Star Trek (Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Leonard Nimoy, Eric Bana, Bruce Greenwood) – A camp, cheesy TV show from 1966-69 doesn’t sound like the concept for the most prolific and second most successful movie franchise in history. That’s exactly what Gene Roddenberry created, nurtured and milked with Star Trek. The TV series was not successful in first run. While it lasted for three years, it never captured a mass audience and was left for dead when it headed into syndication. Those who loved the TV series, however, developed the cult following of which we are all aware. Ten years after the show went off the air, the first Star Trek movie was created, starring the original cast, sporting a bigger budget, and benefiting from the explosion in special effects technology. Roddenberry was behind the resurrection, and it was spectacularly successful even though the box office was very good, but not great.
Star Trek is the 11th movie in the series. It opened bigger than any other in the series and was highly anticipated because it was designed as a prequel. Indeed, we meet James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine of Bottle Shock) as a wild kid in Riverside, Iowa, and follow him through the Federation Academy and onto his first assignment aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise. As we learn in the film, Kirk is a wild child – a cocky, fearless, charming party animal. But with the help of his friend, Leonard McCoy, M.D. (brilliantly captured by Karl Urban), he joins The Enterprise and endears himself to Captain Christopher Pike (veteran actor Bruce Greenwood). Along the way, we meet the brilliant, more experienced Commander Spock (Pittsburgh native Zachary Quinto of TV’s Heroes), who must fight his mother’s human side in his quest to be a Vulcan. We also meet the recently graduated Uhura, played by Zoe Seldana. She and Spock were student and teacher but, it turns out, there is more between them. (I suppose we’ll find out what happened to turn that platonic in a future movie). We also meet Sulu (John Cho who is Harold of the Harold and Kumar movies), Checkhov (Anton Yeltsin) and, fairly late in the movie, Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg, who has Scotty’s accent down pat). I don’t want to say that the plot is contrived, which it is; otherwise, we wouldn’t get to see Leonard Nimoy reprising his role as Spock. But the plot, which involves The Enterprise being manned by the cadets, is mainly designed to introduce you to the new cast and to show how brave and competent, if untested and raw, they are. Producer/Director J.J. Abrams did a superb job of casting, proved more than competent with the special effects, and paced this film beautifully.
Chris Pine showed his promise in Bottle Shock as the son of the Bill Pullman-played vineyard owner. Zachary Quinto looks amazingly like a young Spock should though he’s more human than the later Spock we have come to know. That makes sense since he is young and hasn’t totally come to grips with his commitment to Vulcanism. Karl Urban picks up the Bones McCoy syntax so perfectly that he steals the movie away from the principals. And, along with Simon Pegg’s Scott, they risked getting cartoonish but did not cross the line. I was very impressed. It felt revealing to learn about Kirk and Company before the TV series, learning how they got to be the people we meet in the TV show. And it’s equally great to know that more movies will be coming featuring this cast. We have new unanswered questions so there is plenty of meat for a couple of extra movies. Pine is 28 in real life; Shatner was 35 when the series began. I figure The Enterprise can seek out new worlds and boldly go where no man (or no one) has gone before for several years before the stories converge. As prequels go, this was very different that Star Wars, but really quite ambitious. Live long and prosper.