Less a bid to measure up against other movies at the box office, Star Trek may actually be more in competition with itself, and its many incarnations preceding this latest voyage of the USS Enterprise into theaters everywhere. And while Trekkie nostalgia buffs may bliss out on this newly reconceived excursion down intergalactic memory lane, others could have a more been there done that attitude, in response to movie screens entirely too glutted with these hyper-digitalized magic shows.
But what does distinguish Star Trek from the cookie cutter crop of futuristic fantasies, and what led to its legendary status, is its humor and the personality of its characters, who can knock off the self-serious posturing from time to time, to laugh at themselves and each other. Though as usual, character rivalry, not so much with one another but with the more than imposing surrounding machinery and special effects, pushes the narrative to the margins where it pales in comparison.
Focusing on an intricate web of enduring family feuds, Star Trek traces the badass rebel high IQ attitude of James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine) back to his birth, during which his dad met his demise at the hands of Romulan leader Captain Nero (Eric Bana). And Nero has long harbored his own festering grudge against the Enterprise, around the death of his wife.
After Kirk gets into a bar room brawl to impress Enterprise crew hottie Uhura (Zoe Saldana), he’s nudged into joining the Starfleet Academy by Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood), as the troops brace for space combat against the villainous Nero. But Kirk is more focused on oneuphumanoidship with smug, goody two shoes spacecraft honcho Spock (Zachary Quinto), while hooking up after hours with Uhura’s roommate, a giddy green skinned party girl.
The occasional surprises materialize when all the noisy sci-fi machinery takes a break and allows the characters some quiet time to breathe through, especially comic relief provided by Anton Yelchin as the Russian accented know-it-all teen pilot Chekov, and Tyler Perry doing an admiral cameo in judicial punitive mode, as he cuts the cocky Kirk down to size. Not to mention Leonard Nimoy’s back from the future Spock, who gets stuck in a glacial time warp with Kirk, in commiserating deep freeze. But Eric Bana’s villainous Nero, on the other hand, is just too one note down and dirty for his own good, coming off as an interplanetary skinhead in a long unresolved anger management funk.
Star Trek is ultimately rescued from assorted dangers as well as camp, via a slickly reconceived scenario amid the usual lost and found planet mayhem. And it doesn’t hurt that the high anxiety of long distance voyages has been reinvigorated, what with those pirates roaming the high seas in the real world these days.
2 ½ stars