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Films: Star Trek (2009)

Lew Baxter is beamed up and boldly going into JJ Abrams' brave new world

Published on May 8th 2009.

Films: Star Trek (2009)

WELL, Jim, me old cock sparrer, its life…but not perhaps quite as you might have expected.

For those who figured the Star Trek franchise had long ago burned up in a supernova at the outer reaches of the galaxy, please fasten your seat belts, grip the arm rests and prepare for a dazzling, breathtaking joyride of a voyage.

It is rather appropriate that J. J. Abrams, who directed Mission Impossible III, should wield the conductor’s baton for what is a truly eye-boggling symphonic sci-fi opera.

His fellow conspirators in this latest romp, which will without doubt win millions of new Trekkies whilst - one would sincerely hope - gobsmack the older fans, include screenwriters Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman who also gave us Mission Impossible I and III and, latterly, the fast paced Transformers.

What they have managed to pull off in spectacular fashion is a deft transformation of Star Trek in a way that is faithful to the original - with its often tongue in cheek, self deprecating manner - whilst injecting rocket fuel into the system, and a series of special effects that would have banjaxed even James Doohan’s engineering whiz “Scotty”.

Firstly, though, Abrams and his pals take us way back to the beginning of how the USS Enterprise crew came together, to scenes where a cheeky, freckle-faced young James Kirk flirts with death in a souped up old car, later gets into a teenage scrap with a bunch of space cadets and, of course, arrogantly signs on for The Programme, so to speak.

Then we see an almost vulnerable Spock as a school kid who is bullied by nasty, full-on Vulcan blokes because of his human mother. Naturally he gives one of them a jolly good pasting, his “weak” human side.

But this backdrop is merely the template for what is to come as the evil Nero - a snarling, tattooed and fearsome Romulan rogue on the march in a giant, Aliens- style craft - prowls space and time to avenge himself against Spock and all Federation forces who he blames for destruction of his home world.

In fact, in this incarnation – which, of course, flips through warp factors like hot pokers through butter - he killed Kirk’s dad who was also a starship captain.

It is gripping stuff – for any age and gender, I’d wager, - and as a standalone, without the historical baggage, this Star Trek would be hailed as a masterpiece of techno wizardry; boasting a rattling good yarn, blinding visuals and digital effects, and a cast that sparkles and spins in the spirit of William Shatner and Leonard Nemoy and the other lads and lasses, all keen to ‘boldly go’ where no other movie prequel or sequel, apart from James Bond perhaps, have gone before.

And what a cast Abrams has to work with. Chris Pine as Captain Kirk emulates his elder predecessor to perfection, with knowing, twinkle-eyed smirks, whilst Zachary Quinto, as Spock, has an eerie resemblance to Nimoy's enigmatic, logic driven Vulcan.

It’s a terrific lark as we observe them coming together as frisky and feisty young cadets and see how their early fractious relationship develops into mutual respect and camaraderie. Indeed, Spock is the first stand-in captain of the shimmering Enterprise – with a futuristic flight deck that makes early models - even the glitzy one with Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard - akin to wooden sets from Thunderbirds, or even, ahem, Blake’s Seven.

The ship is mustered to track down and sort out Nero and his gang of space thugs after he consumes Vulcan with his black hole weapons, and turns his attentions to Earth.

But Nero – a grimacing Goth of a figure as played by Eric Bana – has already put paid to part of the Federation fleet, and the atomising of Earth seems inevitable.

The only crew left to man the flagship, captained by Christopher Pike – who as true Trekkies will know was the first captain of The Enterprise in the show’s pilot before Shatner got the job – are the trainee cadets.

Enter Spock, Kirk and a fabulous team of young actors taking on the roles of ‘Bones’ McCoy, Lieutenant Uhura, “Scotty”, Lieutenant Sulu and Ensign Chekov. Some, like Zoe Saldana, you’ll recognise from Pirates of the Caribbean, Karl Urban from the Bourne Supremacy, and Nichelle Nichols from Heroes.

Oh, and there’s a spiffing appearance by Leonard Nimoy reprising his role as Ambassador Spock, and actually getting to impart a little Vulcan logical advice to his younger self.

Ships Log: Star Points 9 out of 10

Excitement value: Pulsating

Now on general release (PG) at a cinema or planet near you

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