Of the two big space opera properties of the late 20th century, ”Star Wars” had the brawn and ”Star Trek” had the brains. While the former had hokey dialogue, simplistic storylines and paper thin characters, it had something that reminded us all what movies could be all about â€“ spectacle.
By contrast, ”Trek” was about big ideas, humankind’s place in the universe, well-drawn characters and good writing. It struggled to break the bounds of TV budgets so we had to forgive 40 years of rubber suits, small sets and oft-repeated stock footage that never did the ideas justice.
So bigger still than the question of whether Hollywood golden boy J J Abrams would do the ”Star Trek” name justice is that for the first time ever it’s the perfect blend of rich mythology and rollicking adventure.
The story of how the beloved first crew came together has never been explored, and it’s this black hole of ideas that superstar writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurztman plumb. Their script is also in good hands with Abrams, a director who innately understands what’s big, flashy, exciting and looks cool.
In fact if there is a single niggle, it’s that character development and plot are a little drowned out by action and effects. With at least seven major characters, plenty of them â€“ including Romulan villain Nero (Bana) – are reduced to a couple of scenes of platitude-filled dialogue.
Most of the cast are selected for their likenesses to the original actors and most of them nail it. Least relatable ironically is Chris Pine as Kirk, a little too like a teen sex comedy guy. He’s born under adversity, his father jettisoning his mother while in labour when their ship comes under attack by a nasty-looking Romulan ship. Aboard is rogue captain Nero, determined to exact revenge on Spock in a bizarre time-shift plot device that emerges later with the appearance of a much older Spock (Nimoy).
Growing up, Kirk does little but hit on chicks and get in bar fights when a sympathetic Starfleet officer (Greenwood) urges him to enlist. He does so mostly to chase pussy, making friends with young medic McCoy (Urban) along the ride.
When the newly minted Enterprise is called to a distress signal where the Romulan ship has laid waste the craft that have already arrived, we see Nero’s fiendish plan to use a space-going drill to create a Black Hole in the centre of Spock’s home planet Vulcan, a beastly trick he intends to repeat on Earth.
While it isn’t quite the ‘action-sequences-to-plug-the-plot-holes’ blockbuster style, that’s what you’ll remember. With Abrams’ huge canvas fights on the drill platform, the Romulans scary ship and the virtual camera swinging and swooping through space battles are white-knuckle rides that remind us of the namesake of the ”Star Trek” franchise when a director could show you what the medium could really do.