Summer officially hits warp speed with Star Trek, a burst of pure filmmaking exhilaration that manages to pay homage to the classic 1960s TV series and still boldly go where no man, William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy included, has gone before. I couldn’t be more surprised. After six TV series and 10 movies (1982’s The Wrath of Khan being the only standout), the franchise has been milked so hard, it’s a wonder the udders haven’t dried up and disintegrated. So how does this newbie break the jinx? By plugging in livewire J.J. Abrams, a director of style and substance (M:i:III, Lost), who fuels this origin story with killer action, bracing wit and a sense of true discovery.
All the actors come up aces. Chris Pine radiates star quality as Kirk, the bad boy who morphs into captain material without curbing his swagger or his yen for zaftig green babes from Orion (take that, 007!). And major props to Zachary Quinto as Spock for never letting the pointy ears act for him. His sharp, intuitive performance as the logic-led Vulcan fighting the emotions instilled by his human mother (Winona Ryder, OMFG!) gives the film a soul. Just watch the way he delivers Spock’s signature line, “Live long and prosper,” like a massive screw-you salute to the Vulcan Establishment! In Quinto’s hands, Mr. Spock is Mr. Cool.
Starfleet stripes are hereby awarded to Bruce Greenwood as Captain Pike, Karl Urban as medical officer Bones, Anton Yelchin as the smartass prodigy Chekov, John Cho (that’s right, Harold the stoner!) as helmsman Sulu and Zoe Saldana as communications officer Uhura. The scene-stealer award is a tie between Simon Pegg, flat-out hilarious as the engineer Scotty, and Eric Bana, who makes Nero, the Romulan villain, one hell of a twisted dudester. As for the appearance of original Spock Nimoy — just sit back and behold.
Abrams has banished irony and easy cynicism from his Star Trek universe. And I will banish spoilers from this review. The script is by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (they did Transformers, which this jury will disregard), and damned if I know what they’re talking about. It might as well be Duplicity in Space when they drag in time travel. Know what? Don’t care. Star Trek creates an alternate universe you want to get lost in. It’s an irresistible invitation for fun. What more can you ask of a summer movie?