On the right ‘Trek’

star trekAs proven recently by “Batman” and James Bond, hitting the reset button on an ailing franchise has become the most important step in the cinematic operating manual.

Both of the former film series had digressed into parody, and fans flocked to them more out of completest obligation than out of impassioned devotion. The same held true for Star Trek. Throughout its four decades of pop culture reign, it, too, became a shell of its former self. What was once a thoughtful, playful space serial became mired in its own mythology and self-importance through film and television.

Unlike the former film series, though, the “Star Trek” brand is replete with a rabid, discriminating fan base (you say Trekkers, I say Trekkies) that hyper-analyze every frame and serpentine plot thread of the last four decades, which makes a reboot an unenviable task, to say the least.

Enter J.J. Abrams, the visionary behind the hit television show “Lost” and self-proclaimed non-fan of the franchise. As someone who was more entrenched in the easily digestible follies of a young Jedi than the ponderous musings of the actual “science” of science fiction, this was exactly what was needed to recharge my batteries and interest in the “Trek” universe.

Forget Vin Diesel, this is the fast and furious start to summer.

Chris Pine stars as the hubristic James Tiberius Kirk, here a swaggering young buck whom we first meet as spinning the wheels of a vintage Corvette well before he’s entered puberty. His father was a revered Starfleet Commander who perished valiantly, leaving James with a boulder on his shoulder.

He reluctantly follows daddy’s footsteps by entering the academy where we are introduced to the future crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Each performer is uniformly engaging in his or her role, with standouts including Pine, Karl Urban as Dr. Bones McCoy, and Simon Pegg as Scotty, milking the film for all it’s comedic potential.

They band together to take on the film’s chief villain, Nero (played by Eric Bana, gnawing on his lines like a pit bull on a hanging tire), a renegade Romulan with sights set on destroying the United Federation of Planets one by one.

There are frequent diversions to ice-capped planets, trysts with green-skinned alien babes, and enough shout-outs to past fan favorite lines to fill a best-of clip reel (the “Kahn” ear whig being a personal favorite), without feeling as though they are pandering or recycling.

But perhaps the most important ingredient included in Star Trek is whimsy. Kitsch and bad special effects aside, there was still much to smile at in the original series, a element that seemed to evabporate more with each successive outing through the “Star Trek” universe. This incarnation realizes it still has a story to tell, but it doesn’t get all Vulcan on us in the process and isn’t afraid to let a Beastie Boys song slip into the soundtrack.

Speaking of Vulcans, I am sure that Zachary Quinto will most likely evolve into a solid casting choice for Spock, but for me, he was the weakest element of the Enterprise crew. Sure, he looked the part and he is supposed to play a character not quick to register any emotion whatsoever, but when he did let emotion get the best of him, it did not seem to originate from authentic anger, but rather a mild hissyfit.

It is but a small complaint in an otherwise bold new expedition for a series that looked as though it would limp off into the sci-fi sunset. Under Abrams direction and the winning, authentic jocularity of its cast, this film will hardly be “Star Trek’s” final frontier.

~ by usesoapfilm on May 11, 2009.

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