Star Trek ****1/2

Star Trek is far better than it has any business being.  And I say that as a moderate Trek fan.

Whenever it comes to Trek, it feels as if fans have to justify themselves.  So before I go into this review, I guess I should show my credentials.  I have never been to a Star Trek, or any Sci-Fi, convention.  I do not own any props or toys or clothing from Trek, and I have never read any book based on the series.  I have seen all of the films, mostly in cinemas and usually within the first weekend, and I have watched many of the original and Next Generation episodes (and occasionally seen episodes from the other three spinoffs), though I couldn’t answer any form of trivia fans ask.  I guess that makes me a casual fan, someone who enjoys the concept, stories and characters but one who isn’t the least bit obsessive.

Now, I don’t say all of this defensively or out of any apology; I say all of this just to let you know where I’m coming from, because I found this new version to be one of the best adventure films I’ve seen in recent years.  It has a rather interesting plot, a premise that basically rewrites everything we thought we knew about the Trek universe and manages to make all of the main characters into three-dimensional people you care about and like.  Even Kirk, who’s usually seen as a shameless space cowboy and serial womaniser, comes across well.  And with the exception of Nimoy’s older Spock, the original cast are nowhere to be seen and are never missed.  And for a reboot of a classic and much-loved series, that is a good thing.

And whoever had the bright idea of hiring J.J. Abrams took a winning gamble.  Abrams may be seen as a darling in Hollywood now, but a study of his past does not lead one to conclude that he was the right choice for leading this.  Yes, his work on Lost and Fringe is quite good, but that’s original TV, and his other genre TV show, Alias, had a great beginning but quickly disintegrated.   Abrams’ film work is less than stellar.  Cloverfield was a fun monster movie but wasn’t nearly as inventive or solid as it could have been, and his Mission Impossible III was weak at best.

But something miraculous has happened here.  Abrams has made a film that should appease Trek fans while still being a fun film for those not as enamoured with the original.  It is a fun adventure tale that isn’t too reliant on technobabble and is far more interested in telling human stories than it is with spectacle, even though there are some rather impressive fights and battles.

I could go into a plot and character summary, but really what’s the point?  All anyone needs to know is this: the film is an origins tale, showing how the original crew of the Starship Enterprise came together.  However, with a time travel twist, it actually manages to steer away from the original universe, meaning that Abrams and Paramount Studios have carte blanche to do whatever, and perhaps even kill whomever, they wish in future films.

Prequels seem to be the new trend in Hollywood.  And while most of these have been horrid failures, Star Trek is not only one of the best entries in a well-known series but stands well on its own.  It will probably attract a lot of new fans and should please the vast majority of established ones.

Extra note.  If one has the chance, you should see this on an IMAX screen.  It is well worth the extra money.

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