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Star Trek ****

Is it worth $10? Yes 

Now this is how you make a comeback. 

It’s been seven years since the franchise’s last film, but the new, improved and exhilarating “Star Trek” is worth every second of the wait. In one sense it is an origin story of the maiden voyage of the starship Enterprise. In another (more important) sense it’s a creative re-imagining that’s respectful to its source material while earning the right to go in daring new directions.

After a harrowing opening sequence set in outer space, we catch up with a young and rebellious James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) in Iowa, where he hits on Uhura (Zoë Saldana) and gets into a bar fight with Star Fleet cadets. He’s then recruited to join Star Fleet by Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), whom fans of the original TV series know was the captain of the Enterprise in the (unaired) pilot episode. Meanwhile, Spock (Zachary Quinto, “Heroes”), struggles with his half human/half Vulcan identity, and he too decides to join Star Fleet.

Three years later the Enterprise sets out on its maiden voyage, and familiar characters with new faces abound: Chekhov (Anton Yelchin) is at the controls, Sulu (John Cho) is the pilot, and Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban) is the chief medical officer. Only Scotty (Simon Pegg) isn’t there yet, but his introduction is worth the wait. The enemy is a time-traveling Romulan named Nero (Eric Bana), who blames Spock Prime (Leonard Nimoy, the original Spock) for the death of his family and wants revenge.    

Director J.J. Abrams (“Lost”) gets spot-on performances from his talented ensemble, especially Quinto, who has big shoes to fill and Nimoy looking over his shoulder. Bana is great as the baddie, and Pine nicely captures the arrogance, playfulness and intelligence that allowed William Shatner to have so much success as Kirk. The action scenes are also expertly rendered, including a breathtaking “space dive” featuring Kirk and Sulu and the nicely paced finale.

Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman’s script offers plenty of nods to the original series and movies: We learn how McCoy got the nickname “Bones,” we hear Scotty and McCoy utter their most famous lines, and we see how Kirk beats the unbeatable Kobayashi Maru test. We also learn how the crew comes together, how Kirk becomes captain, and Uhura’s first name, which was never mentioned on the TV series. One quibble: The original score by Michael Giacchino is often overly dramatic; the famous “Star Trek” theme doesn’t come until the end credits.

It’s worth noting that Nimoy’s appearance is not just a desperate attempt to connect the old with the new. His presence as Spock is essential to the plot, and prudent: He allows for an “alternate reality” to manifest, which in turn opens the door for this new vision of the franchise to boldly go where it has never gone before.

Did you know?
Casting fun: Aside from Bana, director J.J. Abrams’ only other choice to play Nero was Russell Crowe. Also, contrary to some reports Matt Damon was never considered for the role of James T. Kirk.

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