Get ready for this week’s “Star Trek” release with another look at this splendid reboot of the 40-plus year old “Star Trek” series. By boldly going where many, many have gone before, J.J. Abrams of television’s “Lost” and “Alias” has managed to make a thoroughly entertaining film that respects the fans but stands on its own.
Those who will nod knowingly (or shiver with excitement) at the appearance of Captain Pike or the reference to dilitheum crystals and those who remember that Sulu can fence will be reassured that any anomalies or inconsistencies with canon are cleverly explained away and by the appearance of one key member of the original cast. Those who are new to the franchise will be reassured that the story is self-contained. They may wonder why people applaud and laugh at a few in-jokes or the inevitable origins moments of first encounters between characters whose future interactions and relationships are as well known as their own (possibly better), but there is so much happening on screen they will not have time to wonder what they are missing. Indeed, there is so much that I have seen it twice already and look forward to seeing it again. I loved it so much I wanted to Vulcan mind meld with it.
Some things will always be true. The crewman you’ve never seen before who transports to a remote location with two of the lead character is not going to last long. In the future, women will all wear very short skirts and be extremely beautiful. All planets are congenial for human life, with just the right atmosphere and gravity. Fights usually occur on catwalks and other locations with precipitous drops. Kirk has to be hanging from a ledge at least three times and have an encounter with an exotic but very beautiful lady. And everybody speaks English, except when Uhura has to show off her translation skills.
Fans are in for some surprises, especially with one romantic relationship. But Abrams is very consistent with the original show’s tone and humanistic themes. Bad guy Nero (Eric Bana) would be right at home with Khan. The characters and the actors who portray them find the right balance, portraying rather than imitating. I say this with the most tender regard for the television series — every one of these performances is better than the original, especially Zachary Quinto as the half- human, half-Vulcan Spock, Chris Pine as Kirk, Karl Urban as the perpetually choleric McCoy, Simon Pegg as a cheerful Scotty, and Zoe Saldana as Uhura. And of course even the series’ biggest enthusiasts would not claim that the special effects were its strong point. This movie’s are stunning. The story wobbles a bit, especially when one decision with potentially catastrophic consequences is explained away as a life lesson for two of the characters. But it is funny, smart, exciting, purely entertaining and enormously satisfying, and sure to be one of the year’s most enduring popcorn pleasures. The cast has signed on for two sequels and all I can say is, live long and prosper and they can beam me up any time.