I must admit, going into the screening of the new reboot of the Star Trek franchise, I was largely unfamiliar with it’s well-chronicled mythology, which has been a science fiction staple of the small and large screen for more than four decades.
All I knew going in was that Kirk was the captain of a starship called Enterprise, Spock was his stoic co-captain because of his lifelong Vulcan teachings, and it was the responsibility of Scotty to beam everyone up.
However, despite my sketchy knowledge of the Star Trek universe, I found the film to be a deeply involving, action-filled romp. It manages to reward die-hard fans of the series while reviving it to appeal to the next generation of audiences.
Seeking to boldly go where no movie prequel has gone before, the film stars Chris Pine as a young James Tiberius Kirk, born on the same day his father, a Starfleet captain, was killed in a rescue mission.
Kirk is first seen as a rebellious youth driving a sleek sports car near the Grand Canyon. Later, he is recruited by Captain Christopeher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) to become a cadet of the Starfleet Academy. Kirk reluctantly accepts and soon is at odds with the mannered and by-the-book Spock (Zachary Quinto), who has designed a simulated exam for the cadets deemed impossible to pass.
The rivalry between the two boils over in the film’s best scene when Kirk actually beats the exam. Spock accuses him of cheating. These early preliminaries lead up to an eventual assemblage of the young crew – Uhura (Zoe Saldana), the sexy communications officer; Sulu (John Cho), the pragmatic helm officer; Chekov (Anton Yelchin), the Russian crew member; and Scotty (Simon Pegg), who provides much of the film’s comic relief.
The central conflict involves intergalactic madman, Capt. Nero (Eric Bana). The Romulan wages war on the Enterprise and Spock’s home planet Vulcan over a presumed failure by both to prevent the decimation of his own planet. Despite their differences, Spock and Kirk eventually realize they must work together to defeat Nero.
One of the film’s many strengths is its ability to create suspense during their plight, even though we essentially know their fate. I’ve felt that prequels tend to lack dramatic tension. We know that all the central characters must survive and it’s hard to really get caught up in their fates. Star Trek is not burdened by such problems, thanks to director J.J. Abrams. Working from a screenplay by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, he fashions a well-told story with a keen sense of fun, especially when it hearkens back to the earlier series with a nicely-executed cameo by Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock in the original series.
The cast also does a great job channeling their characters. This film very easily could have dissolved into nostalgic camp, but the actors (especially Nimoy, Quinto and Pine), bring a depth to their roles that makes them resonate. If there is anything about the movie I did not like, it would be the film’s refusal to expand the plot involving young Kirk following in his father’s footsteps as captain.
Nevertheless, Star Trek is a wonderful reboot of a cherished franchise.