Enjoyable prequel, thirty years after the same-named debut of the series on the big screen. The chaotic and incoherent prologue might somewhat smother the emotional punch of the birth of James Tiberius Kirk at the same moment as his father’s death, but the reintroduction of the old familiar characters — the assembly of the changeless crew for the maiden voyage of the U.S.S. Enterprise — can’t help but be fun for initiates. Chris Pine’s Kirk, sounding as though modelled on no weightier a prototype than Christian Slater, starts out an obnoxious punk and fails to advance very far beyond that. Zachary Quinto’s Spock, on the other hand, has some big ears to fill and fills them fully, achieving that elusive goal of undemonstrative intensity. If it’s fair to say that the film, rather than stand on its own, benefits from the groundwork of its forerunners — if it safely and securely goes where others have gone before — it would also be fair to object that the speedy evolution of special effects since the last Star Trek outing, seven years previous, serves to render the “ensuing” adventures anticlimactic. Topping what came before — a petty enough creative impulse in the first place — is in effect topping what came “after.” That may not constitute disrespect, but it constitutes disproportion. Director J.J. Abrams’s preference for the rambling Steadicam and the trembling closeup reveals him further to be a man of trend as opposed to a man of tradition. With its gigantic hands-of-Freddy-Krueger enemy spaceship, its Mad Max-y tattooed heathens, and its gratuitous CG monsters, the film is, by the standards of the franchise, skimpy on ideas, apart from a bit of time-travel abracadabra that enables Spock to be two places and two ages at once. Which is to say, enables Leonard Nimoy to play a part. Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Eric Bana. (2009) — Duncan Shepherd
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