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Not just for Trekkies

Posted: Thursday, May 14, 2009

I can count the number of "Star Trek" episodes I have seen on one hand. Actually, I could count the number on one hand if I had just suffered a horrible fire-cracker accident in which I lost all five fingers. You follow me? Undoubtedly I missed several subtle references to the long-running television series in J.J. Abrams' new movie. That did not stop me from thoroughly enjoying Abrams' presentation, and I suspect the film will be equally pleasing to full-blown Trekkie nerds - excuse me... folks. Trekkie folks.

Even non-Trekkies like me know enough about "Star Trek" to be familiar with the names Kirk and Spock. Chances are good, too, that we have all heard lines like "Beam me up, Scotty!" and "I'm giving it all she's got, Captain!" Certainly the Enterprise is globally recognized. So when J.J. Abrams (if you've read my stuff before you know I'm a huge fan) took on a sort of origins look at "Star Trek," there were plenty of ways he could screw it up.

He could have gone too far to dumb down the Trekkie-ness for folks like me, thus irking Trekkie Nation. Or he could have done the opposite, making it impossible for non-Trekkies to like the film. For my money, and speaking obviously as a non-Trekkie, Abrams found a happy medium.

Writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kertzman begin the film with the tragic, and heroic, death of James T. Kirk's father, George (Chris Hemsworth). As Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood, a superb fit as per usual) later says to Kirk (Chris Pine), "Your father was captain of the starship for 12 minutes. He saved 800 lives." In classic Abrams style, simply having Kirk's father die in tragic/heroic fashion isn't enough. Simultaneously, being evacuated without him at his own orders, George's wife is giving birth to James. In George's final seconds, he helps his wife (via intercom) name their son, and tells her he loves her.

Abrams ("Mission: Impossible III") isn't happy unless you're on the edge of your seat, unable to relax, and fighting back tears. I'll admit he got me pretty good in the opening moments of "Star Trek." After this setup, Abrams is nice enough to give you about 27 seconds to take a breath. Then he immediately throws you back into anxiety with a young James T. Kirk speeding down a dirt road in a car he's apparently stolen. Oh, and there's a cop chasing him. Oh, and he is purposely driving at more than 90 miles per hour toward a cliff.

James T. Kirk, it would seem, is a hothead. Trekkies probably don't need to be told that. It's useful background, however, for people of my ilk. In fact, it's quite possible that "Star Trek" might be more interesting to non-Trekkies than "Star Trek" experts. Abrams takes great care in exploring both Kirk and Spock (Zachary Quinto) as youngsters. For me, the movie was consistently interesting for the same reason I get so thoroughly enthralled with comic book flicks like last week's "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." I don't know all the history.

Fair warning, "Star Trek" includes a heavy dosage of time travel. In other words, prepare to be confused about some of the intricacies. The movie's villain, Nero (Eric Bana), seems like he may be confused as to the intricacies himself. Or maybe I was just projecting. Whatever the case, it doesn't really affect the ride.

"Star Trek" is a movie everyone can enjoy, Trekkies or otherwise. The reason is simple: J.J. Abrams, like James T. Kirk for the Enterprise, was the only man for the job.



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