MOVIE REVIEW- 'Star'ting over: Doing sci-fi right


Not everything old is new again...yet. After the rejuvenation of the James Bond series and now Star Trek: Starting Over (let's ignore the Pink Panthers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), not to mention the various horror franchises, the trend can only accelerate in a Hollywood that's both starved for and afraid of new ideas.

Star Trek should serve as a template for how to do it right. With the best science-fiction script in years and a tantalizing mix of something old and something new, it should appeal to hardcore Trekkers while creating a new fan base of young viewers who may never have seen the various TV series and movies.

Imagine for a moment that producer-director J.J. Abrams (Lost, Cloverfield) could have gone back in time to the year he was born (1966), met Gene Roddenberry in a bar, and given him the idea for Star Trek as a spinoff from the movie he (Abrams) would make in 2009.

That gives you some idea of a portion of the premise for the new Star Trek. It's essentially the story of how James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) came to assume command of the starship U.S.S. Enterprise, but a lot of strings are pulled by Spock's older self (Leonard Nimoy) from 100 years or so in the future.

In the opening sequence, Kirk is born as his father (Chris Hemsworth) dies when his starship is attacked by Romulan Captain Nero (Eric Bana). Jim grows up in Iowa as a rebellious badass, until he's persuaded to join the Federation, "a peacekeeping, humanitarian armada," by Capt. Pike (Bruce Greenwood).

Meanwhile, on Vulcan, Spock is growing up as the son of the Vulcan ambassador to Earth, Sarek (Ben Cross), and an Earth woman (Winona Rider). He's torn between his father's logic and his mother's emotions, but aren't we all?

The other familiar characters are introduced one or two at a time. Jim tries to pick Uhura (Zoë Saldana) up in a bar and befriends Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy (Karl Urban) on the way to Starfleet Academy. Three years later, he begins sparring with Spock after cheating his way through a Spock-designed test that can't be passed honestly.

An emergency presses them all into service on the Enterprise, where they meet Sulu (John Cho) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin). Soon, they're traveling at warp speed toward Vulcan but arrive too late to stop Nero from destroying the planet. In line with the time warp plot, Nero is seeking revenge for something that hasn't happened yet; and with Vulcan destroyed, Earth is his next target. Scotty (Simon Pegg) turns up in time to help save the day.

Compared to previous Star Treks this new model moves at warp speed. The effects are hit and miss– mostly hit– but generally better than Trekkers are used to.

Pine resembles the original star closely enough– sometimes eerily so– that his performance answers the question, "What would ‘Star Trek' have been like if William Shatner had been a better actor?" Quinto acts like he must have graduated Spock U with honors.

The screenplay by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (Transformers) is amazingly complex for a genre film, touching all the necessary points of plot and personality while spinning a new yarn that's as good as most Star Trek episodes, if less politically pointed than many. It does correct one point of political incorrectness in its closing line: " boldly go where no one has gone before."