×

Star Trek

The new and improved 'Star Trek' will transport fans to sci-fi nirvana.

With:
James Tiberius Kirk - Chris Pine Spock - Zachary Quinto Spock Prime - Leonard Nimoy Capt. Nero - Eric Bana Capt. Christopher Pike - Bruce Greenwood Leonard "Bones" McCoy - Karl Urban Uhura - Zoe Saldana Montgomery "Scotty" Scott - Simon Pegg Sulu - John Cho Chekov - Anton Yelchin Sarek - Ben Cross Amanda Grayson - Winona Ryder George Kirk - Chris Hemsworth Winona Kirk - Jennifer Morrison Gaila - Rachel Nichols Capt. Robau - Faran Tahir Ayel - Clifton Collins Jr.

Blasting onto the screen at warp speed and remaining there for two hours, the new and improved “Star Trek” will transport fans to sci-fi nirvana. Faithful enough to the spirit and key particulars of Gene Roddenberry’s original conception to keep its torchbearers happy but, more crucially, exciting on its own terms in a way that makes familiarity with the franchise irrelevant, J.J. Abrams’ smart and breathless space adventure feels like a summer blockbuster that just couldn’t stay in the box another month. Paramount won’t need any economic stimulus package with all the money it’ll rake in with this one globally, and a follow-up won’t arrive soon enough.

Star Trek” here joins the James Bond series as the long-term ‘60s franchises that have been most successfully rebooted, although the current accomplishment is the more surprising since, after 10 films and a succession of TV series, “Star Trek” was widely thought to have exhausted itself. While respectfully handling the Roddenberry DNA, Abrams and longtime writing cohorts Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman have transferred it to a trim new body that hums with youthful energy.

Popular on Variety

As happened with Bond and “Casino Royale,” the Abrams team decided it would be best to go back to the beginning — earlier, in fact, than the first TV show did in 1966 — to show the origins of James Kirk and Spock and the launch of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Stir in a well-chosen cast of relative unknowns, a strong new villain, vastly updated special effects and a dynamic style that makes “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” look 60 years old rather than just 30, and you’ve planted the seed for a whole new generation of Trekkies.

A wham-bang 12-minute action prologue both clears the palette of residual series expectations and sets the table for the kind of excitement that’s amply in store. The script brims with backstory and future-story but never loses track of the present, in which young James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine), a wild Iowa boy whose father sacrificed himself at the helm of a spaceship at the very moment the child was being born, is convinced by Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) to attend the Starfleet Academy with an eye to joining the crew of the Enterprise.

Headed for the same destination is Spock (Zachary Quinto), whose troubled background as a half-human, half-Vulcan is deftly sketched in. If the script has an overriding concern, it’s to map out how these two very opposite figures become mutually trusted colleagues, a key not only to this film but the entire series, past and future.

By the time Captain Pike says “Let’s punch it” at the 40-minute mark, the key crew is rounded out by professional pessimist Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban), nobody’s fool Uhura (Zoe Saldana), the valued Sulu (John Cho) and a 17-year-old Russian brain named Chekov (Anton Yelchin).

Longtime fans will feel comfortable onboard the new Enterprise, which might be compared with the new Yankee Stadium; it’s spiffier and technically more up-to-date, but has a familiar ambiance. The costumes are similarly not out of place, but have been stripped of the dorky look that always seemed borderline laughable on TV.

More adventurous is the design for the space-borne behemoth called home by the ferocious Nero (Eric Bana). Resembling a tattooed, grizzled brother of Ralph Fiennes’ Voldemort in the “Harry Potter” series, Nero wants to annihilate the Federated planets, most notably Vulcan and Earth.

Unfortunately, Nero has the means to accomplish this in the form of drills that can cause a planet to implode. One of the film’s most spectacular setpieces has Kirk leading two others in a free-fall dive from space for one of these drills, then fighting off two big goons as the fate of a heavily populated planet hangs in the balance.

Exile to an ice planet, Delta Vega, enables Kirk to do some inadvertent time-traveling and meet an older version of Spock (Leonard Nimoy, in much more than a brief cameo), a happenstance that complicates matters on the space-time continuum.

“Star Trek” rockets along like a beautifully engineered vehicle you can’t help but admire for its design and performance. It shifts gears often but always smoothly, and accelerates again and yet again when you suspect it might be tempted to ease up for good.

Pine’s Kirk exhibits an early tendency toward undue cockiness but suffers enough setbacks and rough surprises that the actor is forced into more varied and thoughtful responses. (Someone should decide about his hair color, however, as it varies from reddish to blond in different scenes.) Quinto makes for a very good young Spock, a man trying to define and perfect the kind of man he wants to be. Urban shows comic promise as the medic; Yelchin and Simon Pegg, the latter as a reputedly brainy engineer, prompt some real laughs; and Saldana is vibrant as the female crew member who bestows her favors on one officer to the exasperation of another. Bana is memorably scary as the villain.

Production and effects values are top-notch. Michael Giacchino’s score soars — occasionally a bit too much, perhaps — with real character and vigor.

