June issue 2009

By | Arts & Culture | Movies | Published 15 years ago

With all the hype and over-the-top praise surrounding J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the Star Trek franchise, one would be forgiven for thinking that the wunderkind behind cult TV show Lost had boldly gone where no man had gone before. That this is not the case is no smear on Abrams, who has breathed new life in a phenomenon that had grown stale nearly two decades ago. In a delicate balancing act he has made a movie that will appeal to those who don’t know a Vulcan from a Russian while giving die-hard Trekkies little cause to gripe.

Box-office numbers permitting, Abrams looks to be in it for the long haul. Star Trek seems designed to be the first in a series of movies about the merry adventures of our gang of idealistic space travelers.  The movie concentrates on the origin stories of the crew aboard U.S.S. Enterprise. Captain James Kirk is re-imagined as a rural farm boy with a fondness for recklessness and fast cars. His second-in-command, and main rival, the part-Vulcan, part-human Spock, always relies on logic and careful planning to see his way through the inevitable crises that befall the crew. The tension, which soon develops into something approaching camaraderie, between the two main players provides Star Trekwith much of its humour and dramatic tension.

Star Trek would never have worked were it not for the casting. The original casts a long shadow, with the iconic performances of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, but Abrams is more than up to the task. Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock may not reach the lofty heights of their forbearers, but it is hard to imagine more suitable actors for the roles. Particularly inspired is the decision to cast Karl Urban as the wild-eyed doctor Bones and Simon Pegg as Scotty (he of the iconic dialogue, “Beam me up, Scotty”). The only unmitigated disaster, who is quickly forgotten because of her limited screen time, is Winona Ryder as Spock’s mother.

Trekkies are famous for their nitpicking and so to deflect any criticism that he was violating the Star Trek canon, Abrams had the ingenious idea of creating a time-travel loop. The events of this, and any future Star Trekmovies, thus take place in an alternative reality alongside the events of the original TV series and the 10 movies that followed it.

With its fast paced plot, expertly-directed special effects and snappy dialogue, Star Trek is a loving interpretation of a beloved show. It may not be the best or most profound action flick of the year, but it is surely the most entertaining.

Nadir Hassan is a Pakistan-based journalist and assistant editor at Newsline.