ADDOLEY DZEGEDE reviews (and illustrates) JJ Abramsís new Star Trek extravaganza.

AS I WRITE THIS, white petals floating on gusts of warm air swirl by the window. Birds are literally chirping, and the sun has cast an orange glow on the otherwise dull concrete of the building adjacent to my apartment. I say all this because it is nearly summer, and summer in the US, when our brains have melted into an icecream and entertainment-craving mess, is primetime for big, blockbusting action movies. It was such a day when, loosely familiar with Star Trek from a childhood spent with a sci-fi geek of a mom, but not much of a fan, I was dragged in from the sweet lethargy of a warm afternoon and thrust into the darkness of a cinema to watch the prolific JJ Abramsís Star Trek.

The film began on a surprisingly emotional note with the birth of James T. Kirk, coinciding with a set of life-or-death circumstances that quickly fed into the typical American love for all things heroic. This leads to the question, did I really have a tear forming in my eye within the first five minutes? Even avid Trekkies will be thrown into uncharted waters as a gargantuan squid-like Romulan mining ship and its vindictive, yet unfamiliar commander Nero (Eric Bana), bring technology from the future to destroy entire planets via blackhole.

Flash forward to young Kirk and Spockís childhoods that play out as one might imagine for their circumstances. Spock, of mixed Vulcan and human parentage, from the onset is faced with the conflict of emotion versus logic. After a bullying incident, he perseveres, living a lauded adolescence that is marked with restraint despite his ďdisabilityĒ. Skirt-chasing Kirk, on the other hand, has a devil-may-care attitude reminiscent of Thelma and Louise (and is subsequently played by Chris Pine, who canít help but bring to mind a younger Brad Pitt). Kirk absorbs all of lifeís blows (literally and figuratively), all the while plastered with a cocky smile. After a bar brawl, he is encouraged to leave the cornfields of Iowa to join the Starfleet by Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood), who sees a glimmer of heroism in Kirk.


Illustration by Addoley Dzegede

When Spock and Kirk are finally brought together, it becomes obvious to those with any knowledge of Star Trek that an altered history is being played out. In a mind-bending twist, it becomes a mystery how these two abrasive rivals can ever become best friends. Their rivalry even extends to a romantic level, where they both have eyes for the nubile yet nerdy Uhura (ZoŽ Saldana). The 1968 lip lock between William Shatnerís Captain Kirk and Nichelle Nicholsís Uhura is often noted as the first interracial kiss in the history of American television. However in this prequel it is the radiant beauty Spock (Zachary Quinto) who wins the girl. His emotional restraint comes across as confident and, dare I say, sexy.

Kirk is intelligent enough, but poor judgment seems to have thrust him into the role of cadet dunce. After he is punished for cheating and is banned from what is believed to be a routine mission to a lightning storm, he manages to take his first steps on to the USS Enterprise with the help of fellow black sheep Bones (Karl Urban). What ensues is a comical chain of events that eventually lead to his first important contribution and his appointment as first-officer to now Captain Spock.

The humour injected throughout the film is enhanced by the casting of actors normally associated with comedy (Simon Pegg hilarious as Scotty, wry John Cho cast as Sulu, and even an incongruent, albeit non-comic, cameo from Tyler Perry). In one instance, the Captain sends three cadets who claim to have combat experience on an orbital skydive to stop the destruction of planet Vulcan. Itís only after they leave that Kirk discovers Suluís combat training is in fencing.

The intergalactic action and conflict that follow never lose momentum. Abrams packs the action of Mission Impossible III (sans the creepy intensity of Tom Cruise) with a hint of the mind-bending logic of Lost. Transformer writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzmanís alternate-reality tale is a gathering of familiar characters that manages to stay fresh in its new packaging. The story delves into a full range of human (and also non-human) experience ó from love and camaraderie, to rivalry, revenge and even genocide. This altered history allows a creative break from the typical confinements of a well-established saga. While Star Trek is by no means an intellectual feat, it manages to be a stunning example of a noteworthy summer blockbuster. The crazy creatures, catastrophe, optimism and warp speed action may be just the thing for a lazy afternoon, no matter the season.