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With: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Leonard Nimoy, Eric Bana, Bruce Greenwood, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Ben Cross, Winona Ryder, Chris Hemsworth, Jennifer Morrison, Rachel Nichols, Faran Tahir, Clifton Collins Jr., Antonio Elias
Written by: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, based on the TV series created by Gene Roddenberry
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, and brief sexual content
Running Time: 127
Date: 06/04/2009

Star Trek (2009)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Giving 'er All She's Got

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The new, rebooted Star Trek is a mixed bag, but I can marginally recommend it. The usually underwhelming screenwriting team Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (The Island, Transformers, etc.) have come up with a terrific idea for the 11th film, though it's better if I reserve certain details for viewers to discover. However, it involves a new, young (much prettier) cast taking over the roles from the famous 1966-69 TV series and the first six films (1979-1991). At first I wasn't so sure about Chris Pine as James T. Kirk; he looks more like a football hero/prom king than he does a rebellious starship captain who reads Dickens. But he eventually grows on you.

Much better are: Zachary Quinto as Spock, Karl Urban as Dr. "Bones" McCoy, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, Simon Pegg as Scotty, Anton Yelchin as a very funny, thick-accented Chekov and John Cho as Sulu. These recent academy graduates all wind up on board the brand-new Enterprise, captained by Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood). Their goal is to stop a Romulan madman called Nero (Eric Bana) who is out there destroying planets with a kind of "black hole bomb." The script relies on previous knowledge of the characters and earlier films, but eventually the young heroes grow into their own personalities, making new friendships.

The film is centered around the growing camaraderie between Kirk and Spock, who absolutely hate each other at first. They almost have their own "meet cute," when Spock turns in Kirk for cheating on the infamous "Kobayashi Maru" test. It's too bad the film didn't capitalize more on the symbiotic/romantic nature of this bond.

But Star Trek really goes wrong in the hiring of J.J. Abrams as director. As creator of the TV shows "Felicity," "Alias" and "Lost," and director of the dud Mission: Impossible III (2006), his style is to ramp up the emotional levels to a constant, high-intensity pitch. It's as if he were deathly afraid of losing his audience, even for one second, and so he neglects things like rhythm and pace. Moreover, he's a terrible director of action, relying on Michael Bay-like camera shaking and fast-cutting. The so-called "exciting" sequences in Star Trek drag the movie to a dead halt, only to come back to life again when the characters are allowed to interact. (Fortunately, the script keeps much of the humorous banter of the originals.)

All in all, the material is strong enough and exciting enough that not even Abrams' fumbling can entirely ruin it, and it's certainly better than the last two series entries, Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek: Nemesis. Look for Winona Ryder as Spock's mother, and Rachel Nichols in a small role. I don't suppose I'll ruin anything by adding that Leonard Nimoy also appears as the older Spock. Too bad he couldn't have directed a bit while he was there.

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