A bold new version of people "boldly going," "Star Trek" does for Gene Roddenberry's classic franchise what "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" failed to do for the mutants: give fans a respectful, entertaining look at the origins of iconic characters.
As you no doubt know by now, the plot follows the original Enterprise crew (we're talking Kirk and Spock, not Captain Archer, though Scott Bakula's character is referenced in the film) at their genesis, kicking off with a magnificent prologue that sees the birth of James Kirk (Chris Pine) on board a starship under attack by a mysterious Romulan vessel, his father at the helm of the ship.
Flash forward about 20 years, and we find Kirk a boozy townie, brilliant but gliding through life, until he's challenged by Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) to do better than his father, who captained a Starfleet vessel for 13 minutes.
You know a man of Kirk's personal pride has to say yes, and soon finds himself in Starfleet, famously reprogramming the no-win Kobayashi Maru simulation, finding trouble and glory in Starfleet.
Meanwhile, we learn that the Romulan vessel that attacked Kirk's daddy is from the future, captained by a man (Eric Bana) bent on revenge against Spock's aged self (played by Leonard Nimoy), and means to satisfy that vengeance against the more youthful version of the Vulcan (Zachary Quinto).
Director JJ Abrams ("Mission: Impossible III") and screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman ("Transformers") deviate from Trek canon in small ways, but manage to hold true to the Trek spirit and at times deftly manage what would otherwise be a lot of klunky, obtuse exposition, crafting a flick that's high on action, but lean on Trek's signature talkiness.
And they're not afraid to change the game with a few surprises thrown in to fans of classic Trek.
There is a completely ludicrous sequence near the film's midpoint where Kirk finds himself excommunicated from the Enterprise onto a snowy planet that happens to have a Federation outpost nearby. Guess who also happens to be marooned on the planet? That's right, Old Spock.
The sequence brings the film to a halt, and is designed only to make way for a useless creature attack, then to bring us up to speed on the plotline (and note that we're now treading out of established Trek canon into an alternate timeline).
The ridiculous sequence culminates with Spock and Kirk trudging through the snow Rura Penthe-style, reaching the outpost only to find Scotty (Simon Pegg) toiling there for crimes against an admiral.
The action eschews the static-shipped submarine-type battles of your father's Trek for a more kinetic, dare-I-say-Star-Wars brand of dogfight action.
But fear not, Abrams and Co. do the forefathers justice, injecting humor without parody and giving the crew fun conflicts we know aren't destined to last.
The performances are all good, especially Quinto as the perfect Spock for our generation, Zoe Saldana giving Uhura more sass and attitude than Nichelle Nichols ever did, and Karl Urban instantly becoming the quintessential Bones (sorry, DeForrest Kelley).
Eric Bana's baddie is a trifle constipated, and at times seems more like a generic alien bad guy than the Romulans Trek fans have come to know and loathe, but it hardly matters.
"Star Trek" is a fantastic romp through the stars and back again, the first summer movie you have to go out of your way to check out in the theater.
Rating: 5 Yaps out of 5