We buy our tickets in an era in which remakes have given way to reboots, as good an indicator as any as to the degree to which major studios have planed away any remaining aspirations towards art in their respective business models. Instead creative efforts are tagged with the same term used to describe the latest outpost of a nationwide food chain, and possess a level of quality akin to mass-produced burgers. To find something operating well within that framework that also manages to be fresh, inventive, witty, smart and wildly entertaining is plainly stunning. Director J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek transcends its likely motivation, and arguably betters its revered predecessor. Along with credited screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, Abrams figures out a way to revive the science fiction saga by recreating its beginnings while cleverly preserving everything that’s come before. In crafting a reworked version of how the crew of the starship Enterprise came together, Abrams is respectful but cheeky, playing off the established tropes of his source material while demonstrating just how well Gene Roddenberry and his collaborators created endlessly fascinating character dynamics when they pulled together the original series over forty years ago. His game cast follows in perfect synchronization with this delicate dance, especially Chris Pine as James Tiberius Kirk, the man destined to captain the finest craft in the Federation fleet. Given the daunting task of following in William Shatner’s outsized spectral trail, Pine manages to evoke the actor’s distinctive rhythms without lapsing into parody. In the process, he makes the role his own.
(Posted simultaneously to “Jelly-Town!”)