LOS ANGELES — They have Leonard Nimoy, and they have all the trappings, gadgets and crew members of the starship Enterprise.
Yet even for a franchise that grew to six TV series and 10 previous movies, J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek is the wildest makeover ever to Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a future where humans have overcome their own squabbles and set out to make new enemies among the stars.
Everything that came before in the Trek universe used Roddenberry’s 1960s series as a launch point, so subsequent movies and shows formed a generally consistent history of the 21st to 24th centuries.
Using a tried-and-true Trek trick — the alternate reality — Abrams and company found a way to give Capt. James Kirk, First Officer Spock and their pals a new beginning and wide-open future.
“The key to this movie was to be inspired by, embrace and honour everything that’s come before, but with the first scene in the movie, we say we are going somewhere else,” Abrams said. “It eliminates that prequel dilemma of having it be just exposition because you know who lives and dies and how it plays out.
“This history has not been written, so it is beginning anew, and it is existing concurrent with the Trek that fans love.
“If they don’t like this movie, this movie acknowledges that that timeline is legit, and go watch it. Go check it out. It’ll be on Blu-ray soon.”
The filmmakers have sleekly updated the sets, costumes, props and effects.
But fans will recognize the overall look, from the silhouette of the Enterprise to the gold, blue and red uniforms that are a throwback to the quaint outfits Nimoy, William Shatner and their ’60s co-stars wore.
Among the new faces, including Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock, fans will recognize a key player from the classic Trek.
Nimoy returns as the older Spock, pursued through time by a vengeful Romulan (Eric Bana) aiming to wipe out the human-led Federation.
Abrams, screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman and their collaborators hit on an intelligent design to resuscitate the franchise, Nimoy explained.
The last movie, 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis, was a flop, and the prequel series Enterprise was cancelled in 2005 amid dwindling ratings.
Yet Nimoy thinks the franchise is back where it was in 1982, when Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan provided a creative makeover after Star Trek: The Motion Picture proved visually dazzling but dramatically sterile.
“After the first film, I felt that Star Trek was a beached whale, and the second movie put it back in the water,” Nimoy said.
“This film hopefully will do the same thing.”