When Spock (Leonard Nimoy) learns of a villainous Romulan's (Eric Bana) revenge plot to execute a young Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) via Time travel, he races to the rescue. In meeting Spock of the past (Zachary Quinto), Spock hopes to teach his younger self to save his future best friend's life. With the help of Scotty (Simon Pegg), Chekov (Antoh Yelchin), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Sulu (John Cho), and Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), Spock and Kirk must stop the enemy before history is dangerously altered...  

A franchise is reborn, at warp speed.

In Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s inspired universe, the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise set out to 'boldly go where no one has gone before." If only the same could be said of director J.J. Abrams and writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman.

Considering the franchise began on TV in 1966, spawned the first theatrical release in 1979 and nearly expired with the last edition, Star Trek: Nemesis, a worldwide flop in 2002, the creative team behind the 11th movie faced two major challenges.

The first was to virtually reinvent the franchise to reach out to audiences who either tired of the intergalactic adventures of Spock, Kirk, Nimoy & Co., or who were never converts. The second was to pull that off without losing the remaining fan base of Trekkies.

For my money, Abrams and the writers succeed brilliantly in reinvigorating the concept with a fresh young cast and an intriguing and occasionally amusing narrative about how the Starship crew came together. But the prequel is less compelling or credible on several counts. Firstly, there’s very little that’s new or original in the space craft, the device of teleporting, the beasties and the pyrotechnics. Secondly, despite the best efforts of a snarling, tattooed Eric Bana, the Romulan villain Captain Nero is a caricature of evil, lacking real menace. Thirdly, after a couple of shocking mortalities in the prologue, I never felt any of the crew was in jeopardy: we know they’re all going to survive.

Avoiding spoilers, let’s just say the superbly-orchestrated opener explains what happened to James Kirk’s father and why Nero bears a grudge which, 25 years later, sees him trying to exact a terrible revenge.

We see the young Spock being victimized by other kids because he’s half human/half Vulcan. We first meet James as a boy when he’s hooning along in a car, and later when he’s a cocky, rebellious teenager who gets beaten up in a bar. The Starship Enterprise makes its maiden voyage under Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood), responding to a distress signal from the planet Vulcan, which leads to the first of two encounters with Nero, major set-pieces with plenty of visual flair and explosions; however neither is what I’d call kick-ass.

At its heart, this is a story about Spock and Kirk, diametric opposites who initially distrust and hate each other before gradually forming a bond.

The casting is almost perfect, led by an outstanding Chris Pine as the conflicted Kirk, Zoë Soldana as the sexy but feisty Communications Officer Uhura, Kiwi Karl Urban as the sardonic Doctor 'Bones" McCoy, Simon Pegg as the hyper-active engineer Scotty, and John Cho as stoic helmsman Sulu. Anton Yelchin is merely OK as the teenage Russian officer Chekov, although I find his thick accent grated.

Given the most difficult assignment as the mostly cold and unemotional Spock, Zachary Quinto does a fair job in conveying the character’s inner turmoil and his affection for Uhura. The original Spock Leonard Nimoy brings a reassuring gravitas and dignity to his role as a futuristic Spock. As noted, Bana’s Nero is a weak link, but I blame that on the writing rather than any lack of acting skill.

In sum, Star Trek is a big, loud, fast-paced, spectacular and intermittently exciting sci-fi adventure. What it isn’t, in my view, is emotionally involving. Early US buzz indicates some Trek fans are hailing the latest incarnation for packing more thrills, energy and humour than anything the franchise has yielded since the 1980s. Paramount has already commissioned a follow-up.