Star Trek

43 years ago, the creative mind of Gene Roddenberry brought the world a new kind of television program where no man had gone before. Captain James T. Kirk, Commander Spock and the rest of the crew of the Starship Enterprise journeyed the galaxy and beamed over the TV airwaves for three years and countless syndication runs. Director J.J. Abrams reinvents one of the longest running film franchises and brings us back before the time setting of the classic TV series as we meet the younger versions of the original crew in “Star Trek.”

Laura's Review: A-

James T. Kirk is an angry young man living in Iowa who comes to the attention of Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood, "Capote," "Eight Below") after a barroom brawl over Cadet Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana, "Guess Who," "Vantage Point"). After growing up constantly having to defend his human mother (Winona Ryder, "The Age of Innocence") on Vulcan, a planet whose society prides controlling one's emotions, Spock (Zachary Quinto, TV's "Heroes") has joined Starfleet where he is a respected officer and mentor. Grounded for having cheated on the Kobayashi Maru test, Kirk is smuggled aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise for its maiden voyage by Bones (Karl Urban, "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King") and put into sick bay, but he refuses to stay quiet when he suspects Pike is steering into a trap in "Star Trek." Director J.J. Abrams ("Mission Impossible: III," TV's "Lost") and his screenwriters Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman ("Transformers," TV's "Fringe") have done the seemingly impossible - gone back to "Star Trek" basics and retooled them for today's audience with a story that honors the essence and will please both hard core fans and the masses. Exemplary casting of actors who not only look the parts but make them their own is the icing on the cake. 2009's "Star Trek" is not only a fantastic summer tentpole film, it just happens to be better than each and every one of the most recent Best Picture Oscar nominees. The film begins with an exciting prologue that establishes Kirk's heritage (his father, George (Chris Hemsworth, TV's "Home and Away"), is a heroic Starfleet captain who saves 800 lives in only twelve minutes at the helm while his son is being born in an escaping shuttle). As young boys, Kirk is shown as a law-flouting rebel (and this sequence is one of my few nits, as while it exhibits Kirk's risk-taking nature, it also paints him as a bit of a brat) and Spock is shown being 'bullied' by older boys hoping to get a rise out of him (they do). It is the cocky, skirt-chasing Kirk who enlists with Starfleet and it's a surprise to find him behind much of his later crew. When he finally meets up with Spock, it is in a Starfleet court (led by Tyler Perry!) and the two lock horns over their philosophical differences (Kirk doesn't believe in no-win situations while Spock believes a future captain must know the fear attendant with facing death). Once they are all aboard the Enterprise, which has a rough start due to Sulu's (John Cho, "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle") inexperienced piloting and Chekov's (Anton Yelchin, "Alpha Dog," "Charlie Bartlett") problems with the voice recognition software, it takes little time before Pike is up against Nero (Eric Bana, "Troy," "The Other Boleyn Girl"), a Romulan from the future with a major grudge against an older Spock (Nimoy, who sends out the film with the familiar "Space, the final frontier..." speech). Pike is held and Spock assumes command of the ship with his newly promoted 2nd officer Kirk, but that philosophy thing kicks in again and Spock ejects Kirk to a frozen planet where Kirk has a number of interesting run-ins. Orci and Kurtzman found their way into "Star Trek" by using the basic science fiction concept of alternate reality and time travel in order to spin the original Enterprise's crew's back stories into something that might have happened, if. They then spin a terrific yarn that hews closely to the series but remains exciting and relevant on its own, more modern terms. And as kids grow up faster these days, it takes a younger crew to appear the equal of the older cast of 1966 to a modern audience - a seventeen year-old Chekov is just one of the great ideas the filmmakers use to energize this new beginning. There is also plenty of humor (Quinto's timing is magnificent while Urban really gets at Dr. McCoy's core) and romance (not between who one might initially expect and yet, again, sourced from the original series). Abrams, a self-professed non Trek fanatic, keeps plenty of loving references around without succumbing to them. The trippy little sound fx of the old TV show pop in and out and we're glad to hear them, yet Abrams is also sophisticated enough to let sound become a vacuum for a space interlude. Costume is recognizable, but streamlined. Action sequences are well staged, particularly a parachuting exercise, although the old time chestnuts remain. Pine gives Kirk a nice arc from cocky kid to matured leader with more depth than I expected from the star of "Bottle Shock." He doesn't try to channel Shatner, yet he's got Kirk covered. Quinto is so dead right as Spock it is amazing. Physically he is an excellent match, with slightly softer features that give Quinto a touch more of the human than Nimoy let through. Saldana is a feisty Uhura, Yelchin simply adorable and Cho won't remind anyone of Kumar's buddy Harold here. Slight quibble with Simon Pegg's performance as Scotty - he pushes the comedy over the character while his colleagues all find the humor from within who their characters are - but this is something that will hopefully smooth out. "Star Trek" starts summer 2009 off in warp speed, which is how fast the filmmakers will need to deliver the next installment.

Robin's Review: B+

We are in the doldrums of summer and it is hot outside. This is the perfect formula to prompt us to go to the local multiplex, sit in air conditioned comfort and enjoy a summer blockbuster. The good news is” “Star Trek Beyond” fits the bill nicely. All of our favorite characters from the first in the franchise reboot are with us once again, though, sadly, it is the last time we will see Anton Yelchin as Chekov. Goodbye, Anton, we will miss you. All are perfectly comfortable with their characters and roles, making for a lot of comic banter, especially between Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Bones (Karl Urban). I will not bother expanding the synopsis of “Star Trek: Beyond” because, a) if you are a fan you know it already and, 2) everyone else wants to see it for themselves untainted. What I will say is that “Star Trek Beyond” hits the mark and does not show the age signs of a third in a franchise. It is more satisfying than the second in the series, “Star Trek into Darkness (2013)” and holds homage to the original TV series in a loving way. My mind began to wander at about the three quarter mark but, as the big climax began, my attention snapped back. This is a big budget F/X extravaganza (estimated budget of $185 million) and all that money is up on the screen, with the CGI given a run for the money by the large and excellent cast – including newcomer to the franchise, Jaylah (Sophia Boutella), a sexy alien who can kick ass and take names. The actress made such an impression on me that producer J.J. Abrams and company MUST have her join the crew in the next installment. She is a very cool character. So, with the east coast in the throes of a giant heat bubble, this is the perfect time to chill out and be well entertained by some old friends.