The View From Here
The UNCUT review -- Star Trek
DIRECTED BY JJ Abrams
STARRING Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Eric Bana, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg
OPENS MAY 8, CERT 12A, 126 MINS
Rebooted with energy and wit, Star Trek has pulled off another generational shift. JJ Abrams may have invited flak from fans by claiming he wasn’t a big admirer of the science-fiction giant’s 43-year past (ten films, six separate series), but he’s ensured its future will now extend well into the 21st century. The new model is a sleek machine, marrying just the right degrees of cheeky irreverence, fresh ideas and awareness of when not to mess with a proud heritage. In short, it’ll please everyone, while never being as bland as that might sound.
It’s a prequel, of sorts, based on a tangent show creator Gene Roddenberry (not Abrams) first suggested back in the Sixties. We rewind to the origins of Kirk and Spock and watch the crew of the Enterprise coming together – like an inter-planetary Magnificent Seven – and finding their roles. In a breathtaking pre-credits sequence we witness James Kirk’s birth as his father sacrifices all. He grows up to be a boozing, Uhura-chasing, bad-ass brawler, but enrolling with Starfleet might bring out his better side. Meanwhile Spock’s youth on Vulcan is marred by bullying – as the child of a Vulcan father and Earthling mother (Winona Ryder) his logic is “tainted” by residual emotion. At the Academy, Kirk and Spock – polar opposites - naturally irritate each other, before forging, under extreme duress, a powerful rivalry-cum-friendship.
The duress comes when they’re flung into battle with the Romulans, led by Eric Bana, who’ve got their dates mixed up and are in the wrong time zone. This calendar-warp helpfully allows Leonard Nimoy more than a cameo. The baddies are a bit rubbish and the plot a tad sprawling, in truth, but high-end visually gorgeous action spectacles (a planet implodes! wow!) and the comic interaction of the gang engage and distract us sufficiently. Zoe Saldana is a sharp, empowered Uhura, Karl Urban is a likeably grumpy Bones and Simon Pegg as Scotty is...the same Simon Pegg as always. What’s really impressive is the way Pine and Quinto become Kirk and Spock so quickly. After ten minutes they’ve conquered diehards’ doubts and nudged Shatner and Nimoy onto the Hall Of Fame sepia picture wall. Pine is a gas, all young Jack Nicholson bluster and Shatner-esque tics, while Quinto has clearly spent many hours studying the young Nimoy’s every quizzical head tilt. Yet each invests their respectful tributes with electric grace notes.
It’s not as post-modern as Joss Whedon’s Serenity and never as dark as Battlestar Galactica, but Abrams’ Generation Trek have had to tick a lot of boxes here, while simultaneously thinking outside them. The handover established - not least by a poignant farewell speech from Nimoy, who looks much, much older than his 78 years - they can surge into hyperdrive from here on.