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Everything You Need to Sing the Hits!

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. "Star Trek"

There's nothing like the right writing team. Under J.J. Abrams skillful direction, Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman ("Transformers") score big with this skillfully soaring rejuvenation of one of the most venerable series in space flight. In what may be a lesson in screenwriting and cinematic immortality, they devise a prequel to ten feature films and countless TV episodes that manifests a whole host of venerable space warriors with bright, new, credible backdating in what everyone but this creative team thought was an exhausted payload.

Without a flaw of any consequence, casting may well be the home run of this universe. It's rare indeed that you could place the young actor alongside the much older one he's replacing without having to suspend disbelief. Movie vaults are so full of instances of abject failure to achieve verisimilitude in familial connection that it's almost unbelievable when it's pulled off as well as it is here. It must've involved Herculean auditions and an uncompromising communal eye but all efforts pay off with the pure pleasure of near-perfect matchups.

Kudos to Abrams, studio and team. They were right on the mark in recognizing the critical importance of facial resemblance to successful prequel liftoff.

Oddly, casting and the brilliance of background character detail Orci and Kurtzman provide may be less appreciated by a Trekkie purist than those of us who are coming from a more objective viewpoint, but it's probably fair to say that, for the purists, any rebooting enterprise is as doomed as a Vulcan neighborhood. This refurbishment speaks not to them.

The assignment was clearly not simple. Creating young characters that develop into their vastly more familiar ones must have seemed a bit like defying gravity, but it's not only pulled off as well as anyone might have hoped, it's accomplished with blast-off pace and such finesse that all fears about foul-ups are vanquished in the early going.

Thus, young James Tiberius Kirk's (Chris Pine) destiny is forged out of a rebellious aimlessness incurred when his father willfully sacrificed his life to save his wife (James' mother) and crew from certain immolation by mad villain Nero (Eric Bana, "The Hulk," "Troy") a man who savors sulfur for breakfast and who commands a massive alien warship devised by a monster. Young James is diverted from a wasted life by Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) whom he will later have the opportunity to save in a daring rescue.

Spock's journey takes a different track, as one might expect given the mental acuity he inherited from his mixed Vulcan and Earth parentage. As a bilateral being who is a walking and unfeeling logic machine, the challenge is to conceptualize how Kirk and he, polar opposites, might wind up in a collegial relationship based on mutual respect.

The gang of the command deck--(Sulu by John Cho; 17-year old whiz kid Pavel Chekov by Anton Yelchin ("Charlie Bartlett") who makes the most of his chance to stand out among his mates with the big roles; brilliant and emotional Uhura by Zoe Saldana, who has eyes for Spock); and, in medical quarters Leonard "Bones" McCoy by Karl Urban--these form a team that fulfills all the relational chemistry that brewed a vast following and survived zero gravity for so many decades.

But the threat is new, as well. Nero, as menacing as any outragiously powerful destroyer of worlds needs to be, has obtained a material he refers to as the "red matter." With a space drill he can bore into the core of a planet, insert the red stuff, and reduce the orb to a black hole that sucks in all matter in its proximity--a physical transformation that's going to give our team a few headaches.

The integration of these stimuli, the fresh young team, a capable head man for whom we can see a lengthy future, a villain of nightmarish presence, the event-filled action sequences that are so integral to character development-- it all leaves one constantly inspired to think, "Ah, yes. That's good" or "That works." Physical and close-call action are thrillingly carried out, with the fight on the space drill being one of many dizzyingly superb highlights.

In a nod to history and tradition, Leonard Nimoy is brought in from the future in a part that's more than a cameo. As Spock "Prime," an agent of validation, he does a fine job of anointing the U.S.S. Enterprise with favor at its birth, along with approval of its newly assembled mates and his trouble-making adolescent self who needs a push in the right direction. Benediction and self-therapy completed.

Michael Gicaccino's soundtrack does, at times, get overcooked but mostly supports the cosmic dynamics. The visual side is ably fostered by Dan Mindel's camerawork and, as astute a team of CGI artists as there is works their magic.

But, mostly, it's Abrams and the writing team who hitch their star to this voyage and juice it up to meet the future of the Federation and the questioning universe. Long may it journey alongside James Bond and other competitive travelers.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  


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Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine
Spock and Captain James T. Kirk in their before-life

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