Movie Review - 'Star Trek': That Final Frontier, Boldly Reapproached After six TV series and 10 motion pictures, you'd think there would be few places in the universe a starship could still "boldly go," if the point is going where no one has. NPR's Bob Mondello says you may be surprised.



'Star Trek': That Final Frontier, Boldly Reapproached

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You might think after six TV series and 10 movies, there would be few places the Federation starship could still boldly go where no one has gone before. But a new "Star Trek" movie opens tomorrow, and critic Bob Mondello says it just may surprise you.

BOB MONDELLO: If an opening 10 minutes of photon-blasting doesn't grab "Star Trek" fans by their collarless collars, the introduction of one of the major characters almost certainly will. He is sandy-haired, cocky, kind of charming, a risk-taker, and not real fond of being told what to do - as an electronic policeman discovers when he stops him on a joyride in a stolen car.

(Soundbite of movie, "Star Trek")

Mr. JEREMY FITZGERALD (Actor): (as Iowa Cop) What is your name?

Mr. JIMMY BENNETT (Actor): (as Young James T. Kirk) My name is James Tiberius Kirk.

MONDELLO: This baby Kirk only has a few moments of screen time — just enough to prove that director J.J. Abrams has rethought his "Star Trek" reboot from the ground up. A couple of scenes later, you'll recognize a more familiar Kirk, flirtatious in a collegiately Shatner-ish way, chatting up a pretty Starfleet cadet in a bar.

Mr. CHRIS PINE (Actor): (as James T. Kirk) If you don't tell me your name, I'm going to have to make one up.

Ms. ZOE SALDANA (Actress): (as Nyota Uhura) It's Uhura.

Mr. PINE: (as James T. Kirk) Uhura? No way, that's the name I was going to make up for you.

MONDELLO: And Kirk the patient listener surfaces a bit later, when a nervous student doctor is strapped in next to him on a space shuttle.

Mr. KARL URBAN (Actor): (as Dr. Leonard 'Bones' McCoy) I may throw up on you.

Mr. PINE: (as James T. Kirk) I think these things are pretty safe.

Mr. URBAN: (as Dr. Leonard 'Bones' McCoy) Don't pander to me, kid, one tiny crack in the hull and our blood boils in 13 seconds. A solar flare might crop up, cook us in our seats. And wait until you're sitting pretty with a case of Andorian shingles…

MONDELLO: Sparks of recognition? Well, the aim here is to court a new generation of fans without alienating the true believers who will be speaking Klingon in box office lines. Director Abrams was in diapers the year the original "Star Trek" series went on the air, but he's pledged to honor the past while bringing in cool young performers: Sulu, played by Harold without Kumar; Scotty, by that "Shaun of the Dead" guy.

And he promised to revive what was starting to seem like a walking dead franchise by replacing '60s techno-babble with something more modern. In short, to set phasers on stun with a killer opening sequence, beam up a bit of past-altering time travel to guarantee a new future, and make sure the new future stays familiar by keeping personality quirks front and center - especially Kirk's intuitional yin and Spock's rational yang.

Youth makes a big difference with these guys. Chris Pine's 20-something Kirk is a frat boy chafing at his every contact with logic-obsessed Spock, an academic nerd that Zachary Quinto makes so wet behind the pointy ears, you can't wait to see him lose his Vulcanized cool.

Mr. ZACHARY QUINTO (Actor): (as Spock) How did you manage to beam aboard this ship?

Mr. PINE: (as James T. Kirk) You're the genius, you figure it out.

Mr. QUINTO: (as Spock) As acting captain of this vessel, I order you to answer the question.

Mr. PINE: (as James T. Kirk) Well, I'm not telling, acting captain. What now, that doesn't frustrate you, does it, my lack of cooperation? That doesn't make you angry…

MONDELLO: While no villain was ever going to steal focus from these guys, the writers haven't done Eric Bana's snarling Romulan any favors. His nefariousness is so beside the point that the film takes a timeout to let Leonard Nimoy offer a benediction to the new cast. Of course, the point of a reboot isn't really to tell a tale, it's to ensure that the underlying enterprise can go on. Abrams has for sure done that, and if it feels towards the end of his "Star Trek" as if the plot has scattered to the edges of the known universe, well, it's hard to imagine anyone caring much why we're plunging ahead at warp speed, when the ride is so insanely satisfying. I'm Bob Mondello.

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