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DVD Review: Star Trek

More than 40 years after the USS Enterprise first launched, J.J. Abrams sexed up Star Trek for the modern age with his big-screen edition, banking more than $75 million from the opening weekend alone. Mixing sleek production value, high-voltage action and a nubile cast of fresh faces, Abrams managed to make the film his own, while paying tongue-in-cheek homage to the original, minus derision.

In the DVD edition, which arrived this week, fans and films geeks alike can go behind the scenes with the peripatetic director and the other minds behind Star Trek‘s makeover. From the commentary edition to the gag reel, each component offers a glimpse at the producers’ creative process in transforming Gene Roddenberry‘s 1960s brainchild for 2009. The extras are as slick as the movie itself, with fantastic trivia tidbits (sorry, die-hards: Spock’s birth was axed from the final cut), and cool, low-tech production tricks that smarty-pants production folks thought of on the fly.

Watching an effects specialist, for example, rattle his the desk with his editing station to make it look like the young James Kirk (Chris Pine) is really hurtling through the air, makes the film’s high-tech qualities feel accessible. That small revelation actually exemplifies Abrams’ approach to Star Trek as a whole: In the DVD’s behind-the-scenes segment, the director and his colleagues discuss how they hoped to blend new technology with filmmaking basics — like using real film in a widescreen format, and eschewing a green screen whenever possible.

For the tech-averse (or just plain Luddites) among us, however, the DVD offers the same thing that the film did in theaters: good, old-fashioned fun. Fans of the original 1960s Star Trek — aka, those who knew who William Shatner was before Priceline.com existed — have known for years that the terrestrial series was sexy. Tight Federation uniforms! Hot commanders, stuck together on a spaceship! Danger lurking around every planet! Those manly Klingon ridges…

In the new version, hunk-to-be Pine pounds his chest and asserts his mischievous brand of baddie-fighting alongside fellow up-and-coming stars, including Heroes mainstay Zachary Quinto as a conflicted Spock, the lithe Zoë Saldana as Uhura (who still rocks those knee-high boots, even during enemy attack) and Harold & Kumar star John Cho as a sword-slinging Sulu. One of the new Star Trek‘s funniest motifs is the over-use of each character’s classic lines from the original. Abrams’s version taps into everything from Bones’s harried refrain, “I’m a doctor, Jim!,” to “Beam me up, Scotty.”

Describing his philosophy for the Star Trek‘s movie, co-writer/producer Alex Kurtzman says in the DVD extras that he and his cohorts set out to bring a little rock and roll to the franchise. Ultimately, it’s that bad-ass ‘tude and infectious energy that makes the old Enterprise space-worthy for the 21st century.

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