I'm just home from the Melbourne preview of J.J. Abram's reboot of the Star Trek franchise, and am still buzzing from seeing such a fun, fantastic and vibrant film - and I'm not even a Star Trek fan!
Unlike the Star Wars prequels, which took my childhood memories and warped them into a bloated, boring, badly-scripted and tedious trilogy, Abram's vividly realised Star Trek prequel has wit, warmth, sex appeal and humour aplenty - as well as lashings of action, drama and derring-do. It's instantly familiar, but incredibly fresh, with superb performances all round (save perhaps for Eric Bana, who is somewhat hampered by the limitations of his character: the Romulan villain, Nero; and a rather miscast Winona Ryder as Spock's human mother) matched by an equally strong script and cinematography.
Without going into spoilers, the film's time-twisting plot both establishes and excuses some subtle and not-so-subtle tweaks to Star Trek canon, and sets the stage for some wonderful set pieces, such a truly emotional sequence early in the film showing Kirk's birth; a breathtaking free-fall from space towards a mining platform situated high above an alien planet; and Kirk's struggle to escape a CGI alien in a pulse-racing sequence that would have had Gene Roddenberry drooling with envy.
The plot is - on one level at least - a relatively simple one. This new Star Trek is the origin story, telling how the Enterprise crew we know (and maybe love) first meet at Starfleet.
Chris Pine makes a handsome, arrogant and strong-headed James T. Kirk; Karl Urban is excellent as medical officer Leonard 'Bones' McCoy; and Simon Pegg brings just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek humour to his role as the man who's destined to be engineer of the Enterprise, Montgomery 'Scotty' Scott. In perhaps the film's most difficult role, Zachary Quinto plays the perfect Mr Spock - tricky, when the originator of the role, Leonard Nimoy, is also in the film. Did I mention the time travel aspect to proceedings?
Supporting characters - Zoe Saldana as the slightly underwritten Uhura, Anton Yelchin as Chekov (who plays a scene which both satirises and celebrates his thick Russian accent just beautifully), and John Cho as Sulu - are also excellent, though by necessity they share less screen time than the main players.
In short, this is a film that rarely puts a foot wrong. Its exuberant take on the well-establishedworld of Roddenberry's Star Trek universe is sure to delight old fans and newcomers alike. I really, really liked it - as did the seven or eight friends and colleagues of mine who also saw it tonight.
Star Trek opens nationally across Australia on May 7.