Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Eric Bana. Rated PG. Opens Thursday, May 7, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas
As a kid whose first legible drawing was a picture of the starship Enterprise, I was devastated when this movie was pushed back from December 2008, ostensibly to attract a wider audience. I now realize that I have been waiting much, much longer for Star Trek. Because this is the real deal, the Star Trek that stopped production in 1969. Not as it was, but as I remember it: bold, glorious adventure.
Watch the trailer for Star Trek.
There have been many shows called Star Trek. They have had good casts, occasionally interesting stories, and much better special effects than the original. What they don't have is the great group of characters, that team that loved and fought together. Kirk, suave on shore, invincible in battle. Spock, icon of logic and cool. McCoy, empathic and hot-tempered. Uhura, Scotty, Sulu, Chekov—masters of their trades. The finest officers in space, on the only ship that matters.
Subsequent Trek shows were like Bond movies with no Bond. They might be worthy productions on some level, but who is that interested in 008?
So, inevitably, Trek has gone back to where it needed to go: the beginning.
It seems like a risk to recast the original characters, but, like pretty much everything about this new Trek, they've done it right. Zachary Quinto looks, if not sounds, eerily like Leonard Nimoy's Spock. An even greater weight falls on Chris Pine, because this is essentially Captain James T. Kirk's story, and because William Shatner, in all his over-the-top magnificence, is utterly identified with the role that he made into a pop-culture staple. Pine doesn't look or act like Shatner but pulls off the cockiness, charm, and tactical genius that is Kirk.
The movie starts on Earth, futuristic but comfortingly familiar. We meet Kirk as a civilian and an underachieving lout. The plot hastens him into Starfleet and a remarkable set of coincidences, but I don't think consistent plausibility is expected in space operas. Instead, J. J. Abrams brings us a thrill-ride blockbuster with more heart and fidelity to the spirit of the original than one might have expected. Trekkers may quibble over certain style choices, and thoughtful science-fiction fans may bemoan the revival of Trek's hegemony over the field. But even they will have a great time boldly going where Trek has gone before.