The new Star Trek Re-boots and prospers

Director J.J. Abrams scores with Star Trek.

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A long time ago in a galaxy, wait — wrong space opera. Star Trek is that other massively successful sci-fi saga that spawned 10 feature films, four TV series and all the related toys/games/fetish-wear that goes with it. Trek inspired the adoration of millions of our more interesting citizens and enjoyed a string of big-time success throughout the 1980s and '90s. But then the franchise fell on hard times, the movies started to suck (see: Star Trek: Nemesis) and the remaining TV show (Enterprise) was cancelled. Star Trek was never "cool," per se, but this rapid descent into irrelevance was ridiculous.

Enter J.J. Abrams. The mastermind behind Lost and Alias, Abrams had already hopped aboard an existing property only to see his Mission: Impossible III fail at the box office. Don't fret, Trekkies, this time out the news is good. Abrams has made the best Star Trek film in a while, at least since 1991's Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and he has succeeded in breathing new life into the Trek franchise. However, he's done this at the expense of jettisoning the entire existing mythology of the original Trek series. You still with me, superfans?

Star Trek opens just before the birth of Captain James T. Kirk, with his father serving on the U.S.S. Kelvin. The Kelvin is observing some odd space lightning when a massive ship emerges and turns the Kelvin into Swiss cheese. The ship's evil captain Nero (Eric Bana sporting Mike Tyson-esque face tattoos) demands to meet with the Kelvin's captain, which doesn't go well. Kirk Senior takes command and orders the crew — including his in-labor wife — to abandon ship. Baby Jim is born safe and sound, but Papa Kirk meets his maker.

Wait just a second! The hard-core Trek devotees will protest. Kirk's dad didn't die before he was born! You are correct, but the film is savvy in the ways of the Trek universe and plays with its mythology. That space lightning I mentioned? A wormhole. The marauding ship that killed Kirk Sr.? From the future and changing the past. Hey, Abram's Lost is all about time travel this season, too. We should have seen this coming.

Spock and Kirk first appear as young kids, growing up on their home planets of Vulcan and Earth. Vulcans are all logic all the time, but Spock's mom (Winona Ryder) is an emotional human and the kid is conflicted. Spock wants to be all cold like daddy, but when a school bully taunts some emotion out of him, he kicks the snot out of the little bastard. Kirk, meanwhile, goes from a car-stealing juvenile delinquent to a bar-brawling 20-something. He's Shatner's Kirk recast as Luke Skywalker with similar daddy issues, but with the dirt roads of the Midwest standing in for the deserts of Tatooine. Enter Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood), soon-to-be captain of the brand-new Enterprise. Pike knows all about Kirk's father and offers the kid a future: Join Starfleet and you can be an officer in four years. "I'll do it in three," the cocky Kirk replies.

Jump ahead almost three years. The boys have adjusted to Academy life, with Kirk (Chris Pine) constantly chasing the multi-colored ladies around campus and Spock (Heroes' Zachary Quinto) damn near running the place. After Kirk passes a supposedly impassable test programmed by Spock (all a clever nod to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn), he's brought before a disciplinary board for "cheating." Before the board can rule, however, crisis erupts. The giant ship responsible for destroying the U.S.S. Kelvin has reemerged near Vulcan with nefarious intent and the fleet, including the just-off-the-assembly-line Enterprise, is sent in pursuit.

From here, Star Trek becomes a successful sci-fi action flick with several memorable scenes, including a thrilling skydive from the edge of space and a terrifically realized visual of a planet collapsing in on itself. Abrams sticks to the conceits of the old Star Trek (phasers are still set to stun, photon torpedoes still streak across the sky), but cranks up the speed and volume of the action, making Star Trek's traditionally plodding space battles more of a blast. Now, if the director would just cut down on the lens flare.

The actors are mostly excellent, with Pine doing a fine job as the brash Kirk (he even occasionally apes Shatner's halting delivery without overdoing it), and Quinto stealing the show with his fabulous and faithful-to-Nimoy performance as the tormented Spock. Speaking of the original Spock, Leonard Nimoy is on hand for an extended cameo — his acting a little creaky at first, but ultimately doing the pointy ears proud. The only disappointment is Bana, whose Nero isn't given much to do other than look pissed.

If you're familiar with the franchise, you'll get real pleasure in seeing beloved characters introduced — famous twitches or taglines intact. Uhuru (the smokin' hot Zoe Saldana) is still as brash as her skirts are mini, Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban) insists, "I'm a doctor, not a physicist!" and Scotty (Simon Pegg, very funny) still screams an energetic "I'm givin' ya all she's got, Captain!" while running through the steaming bowels of the Enterprise.

But don't worry if this is your first Trek outing; you won't feel left in the cold. All the winks at Trek's past fit seamlessly and won't distract first-timers from enjoying what ultimately amounts to a satisfying summer blockbuster. And because of this appeal to newbies and longtime Trekkies alike, the re-booted Trek franchise should live long and prosper at the multiplex.

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