‘Star Trek’ gloriously geeky fun

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Wednesday, May 6, 2009 12:10pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

That breeze blowing through the corridors of the starship Enterprise is the cheeky attitude of “Star Trek,” the newest reboot of a venerable institution.

I think this playful movie should be a perfectly enjoyable evening out for non-“Star Trek” devotees, but it’s definitely a wink-wink treat for devotees of the original series.

The idea here is to return to the first incarnation of “Star Trek,” but with an all-new (well, almost all-new) cast. And so we get childhood glimpses of James Tiberius Kirk, an Iowa rebel, and Spock, a half-human boy on the planet Vulcan.

The Enterprise launches into space with its familiar-yet-new crew, including a Kirk (Chris Pine) under disciplinary probation and Spock (Zachary Quinto) nursing an extracurricular secret.

At Starfleet Academy, Kirk has already befriended Dr. Leonard McCoy (Karl Urban, an ingenious performance) and lusted after Uhura (Zoe Saldana); on the bridge of the Enterprise, he meets Sulu (John Cho) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin), two more stalwarts from the ’60s TV show. Mr. Scott (Simon Pegg, of “Sean of the Dead”) will enter later.

Of course, this is no ordinary shakedown cruise, and soon the newbies will be pressed into the service of the Federation. None of that needs detailing, except to say that the story line messes with the time-space continuum in such a way that it suggests an entirely new “alternate universe” for this crew (as opposed to the original Kirk-Spock gang).

It’ll make your head hurt if you think about it too hard. A well-publicized cameo performance by a member of the original cast makes the connection explicit, though no less confusing.

In some ways, however, that original cast is everywhere. Director J.J. Abrams, an expert in pop mythologies (“Alias,” “Lost”), has included echoes of those original actors in this movie — especially in the delivery of catchphrases: Spock’s “fascinating” followed by a single-eyebrow lift, or Scotty’s frantic shouts from the engine room.

There’s something odd and second-hand about that, about the way Zachary Quinto was surely cast in part because he resembles Leonard Nimoy, the original Spock. Still, he’s fine — and wouldn’t you know Spock would be played by someone with a name like Zachary Quinto?

The happiest stroke is that Chris Pine slips seamlessly into the captain’s chair. This young actor has the swagger of William Shatner and his own movie-star energy. There are only a couple of moments where he explicitly channels the Shat, and I for one enjoyed those enormously.

So will the Trekkies. I don’t quite understand how this movie stands on its own; as befits J.J. Abrams’ background, and its own birth as a TV phenomenon, it’s really like an episode of a good television series. But what a fun time for fans.

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