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Enterprise Gets a New Crew for a Familiar Ride
by Rossiter Drake on May 08, 2009
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
If J.J. Abrams aimed to boldly go where no man has gone before with Star Trek, his long-anticipated franchise reboot that traces Capt. James T. Kirk’s roots back to his wildly undisciplined youth, give him some credit. While there’s no denying his contribution to the cult phenomenon dreamed up by Gene Roddenberry is cleverly executed, this latest Star Trek sometimes feels more like a winking homage than a new beginning.
Perhaps that was inevitable. After 79 episodes and six motion pictures spent with the crew of the original Starship Enterprise, expecting a full-scale reinvention of the brand would be slightly unreasonable. Kirk, Spock and rest of the actors who have inhabited Roddenberry’s universe for four-plus decades are too firmly engrained in our consciousness to be overshadowed by Zachary Quinto’s reasonable facsimile of Leonard Nimoy, much less Karl Urban’s too-hammy impression of DeForest Kelley, aka Bones. Abrams’ cast plays on our familiarity, often for knowing laughs, but I wonder if that approach will sustain a series of new adventures.
Here, it works. The new Star Trek effectively recounts the formation of the core Enterprise crew, from the short-lived tenure of original Capt. Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) to the first mission under Kirk’s impetuous but sure-handed command. Through it all, young Kirk (Chris Pine, who brings boundless energy to the role) and young Spock remain the focal points -- their friendship, it seems, began as anything but -- though there is plenty of space-opera intrigue thanks to a Romulan terrorist played by Eric Bana and a welcome appearance by Nimoy, whose aging Vulcan pragmatist (on loan from the future) provides the movie’s warmest presence.
We learn much. Kirk, a hell-raiser since adolescence who would become a dashing ladies man, grew up an orphan and seemed destined for a life of barroom brawls in rural Iowa before a chance encounter with Pike led him to the Starfleet Academy. Spock, on the other hand, endured a mostly humorless childhood, the butt of many an unfunny Vulcan joke thanks to his half-human bloodline. To call them an odd couple would be understatement, but similarities emerge -- among them, fierce tempers and a knack for high-pressure heroism.
Gradually, the crew comes together: Bones McCoy (Urban), a doctor with a flair for the melodramatic; Scotty (Simon Pegg), the gregarious engineer best known for working the beams; Chekov, the blandish navigator played by the equally blandish Anton Yelchin; Harold and Kumar’s John Cho as the swashbuckling physicist Mr. Sulu; and Zoe Saldana as the miniskirt-sporting Uhura, who arouses Spock’s more passionate half on multiple occasions.
Their latest adventure together has a familiar ring to it, but it remains tightly constructed and suspenseful even when its outcome seems less than in doubt. Bana’s raging Romulan has designs on destroying the Starfleet Federation’s planetary allies, and it’s up to the newly formed crew to reign him in. The action is fast, flashy and sometimes difficult to follow thanks to Abrams’ dizzying camerawork, but rarely does Star Trek fail to entertain.
That it fails to challenge the intellect as much as it could, resonate on any meaningful emotional level or break new ground may seem like a minor complaint -- this is a sturdy comeback -- but forgive me if my expectations were just a little bit loftier.
by Rossiter Drake on May 08, 2009
images courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock
Anton Yelchin as Pavel Chekov, Chris Pine as James T. Kirk, Simon Pegg as Montgomery 'Scotty' Scott, Karl Urban as Leonard "Bones" McCoy, John Cho as Hikaru Sulu and Zoe Saldana as Uhura