Although big screen re-imaginings of comic books or TV series have long been de rigueur, none have taken on a series with such a rich back story and committed fan base as “Star Trek.” With the collected weight of the original show, William Shatner’s silver-screen time as James T. Kirk, “Deep Space Nine” and a bald Shakespearean actor taking over the Enterprise, director J.J. Abrams has decided to completely reset the series through a simple time travel concept that conveniently changes the entirety of the history of the “Star Trek” universe.
The story is almost inconsequential to the reintroduction of the characters through new actors, but it goes as follows: Nero (Eric Bana), who is upset at Ambassador Spock’s (Zachary Quinto) failure to stop the destruction of his home world, has somehow warped into the distant past in a gigantic mining ship to exact his revenge. James T. Kirk’s (Chris Pine) father dies in Nero’s initial attack, prompting Kirk to rebel theatrically until Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) convinces him that he should join Starfleet and enlist in the Academy (in San Francisco). Spock battles Vulcan stereotypes surrounding his mixed-race parentage, eventually choosing to leave the planet Vulcan and join Starfleet. Predictably, Kirk and Spock wind up on the Enterprise. More predictably, they come into direct conflict with Nero.
This could be a recipe for disaster; committed Trekkies thronging to the theatres may leave a disappointed howling mess when they see their beloved Kirk and Spock doing things that Kirk and Spock, let them assure you, never would have done if Gene Roddenberry was still writing scripts. However, Abrams handles the series reboot beautifully, masterfully casting new players in roles more familiar to some fans than their extended family. Although it might be jarring to see John Cho (Harold of “Harold and Kumar” fame) as Sulu, Simon Pegg (“Shaun of the Dead”) as Scotty and Quinto (Sylar from “Heroes”) as Spock, all of them do their best impersonations of George Takei, James Doohan, DeForest Kelley and Leonard Nimoy.
While most of the movie ignores or circumvents the cornball dialogue and catchphrases that made the originals great for some and unwatchable for others, we still get to hear the classic lines. Bones calls Spock green-blooded and emotionless and says “Dammit Jim” to Kirk in a moment of heated debate, Chekov switches “v”s with “w”s hilariously in what seemed to be a conscious decision by the writers and Scotty drops the timeless “I’m givin’ her all she’s got captain!” while the engineering room explodes around him.
However, something’s different this time around. Maybe it’s the excitement of seeing a fresh face dropping gems that first fell out of Shatner’s mouth, maybe it’s seeing a former cast member rehash his role so beautifully (you’ll have to see it to find out who), or maybe it’s just the introduction of some new special effects into the old formula, but there is an energy here that inspires a hope that the rest of the series will follow this formula: simple, easy-to-follow plot wrapped in gobs of obvious villainy and heroism, with a dash of nostalgia, smothered in special effects so mind-blowingly cool that we forget all about how we could pretty much see the strings that used to fly the original Enterprise around the galaxy.