Screenwriters: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman
Starring: Chris Pine (interview), Zachary Quinto, Eric Bana, Leonard Nimoy, Simon Pegg
Running time: 126 mins
From its action-packed and emotive opening, J.J. Abrams's relentlessly gripping Star Trek not only reboots the ailing franchise, but also delivers what could well turn out to be the definitive and most enjoyable blockbuster movie of 2009. Blending breathtaking visuals with a character-driven script, this movie boldly goes where not many sci-fi flicks have gone before - the heart.
The real core of the story isn't the destructive attacks on humanity and Vulcans posed by the embittered remnants of the Romulan race, led into war by their tortured leader Nero (Eric Bana). Instead, beneath its sci-fi trappings, Star Trek is a touching 'coming of age' drama for the young and troubled James Tiberius Kirk, who has to overcome various physical and psychological ordeals to gain his heroic credentials and take control of the famed USS Enterprise. Oozing with testosterone and played with flair by the impressive Chris Pine, Kirk's traumatic origins kick off the movie as his father makes a huge sacrifice for his family and lays down a legacy that will prove a huge burden to his son.
Through Kirk's subsequent journey, Star Trek explores the friendships and bonds that are formed between the fresh recruits of the USS Enterprise, some of which begin very fractiously indeed. Take Kirk's first ever encounter with Spock. It ends up with Kirk snarling "Who was that pointy-eared bastard?" in reference to the half Vulcan, who is portrayed in a surprisingly (but very effective) mean-spirited manner by the mesmerising Zachary 'Sylar' Quinto.
Then there's the Starship's wannabe stud's explosive first encounter with Uhura (Zoe Saldana), which ends in a different kind of bang to the one Kirk was hoping for, in addition to the instant camaraderie he forms with the amusingly misanthropic Leonard 'Bones' McCoy (Karl Urban) when the pair are lumbered together. If you know how these relationships panned out in the original Star Trek television series then watching their origins is thoroughly intriguing, yet knowledge of the show or past movies isn't required to enjoy this movie whatsoever.
The narrative is far more than just a Star Trek: The Early Years style prequel though. The very welcome presence of original cast member Leonard Nimoy as the 'future' Spock, courtesy of some black hole-related time travel, ensures that the movie functions as a continuation of its previous incarnation as well. There are plenty of crowdpleasing throwaway moments peppered throughout too, such as Spock's well-timed deployment of the legendary Vulcan grip, Chekov's (Charlie Bartlett's Anton Yelchin) dubious pronunciation of a certain English word and Scotty's (Simon Pegg) first attempt to beam anyone up on board the Enterprise.
Although not listed as a screenwriter, Abrams's influence is strongly felt in the script's clever structure which rewardingly binds together key character-developing moments throughout the young lives of Kirk and Spock - although in a less mind-boggling way than his show Lost. And thankfully without any polar bears too.
In his director's chair, Abrams ensures the set pieces are imbued with nerve-wracking tension through the skilful deployment of claustrophobic camera angles and quick cutting. Kirk's pursuit in the ice by some bizarre 'vagina monster' certainly poses a threat to the nails, while the climax of the Romulans' attack on Earth is neatly orchestrated. However, Abrams wisely never allows flashy visuals to dominate the movie and refreshingly gives the superbly selected array of actors time to breathe in their roles and exude a real sense of character and motivation beneath their tight sweater uniforms, as opposed to using them as mere plot functions which tends to happen in many sci-fi films.
Funny, moving and fine escapist entertainment, the magnificent Star Trek is cranked up to Warp Factor 11 by the cast and crew. May the franchise live long and prosper under the guidance of J.J. Abrams.