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Star Trek: Warp Speed Ahead

rsz_star_trek_2009_poster_1Revamped ‘Trek’ will live long and prosper because it boldly goes where no ‘Star Trek’ has gone before

Tricky time-space continuums, a nasty thirst for revenge and stealing kisses with Uhura aren’t the only things that will make your head turn—or your mind spin—in Star Trek. The acting is above par (good news indeed), the script is (relatively) tight and there are actual moments of real suspense. It’s the latter that may stun most because the last time audiences felt more than an inkling of suspense in a Trek film it was back in 1986 with Star Trek IV.

But this isn’t your father’s Star Trek. Not anymore.

It’s director J.J. Abrams’ (Alias, Lost)—at least for now. Actually, it’s really the Trek of Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the hot writing team behind Transformers and TV’s Fringe. Together, they create a bold new Trek, one that offers just the right amount of nuances from the iconic franchise— the ’60s series, 10 films and four other weekly shows throughout the decades—and more than enough fast-paced techo panache to keep you invested in the story.

And what a story it is. True, some diehard convention-hopping Trekkies may scratch their fake Klingon foreheads after coming out of this one, but by the time the credits roll, it’s hard not to embrace just how well Abrams and Co. have rescued a faded film franchise from its own black hole.

Already generating buzz is the main storyline—and for those who want to be completely surprised, don’t read any further—which revolves around a renegade Romulan (Eric Bana as Nero) who’s traveled through time seeking revenge on a Trek character. That very act tweaks that timeline the franchise has always been fond of toying with, especially in its series. As a result, the Trek history we’ve all come to know—at least for those who’ve been paying attention to it—is sent into warp drive to another creative galaxy, far, far away here.

That’s not to say all Trek lore is lost. It’s not. In fact, most of it is still there, but slightly altered and, truthfully, the tweaked Trek we’re seeing makes sense considering the script.

But beyond this outing’s time travel element—cleverly used to foster future films no doubt—this is ultimately the tale of the origins of Captain James T. Kirk (a noteworthy Chris Pine) and Spock (Heroes’ Zachary Quinto in a defining role), and how destiny demands their inevitable partnership. In fact, both the writers and director manage to evoke emotion if not intrigue in the way they handle the backstories of these iconic characters: on Vulcan, young Spock decides how to integrate his emotional side (from his human mother, played by Wynona Ryder); a rebellious Kirk happily leaves his Iowa home for adventure at Starfleet Academy; Spock’s rise at Starfleet intersects with Kirk’s rambunctious reinterpretation of passing mission simulations; tensions mount as the two become “rivals” on the very first mission of the USS Enterprise.

Actually, the interchanges between Pine and Quinto are engaging to watch. Pine, in particular, seems to have mastered his Kirkisms—the confidence, the horndogginess, that punctuated speech pattern—without seeming over-the-top or that he’s mocking originator William Shatner. Quinto’s fresh youthful vigor gives Spock both the humanity and groundedness the role requires but even the most unmovable Vulcan eyebrows might rise at how the writers toss in enough flirtations between Kirk and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Uhura and Spock. (Star Trek 2: The Love Triangle?) But what gives this Trek much of its thrust is the complex emotional dynamics Pine and Quinto bring to life. (Although, it’s really a Spock-driven picture when all is said and done and looking back, the best Trek films always were.)

Other Trek characters are just fine in Abrams’ capable hands. Karl Urban stands out as a pitch-perfect Dr. Bones McCoy—he’ll have you captivated upon first meeting—and Simon Pegg, who could not have been better cast as young engineer-in-the-making Scotty. John Cho morphs into a surprisingly athletic Sulu, Anton Yelchin is Chekov.

There’s plenty of action in between all this and Abrams choreographs it all to winning ends. A breathtaking sequence in which Kirk and Sulu are spit out of a shuttle and sent sailing down like torpedoes toward the planet Vulcan to thwart an enemy attack stands out. Another segment finds Kirk banished to a frozen tundra where he battles gigantic creatures more likely found in something like Land of the Lost.

The only stumbling block occurs when an older Spock (Leonard Nimoy) surfaces. His explanation of how (or when) he’s arrived feels slightly contrived but even that doesn’t take away from an otherwise invigorating outing, one which, up to its very last battle sequence, keeps you guessing on what sort of Trek we’ll end up with in the future.

By the looks of it, a good one.

 

STAR TREK

***1/2 (out of four)

With John Cho, Ben Cross, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Winona Ryder, Zoë Saldana, Karl Urban and Anton Yelchin. With Eric Bana and Leonard Nimoy. Written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. Directed by J.J. Abrams.

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Three major celestial events occur this week. Wednesday, the Sun enters Leo, highlighting the heart center of everyone. Leo is a sign of deep sensitivity (along with Cancer). Wednesday is also the feast day of St. Mary Magdalene, one of the most misunderstood women in the Bible. Saturday, July 25, Venus turns stationary retrograde at 0 Virgo (progressed Regulus, the Law, Hall of Records). Venus retrogrades for 44 days and nights, forming one petal of a five-pointed rosy star (pentagram) in the sky (five retrogrades over eight years = star). Venus retrograde turns values upside down. Our usual sense of beauty, values, the real price of things, relationships—all turn into a bundle of confusion. We don’t seem to know anything. Luxury goods are mispriced, values are jumbled, we wonder who that person is we’re in relationship with. We don’t know where our money is or where it’s gone. Venus, in daily life, represents values (resources, money, possessions and quality of relationships). Venus retrograde asks, “What do I value?” Venus retrograde puts us in touch with what has changed and what is truly of value in our lives. Venus retrogrades from 0 Virgo to 14 degrees Leo (July 25-Sept. 6). Leo is about the self and our creativity, which is how we come to know and value ourselves. We “know ourselves through what we create.” In Venus (values) retrograde (inner focus) we will ask, “What are values (not just money and finances)? What are my values? What do I create? How do I value my creations? Do I value myself?” Sunday, Uranus—planet of all things new, revelatory and revolutionary—also retrogrades (from 20 to 16 degrees Aries) until the full moon of Christmas Day. Five months of Uranus retrograde. In July and continuing on through the following months we have many planets retrograding. Things therefore slow down. Everyone’s focus becomes subjective, hidden by veils and curtains. A time when inner reserves of strength are available. A time of protection.

 

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Film, Times & Events: Week of July 24

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