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Star Trek: Rescue mission
Prequel successfully revives the franchise
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The Star Trek prequel should please fans and Paramount
The Star Trek prequel should please fans and Paramount accountants.

Many of you will be happy to learn that Star Trek - the 11th movie in the science fiction TV-and-film series - definitively breaks the notorious odd-numbered curse. That's the supposed continuing jinx in which even-numbered Star Trek sequels turn out to be good, while odd-numbered ones are crummy or disappointing.

The new Star Trek is an odd-numbered sequel that pretty much blows the house down. It pleases on several levels: by reintroducing us to the entire '60s Enterprise crew - headed by new actors Chris Pine as the new Captain James T. Kirk and Zachary Quinto as the new First Officer Spock - by showing us how they met, and by piling on one technically virtuosic, shoot-the-works action scene after another.

Evil, ugly, well-equipped Romulan space villains intent on planetary genocide, and led by the obsessed Nero (Eric Bana), run up against the maiden voyage of the crew of the Starship Enterprise: a band of cocky kids, including Kirk, Spock, Doc "Bones" McCoy, Uhura, Sulu and all the rest, most of them just out of Starfleet Academy and eager to strut their space stuff.

The movie, directed by J.J. Abrams of Mission: Impossible III and TV's Lost, is almost continuously exciting. The camera rarely stops racing through sets and planet-scapes that are jaw-droppers. The action is hellacious, and the effects are mind-boggling. Meanwhile, the emotional-Kirk/logical-Spock clash keeps crashing down like surf. Fans of quieter, more thoughtful fare - like, ironically, the original TV show - might begin to feel as if they're on overload. But the mass-audience action crowd and most Trek fans should be pretty happy. So should Paramount's accountants.

The new movie wisely pays tribute to the old guard, making a fond and witty transition from the first cast to their well-chosen counterparts. Pine is almost as cocky as William Shatner; Quinto has an eerie resemblance to Leonard Nimoy. The other actors are all nice fits: Zoe Saldana as a sexy, sassy Uhura, John Cho as a hyper-aware Sulu, and Anton Yelchin as an excitable Chekov - with special high marks going to Karl Urban's youthfully irascible McCoy and Simon Pegg (of Shaun of the Dead), very funny as, natch, Scotty.

One element crucial to the Gene Roddenberry Star Trek mythos seems less evident here: the show's predilection for strong social themes. The original series attracted its fanatic following partly because of the cast's chemistry, partly because of its nods to literary science fiction, but also because its messages on universal peace, ecology and other humanistic social themes played so well in the '60s. This Star Trek is more of a blast-you-out-of-your-seats action movie. As such, it's fun, even a dynamic fresh start. Why ask for too much more?

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