I don’t know a thing about Star Trek. I know that there is a guy named Captain Kirk, a guy named Spock with pointy ears and I know they can set their phasers to stun. I know that eventually Professor X and the guy from “Reading Rainbow” took over, I know that there are slimy aliens called The Borg and I know that Kirk likes green women. That’s about it.
Star Trek always seemed too nerdy for me to get involved in. And I’m a nerd. Perhaps it’s those sad, depressing conventions they convene in where the cast members shamefully sign autographs. These conventions, by the way, are lampooned in the forgotten and very underrated comedy GALAXY QUEST. The element that most defines Star Trek is the complete absence of anything cool. What is less cool than Star Trek? When JJ Abrahms decided to reboot the franchise with a young cast comprised primarily of unknowns, it was a daunting task considering that the franchise had pretty much been exhausted.
JJ’s STAR TREK is remarkably different from any other STAR TREK incarnation I’ve seen. The new version is a full blown action fest that actually lifts a lot of cues from the “buddy cop” genre. James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine) is a rebelious, wise cracking tough guy who plays by his own rules. Spock (Zachary Quinto) is a no-nonsense, “play by the rules” logician. Think of these two like an interstellar Riggs and Murtaugh. The potpurri of colorful personalities that will ultimately helm the Enterprise are introduced one-by-one and include manic Dr. Bones (Karl Urban), fencer/pilot Sulu (John Cho) and linguist Uhura (Zoe Saldana). The heart of the film though is the push and pull of Kirk and Spock, and both Pine and Quinto play off each other nicely.
STAR TREK is an origin film, which is a tricky thing to pull off since by the time the crew of the Enterprise is put together and established the movie is over. As a non-Trekkie, the film is a pleasant surprise and surely the $76M box office take will ensure furthur installments. The credit has to go to Abrahms but primarily to Pine and Quinto who keep an otherwise preposterous film chugging along.
What is preposterous? Anybody with a science background is going to be scratching their head after watching this film. There is a convoluted and poorly explained plot involving black holes and time travel. There are numerous unnecessary and heavily distracting cameos that I won’t spoil here other than to reveal that one of them perfectly sets up a future film called “Madea Goes to Space.” Certain errors in continuity bothered me. In the opening action scene, a person is sucked out of the ship and into space. The film goes completely silent because, of course, there is no sound in space. Nice touch. I’ve always urged space films to go the realistic “2001” route. However, in every other scene, ships whiz by with countless sound effects and booming explosions. So are we playing by the rules or not?
I’m nitpicking. STAR TREK is an exciting and entertaining blockbuster that is fun for Trek and non-Trek fans alike. Considering the rest of the summer slate this year looks so abysmal (from a blockbuster standpoint) STAR TREK could very well end up being the popcorn jewel of the season. Despite its glaring flaws, STAR TREK is big dumb fun.