippie vintner of Bottle Shock) who would rather raise hell than corn. Challenged by the elder Starfleet officer Capt. Pike (Bruce Greenwood), Kirk joins Starfleet, promptly befriends the prematurely cantankerous doctor Leonard McCoy (Karl Urban) and establishes a reputation as a womanizing hotshot. (Even so, he fails to get on the same hailing frequency as a hot xenolinguist named Uhura, played by Zoe Saldana.)

In contrast, the young half-Vulcan Spock (Zachary Quinto) is a brilliant, by-the-book young officer who has succeeded by tamping down his emotional human side and attacking the program with pure logic.

Both would-be officers are promptly put to the test when a mysterious craft appears above the planet Vulcan. Kirk suspects it is the same entity that destroyed his father's ship.

Intergalactic kick-ass ensues.

The film establishes high stakes, a breathless pace, and smart casting, with Urban and Simon Pegg as Scotty injecting some bracing comic relief to offset the gloomy apocalyptic scenario.

If Abrams' reboot has a particular failing, it is that it favours the spirit of summer-movie escapism over the intellectual adventurism of Roddenberry's series. Turning off the brain and going for a ride may be an acceptable option for a regular summer movie, but it ill becomes a Star Trek movie.

But even that is not unforgivable. The film is sufficiently smart and engaging that Abrams has effectively guaranteed the characters will be back for further adventures. And if the maiden voyage isn't all that intellectually stimulating, we can take comfort that Kirk, Spock, Bones, Scotty and the rest are still young.


Movie Review

Star Trek

Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Leonard Nimoy

Grant Park, Kildonan Place, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne.


4 out of five


Other voices

Selected excerpts from reviews of Star Trek.

Paced at warp speed with spectacular action sequences rendered brilliantly and with a cast so expert that all the familiar characters are instantly identifiable, the film gives Paramount Pictures a new lease of life on its franchise.

-- Ray Bennett, Hollywood Reporter

The new Star Trek is more than a coat of paint on a space-age wagon train. It's an exciting, stellar-yet-earthy blast that successfully blends the hip and the classic.

-- Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News

In the pop high it delivers, this is the greatest prequel ever made.

-- Ty Burr, Boston Globe

If you care about this universe (and I do, damn it), you won't sit passively through J.J. Abrams' restart Trek. You'll marvel at the smarts and wince at the senselessness. You'll nitpick it to death and thrill to it anyway.

-- David Edelstein, New York magazine

Blasting onto the screen at warp speed and remaining there for two hours, the new and improved Star Trek will transport fans to sci-fi nirvana.

-- Todd McCarthy, Variety

Revitalizing the stagnant franchise, the gifted, visionary Abrams has performed a magical act, a movie that stands on its own merits and will recruit new fans, a work that will please the old Trekkies and one that points to potent direction in the future.

-- Emanuel Levy,

Compiled by Canwest News Service


Randall King

Randall King

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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