Review: Star Trek

Blasting onto the screen at warp speed and remaining there for two hours, the new and improved "Star Trek" will transport fans to sci-fi nirvana. Faithful enough to the spirit and key particulars of Gene Roddenberry's original conception to keep its torchbearers happy but, more crucially, exciting on its own terms in a way that makes familiarity with the franchise irrelevant, J.J. Abrams' smart and breathless space adventure feels like a summer blockbuster that just couldn't stay in the box another month. Paramount won't need any economic stimulus package with all the money it'll rake in with this one globally, and a follow-up won't arrive soon enough.

"Star Trek" here joins the James Bond series as the long-term '60s franchises that have been most successfully rebooted, although the current accomplishment is the more surprising since, after 10 films and a succession of TV series, "Star Trek" was widely thought to have exhausted itself. While respectfully handling the Roddenberry DNA, Abrams and longtime writing cohorts Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman have successfully transferred it to a trim new body that hums with youthful energy.

As happened with Bond and "Casino Royale," the Abrams team decided it would be best to go back to the beginning - earlier, in fact, than the first TV show did in 1966 - to show the origins of James Kirk and Spock and the launch of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Stir in a well-chosen cast of relative unknowns, a strong new villain, vastly updated special effects and a dynamic style that makes "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" look 60 years old rather than just 30, and you've planted the seed to create a whole new generation of Trekkies.

A wham-bang 12-minute action prologue both clears the palette of residual series expectations and sets the table for the kind of excitement that's amply in store. Script brims with backstory and future-story, but never loses track of the present, in which young James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine), a wild Iowa boy whose father sacrificed himself at the helm of a spaceship at the very moment the child was being born, is convinced by Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) to attend the Starfleet Academy with an eye to joining the crew of the Enterprise.

Headed for the same destination but on a different track is Spock (Zachary Quinto), whose troubled background as a half-human, half-Vulcan is deftly sketched in, as he's bullied by other students and struggles to suppress his emotional side to achieve the Vulcan ideal of pure logic. If the script has an overriding concern, it's to map out how, after a shaky beginning, these two very opposite figures become mutually trusted colleagues, a key not only to this film but the entire series, past and future.

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