I’ll get something out of the way right now, just so you know what to expect from this review: I am in no way a “Trekker”, nor have I seen every film and television series in the vast Star Trek canon which has existed for close to 45 years. I own a few of the early films on DVD, yet I’ve only managed to watch Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, a fantastic film which is frequently hailed as the high watermark of the series. I also own two seasons of the Original Series, a program I enjoy as much for its kitsch and camp factor as I do for its well-written plotlines and characters. Outside of that, I have little knowledge of the Star Trek universe. The subsequent TV series, including Deep Space Nine, Enterprise and others whose titles escape my memory, always seemed too cerebral and obtuse for me to fully embrace. Enter J.J. Abrams and screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. Abrams is someone who’s work I’ve been warming up to, although it’s more for his cinematic endeavors and less for his much-lauded TV work. I don’t watch much scripted television, so you can’t count me among the many followers of Lost or Alias. He hit my radar after making what is arguably the best entry in the Mission: Impossible series, M:I:III, and for producing the best monster movie since 2005’s King Kong, Cloverfield. One thing that has struck me about the man is that he has a penchant for thinking outside of the genre box, so even though I was fairly indifferent to seeing a new Star Trek film on the big screen, the attachment of Abrams as director did pique my interest. As for Orci and Kurtzman, the duo is most well-known for writing 2007’s Transformers, a fact that had me worried until I read that they were both hardcore Trek nerds. That fact alone didn’t make me anticipate the film any more or less, but it did tell me that they were bound to treat the characters with far more respect than anyone speaking a line from Michael Bay’s robotic orgy. Now there was some dreadful dialogue. This film has a tightly-woven, intricate plot, but it’s not so technical that viewers will be lost. Think of it as Star Trek with a Star Wars sensibility. Sure, there’s lots of geek speak, but nothing so nerdy that you’ll need a detailed post-film breakdown to figure it out. The film is a re-boot to the classic series, tracing the origins of the characters of James T. Kirk and Spock, while also detailing how they came to work with Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, Scotty, Sulu, Chekov and Uhura. Interwoven within that story is the revenge tale of Nero, a Romulan who has traveled through time searching for Spock, whom he holds responsible for the future destruction of his home planet, Romulus. Though the film is ostensibly focused on providing background on all of the classic crew members, this film is undoubtedly Spock’s. Played here by Zachary Quinto, and, thanks to the disruption of the space-time continuum, Leonard Nimoy, the film traces Spock’s history, from his childhood as a social outcast to his adolescent struggles with his own inner turmoil. Being a human/Vulcan hybrid, he is constantly in a state of inner turmoil, never quite sure whether to fully embrace his emotionless and logical Vulcan heritage, or to express his constant stream of very real emotion as a human would. Nimoy owns this role and it’s what he’ll always be remembered for, so I have no qualms with his acting here. Hell, I can hardly accept seeing the man without his trademark haircut and pointed ears. Quinto, on the other hand, took some getting used to. Initially, I had reservations about whether or not he was right for the part. His acting style seemed too schizophrenic and uneven, but then I realized that he was mirroring Spock’s inner conflict, so his performance was bound to be as such. Make no mistake, Spock is a much different incarnation here; he has a furious temper in addition to a love life, which some purists may or may not be able to accept. Still, by the end of the film Quinto’s Spock fit in perfectly with the rest of the crew on the bridge. Spock may have been the film’s primary focus, but almost as much attention is focused on the birth, childhood and start at the academy of James T. Kirk. Famously portrayed with ham-fisted, scene-chewing panache courtesy of William Shatner, here the role is taken over by Chris Pike. Pike still has that cocky swagger that made Kirk such a memorable character, but he’s also a much tougher man. Gone is the stilted dialogue that has become a trademark of Shatner’s; Pike is headstrong and confident without resorting to cheesy mannerisms. His rapid ascent to Captain of a Federation Starship is the most-convincing of the crew’s many promotions (more on that minor gripe in a bit). I’m glad the role didn’t go to Matt Damon, as had been rumored, because a role like this calls for a relatively unknown actor and, though Pike may be limited in range, he has the necessary chops to lead the film series. The rest of the cast is mostly spot-on, save for one: Sulu. Now, I realize it’s hard for anyone to step into George Takei’s signature role, but I think this called for an unknown actor rather than everyone’s favorite bong-loading White Castle fetishist, John Cho. You know, the Asian guy from Harold & Kumar. I don’t think he’s necessarily a weak link, but I just don’t think he fit the role as well as his other compatriots. My personal favorite was Karl Urban as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy. Urban is mainly known for heavy fantasy epics like Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Riddick and TV series like Xena: Warrior Princess. I’ll tell you this much, the guy has some impressive comedic chops in addition to perfectly channeling DeForest Kelley (the original Dr. McCoy) without resorting to complete imitation. He was easily the highlight of the supporting cast. I’m a Simon Pegg fan, so I didn’t mind him taking over the role of Scotty. I’m just glad they didn’t somehow figure out a way to pair him up with Nick Frost, because that would have really thrown off the film’s balance. Pegg is a bit goofier than James Doohan’s Scotty, but not so much that it’s a distraction. I enjoyed the comedic relief he brought to some of the film’s more intense scenes. Everyone else works well enough. Zoe Saldana does a good job in the role of Nyoda Uhura, Spock’s secret love interest. Aside from providing an angle for a potential love triangle, there really isn’t a lot for her to do. Same with Anton Yelchin as Chekov, although he does provide some laughs thanks to his thick accent. I really dug Bruce Greenwood as Capt. Christopher Pike. He’s one of those strong character actors that makes you say, “Hey, I know that guy from somewhere”, yet you can’t put a name to the face. Keep an eye out for Tyler Perry as a court official. Yes, that Tyler Perry. You know what? The guy might make atrocious films but he is perfectly acceptable here. At least we know he can act when he wants to. Still reading? I’ll attempt to make the rest a bit briefer; brevity is obviously not a strong point with me. The effects here are superb. Everything is impressive; even my girlfriend commented on how awesome the effects were and she rarely gives a rat’s ass about things of that sort. Nero’s Romulan mining vessel left me completely awestruck the first time it makes an appearance. All of the landscapes, planets, interstellar constellations and alien races are so believable as to provide an almost tangible appearance. It’s not too hard to envision people inhabiting these worlds. The space battles are intense as well. Well, I felt like the entire last half of the film was intense, but the battles are just plain awesome. I’ve already touched on the writing and direction, both of which are impeccable. I never thought I could enjoy a Star Trek film this much and, yet, that’s exactly what this one has managed to do. I think that’s an edge that will allow this film to have some real legs at the box office: the ability to get non-Trekkers on-board. Forget whatever preconceived notions you have of a Star Trek film, because this isn’t your nerdy, virginal 42-year old co-workers Star Trek. It’s smart, sharp, witty and intensely savage at times. Everything you wouldn’t expect from a film of this ilk. I highly recommend you see this on an IMAX screen because it’s fucking insane. I have no doubt I’ll go back for one more round before the film is out of theaters.