On The Aisle
By Tony Macklin
Remake passes obstacles with dazzling, time-warping colors
“Star Trek” is one slick, enterprising movie. In making yet another “Star Trek,” the great challenge filmmakers J.J. Abrams, et al faced was to be contemporary while also respecting the past.
The Trekkie franchise goes back to the beginning of Gene Roddenberry’s TV series in 1966, 45 years ago. Maybe that’s a blip in galaxy time, but it’s two generations in human time.
“Star Trek” 2009 passes its obstacles with dazzling, time-warping colors. It’s frisky fun, yet has the ballast of essential quality.
The film opens with a slam-bang action sequence with Jim Kirk’s father sacrificing himself to an enemy attack at the same time his son is being born.
The birth of Jim Kirk announces a new “Star Trek” that is surprisingly fresh. It’s not just the fresh faces of the cast; it’s a fresh sensibility. The whole film is invested with youthful energy and enthusiasm.
Action scenes abound accompanied by a pulsating, booming musical score by Michael Giacchino. The characters are winsome and vital.
Like Clark Kent, Jim Kirk is a mid-western farm boy. Fatherless, he is wild and undisciplined. But he has his father’s intellect and derring-do.
After a brawl in a bar — every time “Star Trek” slows, Jim Kirk (Chris Pine) takes a beating — he is invited by Commander Chris Pike (Bruce Greenwood) to join the Starfleet Academy.
At the Academy, Kirk encounters Spock (Zachary Quinto), and they become rivals. Kirk is a rules-breaker, and Spock, as his superior officer, rebuffs Kirk for his emotion and daring.
They both become members of the crew on the maiden flight of the U.S.S. Enterprise and are faced with Nero (Eric Bana), a fierce and vengeful villain, who is seeking destruction of the Federation-Vulcan and Earth.
Director Abrams’s most imaginative connection between the old and the new is when young Kirk is warped into the future and meets the future Spock (Leonard Nimoy). It is a brilliant stroke. Nimoy is not just a cameo; he is essential to the plot.
What Abrams and his two veteran writing partners, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, are able to do is add some surprises to the different well-known characters’ relationships. They are surprises but they have credibility. It’s quite an accomplishment.
The most fortuitous aspect of “Star Trek” is the casting of Kirk and Spock. Pine is engaging and likable as the frenetic Kirk. Quinto is cool and formidable as the introspective Spock, who is struggling with the fact that he is from a mixed marriage, a Vulcan father and a human mother. The two actors create an evolving chemistry for their characters.
Abrams knows how to take full advantage of his success in TV. Abrams created “Alias,” and co-created “Felicity,” “Lost” and “Fringe.” He’s already scheduled to direct a sequel to “Star Trek” in 2011.
Abrams dips into the TV pool to cast much of his movie. Quinto is in “Heroes.” Karl Urban (Bones) was in “Xena: Warrior Princess.” Jennifer Morrison (Jim’s mother) is in “House.” Anton Yelchin (Chekov) was in “Huff.” Zoe Zoldana (Uhuru) was in the little-known but terrific “Slings and Arrows.” Rachel Gibson (Gaila) was in “Alias.” Tyler Perry (Starfleet Admiral Barnett) created “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne” and, of course, we know what Leonard Nimoy was in.
The writers are sensitive to the material, but they’re also inventive. In a clever line, Bones says to Spock, “Are you out of your Vulcan mind?”
In “Star Trek,” the Vulcan mind lives long, and the human mind prospers.
It’s stellar brainpower.