Star Trek, that is the new Star Trek, revamped and overhauled by director J.J. Abrams with a new cast and new creative team, works. That's it. It just flat out works. On every level, in every role, in each frame of film.
Writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the script team responsible for hits Mission Impossible III, 2007's Transformers and (with Ehren Kruger) this summer's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, have given J.J. Abrams a perfect combination of smart, funny and non-stop action story that resets the Star Trek saga by restarting... at the very beginning. But most critical here, and most successful, was the decision to stay true to form to existing and familiar characters. That writing decision becomes the catalyst for spot on performances from every cast member under the pitch perfect tone of J.J. Abrams direction. You could take this movie to film school for a solid example of reinvigorating old characters with a new cast. The work is nearly flawless.
To take on characters that have lived in television and on film for so long, and absolutely nail their quirks, catchlines and gestures... all while pushing them to new dynamics, greater relevance and an extraordinary sense of freshness is an achievement you should see. And not in just one role, but in them all.
There are standouts of course. Karl Urban as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy, highlights scene after scene with delivery and phrasing that perfectly recalls, with tremendous fondness, the characterization by DeForest Kelly in the original role. Simon Pegg, with equal dexterity, gets all of the essentials of his role as Scotty to bring back the best of James Doohan's characterization, and yet brings his own sense of humor and comic timing to advance the character to relevance for new audiences. Solid acting flows through every part - Zoe Saldana brings out the nurturing and warmth of Uhura, Anton Yelchin personifies the wet-behind-the-ears nervousness but quick-witted Chekov and John Cho plays perfectly into the fast learning curve, can-do personality of Sulu.
But by far, the blessing bestowed upon Abrams, and Paramount, is the casting of the movie 's leads. Zacahary Quinto, as Spock seems to have been cloned from Leonard Nimoy. The idea to cast Nimoy in this film and to write his character as a key part of the story line, was wonderfully inspired. His presence offers so much more than could be written in the script. As a juxtaposition to old and new, and a way to reclaim the dignity and integrity of the original while handshaking the retooled, works beyond any Star Trek fans highest expectations. Nimoy makes it special, Quinto, quite gracefully, makes it work.
Not that every critic who has written about Star Trek isn't already saying it, but Chris Pine, in the role of Captain James T. Kirk is indeed, the "star" in Star Trek. Leonard Nimoy is said to have shed some tears at the film's premiere. William Shatner should feel the same emotion. Pine's performance in the role that Shatner will never be forgotten for, gives such a subtle yet resounding nod to Shatner's portrayal that you almost expect Shatner to bound onto the set and retake his captain's chair. The swagger, controlled cockiness, slap on the back, mischievous, fast thinking, brave, loyal... you know, all that Kirk stuff that made this character Gene Roddenberry's ultimate creation, is all there. But it's the subtleties that nail it. A nod of the head, a raised eyebrow, the delivery of a classic catch-phrase. In all of the performances, those moments ring true, and resoundingly so. But none more so than Chris Pine's recapturing of the spirit, decency and the flaws of the Star Trek's franchise one true Captain, Kirk.
Last May was saved from the squandered promise of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull by Robert Downey Jr's boisterous take on Tony Stark, aka Iron Man. This May, Star Trek is the better picture. Somewhere between Iron Man and the now classic The Dark Knight is this year's best "origin" movie, it's that good. Somewhere out there on planet Earth, even as this column is being written, Downey is sitting on a production set partly encased in metal and waiting for a shot to be lit. We're anxiously awaiting the results with the release of Iron Man 2 next year. We'll be even more excited now, knowing that with it's release will be the expectation that Star Trek's next voyage will be just one more year down the road. Set your warp drive to 2011. This Star Trek will be with us for awhile.