When J.J. Abrams first took the helm on the latest Star Trek film, he was confronted with an immensely daunting task. The decades old pop culture phenomenon had lost it's luster after ten movies and five TV series. Though hard core trekkies will devour anything Trek-related, with so much else to choose from in the sci-fi/fantasy genre, mainstream audiences had grown bored.
Add to that all the continuity problems that exist with characters that have been around for so long. Die hard fans would surely point out the inconsistencies and with new actors playing familiar roles the film could be seen as either a poor imitation at best, or at worst, just another Star Trek parody.
Abrams addresses this problem with a deceptively simple and very Trek-consistent plot devise -- time travel.
Without spoiling the plot, let's just say that the villain, the Romulan Nero (Eric Bana) and the hero, Spock (Leonard Nimoy) are thrown back in time after a disaster destroys the planet Romulus, creating changes in the time line. The result is that the Trek Universe we know and love has changed.
All of the familiar characters, technology and aliens remain, but they're slightly altered. Their back stories are different which makes them all the more interesting. These are the characters you always knew were in there somewhere if only some clever writer would let them out. That's exactly what writers Alex Kurtzman and Robeto Orci have done.
This James T. Kirk (Christopher Pine) is a brash, reckless, womanizer with a death wish. Enlisting in Star Fleet Academy gives Kirk a sense of direction, if not purpose.
Zachary Quinto's Spock, the human-Vulcan hybrid, is less conflicted with his two selves than the Spock we know. For him it's not a question of choosing between emotions and logic, but striking a balance between the two. He's the geek in the schoolyard that fights back, because sometimes a punch in the nose is the only logical response to a bully.
The rest of the cast are just as fully developed this time around. These are people who are highly skilled, intelligent and well trained. They've earned the right to do what they do. They're not just people who happen to work in space.
This Star Trek is edgier than its predecessors. The action sequences are more believable, due in part to the seamless CGI effects. The battle sequences feel more like what we've seen in the updated Battlestar Gallactica, where explosions in the vacuum of space are quiet. The make-up is subtler, but more effective than we saw in any of the TV incarnations. To sum it up, it's just better.
J.J. Abrams' reboot of Star Trek injects the 43-year-old franchise with something that it's never had before... passion.
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