Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Star Trek

I grew up with the Star Trek characters. Well, maybe not grew up as a young kid, but as a teenager I was certainly glued to the T.V. set when the first Star Trek episode aired in 1966.

Jim Kirk, Spock, Uhura, Sulu, Scotty, Bones. And later Chekhov. I felt like they were my friends.

But, 40+ years later, two things have happened. One, I am totally tired of “classic,” “original,” or whatever-you-call-it Trek. And two, I have combined the memory of the character with the actor who played him or her. For instance, I couldn’t tell you the difference between Uhura and Nichelle Nichols. After seeing her so many years at live events, I really have blended the two in my mind.

So I was actually eager to see a new rendering of the old tale. Star Trek, the new movie directed by J.J. Abrams (Lost, Mission Impossible III), is, I’m glad to say, a thrill-a-minute ride that still takes the time to show us how our heroes meet.

The movie takes the same characters but re-casts them and imbues each with a different backstory. We see what makes James T. Kirk so cowboy-ish, as the best example. Each character has the individual trait we’re used to seeing, but after that, everything else about him or her seems different. And I can guarantee you, this Uhura, besides a penchant for languages and communication skills, is completely different in this version.

The casting is quirky but it works, particularly in the cases of Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto (the villain Sylar on “Heroes”). Pine is more than adequate, showing us the arrogance and impulsiveness of what will develop into Captain Kirk. Quinto is just short of brilliant as a young, thoughtful Spock. Remember that it’s not that Spock has no emotions, it’s that he struggles mightily to contain them. And Quinto shows us that, and more.

I very much enjoyed Leonard Nimoy's voice in the final frame, as he speaks those immortal words, spoken by William Shatner in the beginning of each episode of the original series. Only this time, Leonard says "where no one has gone before," replacing "man" with "one." A small change, but a welcome one.

After the abysmal outings of the last two movies, it's about time. This film will give the dying franchise new hope for those fans who have lost it.

Thumb's up.


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