Star Trek

Production: A Paramount release of a Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Entertainment presentation of a Bad Robot production. Produced by J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof. Executive producers, Bryan Burk, Jeffrey Chernov, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman. Co-producer, David Witz. Directed by J.J. Abrams. Screenplay, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, based on "Star Trek" created by Gene Roddenberry.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe color, Panavision widescreen), Dan Mindel; editors, Mary Jo Markey, Maryann Brandon; music, Michael Giacchino; production designer, Scott Chambliss; supervising art director, Keith P. Cunningham; art directors, Curt Beech, Dennis Bradford, Luke Freeborn, Beat Frutiger, Gary Kosko; set designers, C. Scott Baker, Kevin Cross, Andrea Dopaso, Scott Herbertson, Joseph Hiura, Billy Hunter, Dawn Brown Manser, Harry Otto, Anne Porter, Andrew Reeder, Jane Wuu; set decorator, Karen Manthey; costume designer, Michael Kaplan; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS), Peter J. Devlin; sound designers, Ann Scibelli, Tim Walston, Harry Cohen, Scott Gershin, Geoff Rubay; supervising sound editors, Mark Stoeckinger, Alan Rankin; re-recording mixers, Paul Massey, Anna Behlmer, Andy Nelson, David Giammarco; visual effects and animation, Industrial Light & Magic; visual effects supervisor, Roger Guyett; ILM visual effects supervisor, Russell Earl; special effects supervisor, Burt Dalton; stunt coordinator, Joey Box; fight choreographer, Robert Alonzo; associate producer, David Baronoff; assistant director, Tommy Gormley; second unit director, Roger Guyett; second unit camera, Robert Bruce McCleery; casting, April Webster, Alyssa Weisberg. Reviewed at Paramount Studios, Los Angeles, April 21, 2009. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 126 MIN.

With: James Tiberius Kirk - Chris Pine Spock - Zachary Quinto Spock Prime - Leonard Nimoy Capt. Nero - Eric Bana Capt. Christopher Pike - Bruce Greenwood Leonard "Bones" McCoy - Karl Urban Uhura - Zoe Saldana Montgomery "Scotty" Scott - Simon Pegg Sulu - John Cho Chekov - Anton Yelchin Sarek - Ben Cross Amanda Grayson - Winona Ryder George Kirk - Chris Hemsworth Winona Kirk - Jennifer Morrison Gaila - Rachel Nichols Capt. Robau - Faran Tahir Ayel - Clifton Collins Jr.

More Film

  • Jack Kehoe dead

    Jack Kehoe, 'Serpico' and 'Midnight Run' Actor, Dies at 85

    Jack Kehoe, best known for his roles in the Al Pacino-led crime drama “Serpico” and “Midnight Run,” died on Jan. 10 at a nursing home in Los Angeles. He was 85. The actor suffered a debilitating stroke in 2015, which left him inactive in recent years. Kehoe also appeared in several Academy Award-winning films during [...]

  • The Last Full Measure

    'The Last Full Measure': Film Review

    The story of William Pitsenbarger, a U.S. Air Force Pararescue medic who risked his life in Vietnam to aid his comrades, as well as the decades-later efforts of fellow vets to see him posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, is undeniably moving — which goes a long way toward explaining how Todd Robinson enlisted an [...]

  • The Grand Grandmaster

    Hong Kong and China Box Office to Take Separate Directions at Chinese New Year

    In the more than six months that protest movements have rocked Hong Kong, a whole range of business sectors have become color-coded, as both Beijing-loyal blue elements and yellow pro-democracy forces have weaponized the economy. Companies on the front line include leading bank HSBC, airline Cathay Pacific and even the subway operator MTRC. Effects range [...]

  • Parasite

    'Parasite' Puts Modern Spin on Film's Long History of Haves vs Have-Nots

    Every filmmaker hopes to make a good movie, but sometimes the impact is bigger than expected. Neon’s “Parasite” is one example of a 2019 film hitting a nerve. Writer-director Bong Joon Ho’s film has been praised for its originality and daring shifts in tone. It also has resonance due to its subject matter: the gap [...]

  • 1917 Movie

    How the '1917' Special Effects Makeup Team Created Realistic Dead Bodies

    Prior to working on “1917,” special effects artist Tristan Versluis had designed no more than five or six corpses. But Sam Mendes, director of the WWI drama, which has garnered 10 Oscar nominations, needed Versluis, who picked up one of those noms in the hair and makeup category, to create 30 corpses and dead horses, [...]

  • Olivia Wilde Booksmart BTS

    Olivia Wilde on Her Move From Acting to Directing With 'Booksmart'

    Olivia Wilde began acting in 2004 when she was 20 years old. It never occurred to her that she might also enjoy stepping behind the lens. “I always wanted to make movies and be a part of the moviemaking process,” she tells me. “I always assumed acting was the way in, because for many young [...]

  • Donna Rotunno, Harvey WeinsteinHarvey Weinstein court

    Harvey Weinstein's Defense Focuses on Emails in Bid to Discredit Accusers

    Harvey Weinstein’s defense attorney showed jurors friendly emails between their client and his accusers in an opening statement on Wednesday, arguing that the accusers are trying to “have it both ways.” Attorney Damon Cheronis asked the jury to rely on their “God-given New York City common sense,” and to find that the women had consensual [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content