J.J. Abrams Goes Into Warp Speed with Star Trek 2 and Beyond

First let me state that I am a die-hard, green-blooded, seen every episode ten times, balls-to-bones Star Trek fan. Not hardcore enough to go to conventions in stupid costumes, but definitely no Trek neophyte. I've had serious doubts about the 're-imagining' of the franchise. I do not worship at the alter of J.J. Abrams. Lost, Felicity, Alias, the pile of manure that was MI:3, Fringe, not even remotely impressed. Cloverfield was the only Abrams project that didn't illicit yawns. So naturally I was chomping at the bit when Paramount invited us to a sneak peak of next summer's Star Trek.

The dog and pony show was out. Paramount brass lining the walls, video screens showing ship specs, huge one-sheets of the characters. Nonsense, show me the damn movie. Abrams walks out after a thorough brown-nosing intro from the head Paramount guy. First words out of Abram's mouth, and I'm being dead serious, "I'm not a Star Trek fan."

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Really? Not the way to open a promo of Star Trek, especially after the light smattering of boos. But Abrams gets its together, blabs on about his team and the casting, and finally, we get to see the clips. I must be honest... they were FREAKING AWESOME. Oh yes, what we saw did not suck, in fact it looked damned good, EPIC. Abrams chose the four clips wisely. They essentially show the character development of Kirk (Chris Pine) and how he takes command of the Enterprise. The film has a HUGE feel to it. The character drama is very convincing, not impersonations of the original cast at all. They looked and felt like the characters we've grown to love, but were different...in a good way. And the action, wow, I think this is where Abrams saw his chance to ratchet up the franchise. We saw some tremendous effects scenes, gripping and ultra-realistic. We were all blown away by the intensity.

Here's a quick synopsis...

Clip One - Iowa

We see massive cornfields with machinery in the distance. It closes in and the Enterprise is under construction. Fades to night, camera pans over to a small out-cropping where a bar is neon lit. Inside, the smoking hot Uhuru (Zoe Saldana), is ordering a drink. Kirk (Chris Pine), all swagger, saunters up to the bar and tries to hit on her. She's not too impressed, then a bunch of Star Fleet cadets walk up to the bar. Kirk laughs them off and continues to mack, but is then sucker punched by a red shirt. The fight is on, Kirk puts up a show, but is pretty much beaten to a pulp.

In walks Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood), he sends the cadets out and looks at the beaten Kirk. After reading his record, he pulls Kirk up and tells him that he knew his father. He tells him how heroic Kirk's father had been. How he died in his first twelve minutes of command, but saved his crew, his wife, and his unborn child. And that if he wanted a life worth a damn, the transport for Star Fleet Academy was leaving in the morning.

The next day, Kirk is driving his vintage motorcycle to the transport docks. Pulls up, gives his bike away, then says to Pike, "You said I could graduate the academy in four years...I'll do it in three."

Clip Two - Attack on Vulcan

The planet Vulcan is in distress, a space lightning storm has cut it off. The Federation has dispatched ships to investigate. The Enterprise is on its maiden voyage under Captain Pike. Kirk is snuck unto the ship by his pal Leonard 'Bones' McCoy (Karl Urban). Bones gives Kirk a vaccine to feign illness, but it has humorous side effects.

We get our first look at the antagonist, Romulan bad guy Nero (Eric Bana). The Romulans are in a giant rib-cage like ship over Vulcan. Hanging below, on a spinal cord-like tether, a drilling platform is blasting a hole into the planet.

Chekov, played brilliantly by Anton Yelchin, is delivering a briefing to the crew from the bridge. Kirk hears it and races out of sick bay to find Uhuru. They go to the bridge to speak to Pike. Spock (Zachary Quinto) is dismayed to see Kirk on the Enterprise. Kirk pleads that they are going into an ambush. That Uhuru had detected Romulan chatter. That this was the same tactic used to destroy his father's ship. Pike radios the fleet ahead and gets no response. They go to red alert. He instantly promotes Uhuru to communications officer. They drop out of warp in the midst of a giant space battle. The Romulans are destroying the Federation fleet.

Clip Three - Reunited with the Old Spock

Kirk has been banished off the Enterprise to a distant colony by Spock. To his surprise, he finds another Spock (Leonard Nimoy) waiting for him. He tells him that he has come from the future for this specific task of getting him back to the ship. Spock takes him to an old space dock, where an irate and bored engineer has been put into a bad assignment. Scotty (Simon Pegg) doesn't believe a word out of Spock's mouth. Especially when Spock tells him that in the future, he will be one of Star Fleet's greatest ship engineers, and his groundbreaking discovery - how to beam to a ship in hyperspace. Spock convinces Kirk and Scotty to make the attempt to beam back to the Enterprise. He tells Kirk that he can never mention their meeting, that the younger Spock is filled with rage, and that Kirk must take command of the ship if the Federation is to survive. He ends the scene with 'Live Long and Prosper.' It's actually quite moving.

Clip Four - Destroying the Drill

Nero has crippled the Enterprise and demanded Pike surrender personally. The ship has taken heavy damage and casualties. Pike walks to a shuttle with Kirk, Spock, Sulu (John Cho), and another red shirt - who we all know is doomed. The plan, Kirk and Sulu will space jump from the shuttle to the drill, and destroy it. Then Spock will beam them up and the Enterprise must escape for reinforcements. But before he leaves, Pike makes Kirk first officer, much to Spock's surprise, then promotes Spock to captain.

The space jump scene is incredible. They fall from the shuttle, through the atmosphere, and unto the drill platform. The other red shirt pulls up too late and is blown to bits by the energy drill. Kirk and Sulu kill the Romulans in an ass-kicking fight scene on the drill. But as they destroy the drill, Nero fires a probe into the Vulcan core that causes a massive earthquake.

Vulcan is minutes away from collapsing into a black hole. Spock issues a planetary evacuation. The medical officer has been killed. He promotes Bones McCoy and puts Chekov in command. He then leaves the ship to save the Vulcan high command, along with his mother (Wynona Ryder), who is with them.

Kirk and Sulu are hurtling to the core after the probe begins to destroy Vulcan. Chekov, being a bad-assed Russian with crazy teleporting skill, is able to beam them back unto the ship. Kirk is now in command with Spock on Vulcan.

Final Thoughts...

Very impressive. I went in with a healthy amount of skepticism, but was open to a new Star Trek for modern times. I guess you can't go too crazy over four clips, but I am pumped. Chris Pine pulls off playing Kirk with flying colors. I had not seen anything this guy's done, but from what we saw, he nails it, crushes it utterly, without becoming a caricature of William Shatner's Kirk. He's tough and cocky, but heroic and a natural leader. Kirk has guts and Pine play's him like that. I don't know how gradual the character development is over the course of the film, but the clips we saw showed the primary character in transition from the Iowa brawler to the legendary Star Fleet captain. May 8th can't come soon enough!