It’s a tribute to America’s irrepressibly charmed and fantastical optimism that films such as these get made, cartooned narratives in which smart and rebellious little boys grow up to become tongue-in-cheek galactic heroes with a little help from feel-good Manifest Destiny, Walter Mitty, and “Star Wars.”
Never mind that JJ Abrahms’ film is a prequel to the 1960s TV cult classic whose characters have been memorized and mimicked over decades, the point here is to drink to their “updated” youth. Abrams obliges with 21st century fun-for-the-family zeal. Zealous young captain Kirk is put through his sentimental paces to then emerge as a fully-formed precursor; same with ascetic Mr. Spock.
Credit Abrahams with being a good student of the first-born show. He and his mates combed through character traits and actor tics to develop credible similarities to the original cast. Thus, the thirty-something crew concocted by Gene Rodenberry (with arrogant William Shatner and arch Leonard Nimoy) is backwards reinvented through Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, the young Kirk and Spock. The friendship-forming is predictably heartwarming since we know it’s bound for sequel city.
This is back to the future ably mind-melded with beach blanket bingo. Unfortunately, the great peacekeeping mission in the sky never really graduates from high school (“I can’t wait to kick some Romulan ass.”) But that doesn’t blunt the good-natured fun. Now-octogenarian Nimoy puts in a long guest appearance. For some, time flies.