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Posted: May 13, 2009 12:01 a.m.

Not just for Trekkies

Courtesy of Paramount/Searchlight Pictures/

"Star Trek" is a rare gem of classic Hollywood filmmaking. Combining adventure, humor, dazzling special effects and just the right amount of absurd guilty pleasure, "Trek" brings back the "wow" feeling of going to the movies.

Many potential moviegoers might be less than inclined to spend their hard earned cash on a franchise seemingly overrun with decades of mythology that only the most loyal of fanboys can decipher, but "Trek" virgins need not fear. Director J.J. Abrams brilliantly tells a story that, while still true to past incarnations, begins with a clean slate. This allows new fans to be introduced to young incarnations of the crew of the Starship Enterprise.

The film begins with a spectacular space battle between a Federation ship and a gigantic craft piloted by a Romulan called Nero. After the Federation ship’s captain is killed in action, a young father to be named George Kirk takes the helm in a suicide mission to buy time for everyone else to evacuate. Among those transported from the ship are his wife and newborn son, James T. Kirk.

From here the story leaps forward several times, with each new scene explaining some part of Kirk and the Vulcan Spock’s very different childhoods. Kirk grows up as a fatherless rebel with no direction. Spock faces an inner battle between his logical Vulcan half and his emotional human half. The result is two very different people with very different views on life.

The two collide after Kirk enters Starfleet academy and beats an unbeatable test designed by Spock. The pair’s first confrontation is interrupted when Starfleet receives a distress signal near Spock’s home planet. This sets up a much larger battle between not only the Federation and Nero, but also between Kirk and Spock.

Abrams took a chance in casting two relative unknowns as the leads in his presumed blockbuster, but the risk pays off in a huge way. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are perfect as Kirk and Spock. The actors inhabit the roles in a way that makes it easy to forget William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy owned the characters for four decades. The actors take two very different approaches to their characters. Pine is brash and charismatic in a way that Kirk has never been before on screen. Quinto keeps more of Spock’s finer qualities, but adds a new level to the character as he battles a range of emotions.

The rest of the crew is equally well cast, particularly Simon Pegg as Scotty and Anton Yelchin as Pavel Chekov. Pegg in particular lends a great comedic edge in the later half of the film.

The rest of the credit goes to Abrams, who manages to bring something new not only to a stale franchise, but to science fiction as a genre. With any summer blockbuster, we have all come to expect great visual effects, but these are simply jaw dropping, particularly a midair fight on a drilling station.

It is only May, but "Trek" is the early leader for best movie of the year.

Grade: A

This movie is rated PG-13 and runs 126 minutes.

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