I am not a Trekkie. I have never dressed up as a Klingon or, for that matter, any member of the U.S.S. Enterprise. I think the phaser is an effeminate weapon that doesn’t come close to sheer awesomeness of the lightsaber or a blaster. Yes, Spock’s ears bug the crap out of me, as such I’ve never said “live long and prosper” and might consider socking someone in the gut who did. Furthermore, with the exception of “The Wrath of Kahn,” “The Voyage Home” and “First Contact,” I think all Star Trek movies are one star nap magnets.
But man oh man, J.J. Abrams (“Mission: Impossible III,” “Lost” and “Alias”) reboot of “Star Trek” is something to behold. It’s like the greatest possible pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream you’ve ever had. It’s got the nerd parts like the other movies, but for some reason this time around they don’t cause me to wince and shudder. Maybe it’s because this Enterprise re-spawn has a little chutzpah and keeps the action at DEFCON 1 from start to finish. Or maybe the far-fetched extreme sci-fi realm of the Star Trek universe is given a big dose of realism (i.e. “Batman Begins”) and a huge advance in character development. I don’t know. What’s certain is its fresh, fast and a pure pleasure from start to finish.
There’s not much to divulge by way of story. Screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the duo behind both “Transformers” films and “Mission: Impossible III”, interweave a Romulan time-traveling baddie, Nero (Eric Bana), bent on destroying Federation worlds, into the introduction of all the major characters of the U.S.S. Enterprise. The focus, of course, is on a fatherless James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) who is brash and rebellious, and Spock (Zachary Quinto), whose dueling heritages of a Vulcan father and human mother are the source of his pain and angst throughout the movie. It’s the age old question – emotion or logic? We also meet Bones McCoy (Karl Urban), Sulu (John Cho), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and Scotty (Simon Pegg). You know these characters, except this time we are meeting them closer to puberty instead of two steps from Depends. Our heroes are young, hip and full of vitality, and probably another reason the movie is palatable for the moviegoing crowd that normally spurns anything Trek.
It is evident Abrams and his film crew, from the cinematographer to the composer, has meticulously planned every minute detail in the film. From the lens flares used to convey activity and a sense of “realness,” to the nimble score from longtime Abrams’ collaborator, Michael Giacchino, I got the sense construction of a new “Star Trek” franchise wasn’t taking place to line the studio’s pockets with cash, but rather out of love and respect for a cultural phenomenon alive and beating since 1966.
I did have concerns about the amount of CGI in the movie. From the trailer, it looked as if Abrams might be pulling a George Lucas, especially with the floppy-mouthed Venus flytrap dinosaur Kirk encounters on Delta Vega, a snowy planet, midway through the movie. Again, my fears were never realized because Abrams and the wizards at (ironically) Industrial Light & Magic and Digital Domain meshed the 1,000-plus CGI effects with the real world locations to create an atmosphere that feels more existent than cartoony.
“Star Trek” isn’t a perfect movie. I think the story, especially the introduction of the characters, is too orderly, but that is a minor flaw and one that is easily overlooked. I can forgive Abrams for not overstuffing the movie, as neat and clean usually make for a more enjoyable cinematic experience than something that is stuffed and bloated with indecision.
We have more big releases right around the corner this summer, so to call “Star Trek” the standard to beat might be premature, but something tells me when Labor Day rolls around we’ll be looking at a potential first-place box office finish and one of the best reviewed summer movies this side of “Wall-E” and “The Dark Knight.” Trekkie or not, you’re going to love this movie.