star trek

For any director, a reboot of the original 1960s Star Trek storyline would be a tall order. I’ve seen both Trekkies and Trekkies 2, and have attended a Trek convention, so, while I’m more of a casual enthusiast (meaning I’m familiar with the franchise’s mythology, while having actually consumed only a miniscule amount of its output), I can understand the way the obsessives operate. J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek could have easily had backlash written all over it.

Abrams, a director with only one prior feature to his credit (Cloverfield), would seem as a pretty dicey choice to reboot Trek. Until, of course, you consider that Abrams is responsible for Lost, a series whose fanbase is not altogether unlike Trek’s in terms of dedication, and the obsessive nitpicking that comes along with it.

Star Trek has a director with an understanding of his audience, a good sense of fun, and a knack for covering his bases in service of the franchise’s master plot. To borrow Leonard Maltin (or some such milquetoast asshole), Abrams’s Trek is a winner!

For starters, Abrams keeps the essence of the Star Trek spirit, while giving it the kind of high gloss 21st century sheen (complete with superfuturistic lens flares!) that the franchise deserves. He also sets a quick pace, full of bombastic action set pieces that would have been economically unfeasible in any previous Trek incarnation, but provide welcome entertainment that doesn’t detract from a cleverly plotted origin story.

That story diverts enough from the original series’s storyline to create a fresh start, while casually explaining away the differences with a “parallel universe” plotline that, while a bit hackneyed, is understandable, and provides a nice excuse to use Leonard Nimoy as “future Spock.”

The rest of the cast, led by young Spock Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine (whose take on Captain Kirk as a smarmy young military prodigy is revelatory), provide a new spin on these familiar characters, creating new quirks and nuances while remaining faithful to the original cast. Only Karl Urban’s McCoy and Anton Yelchin’s Chekhov verge on parody, but if pop cultural history has taught me nothing else, Star Trek and parody go hand in hand.

Which is one of the main reasons while the new film works as well as it does. For Abrams, making the film was more about balance than anything. He had to manage the expectations of a strong core audience, while playing up the fun and whimsy for the rest of us. While I can’t speak for the core (maybe the Onion was right after all), it looks to me that he pulled off the trick.

Film: Star Trek
Director: J.J. Abrams
Stars: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Eric Bana, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Leonard Nimoy, Karl Urban, Winona Ryder

Viewing situation: Weekday late evening, small crowd; digital projection
My grade (out of 10): 8
Rotten Tomatoes average: 95%

Next up: Up

>> Trekkies Bash New ‘Star Trek’ Film as Fun, Watchable [Onion News Network via YouTube]

Summer Movie Suicide Mission ’09: Seeing them all, all summer long. Follow Summer Movie Suicide Mission on Twitter: @SMSM09.

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