The director reinvented the ''Star Trek'' saga brilliantly enough to make him our entertainer of May

By Jeff Jensen
Updated May 29, 2009 at 04:00 AM EDT

When you’re a movie director, you know you’ve really made it when TMZ deems you a big enough celebrity to stalk at an airport. That finally happened to J.J. Abrams in May. Once known for writing soft stuff like Felicity and Regarding Henry, Abrams, 42, has reinvented himself as a Geek Lord with TV series Lost and Fringe — and, of course, the new Star Trek movie. His gift for thrilling spectacle, noodle-cooking ideas, and heartbreaking pathos is defining populist sci-fi for a generation.

He’d deserve a Starfleet commendation simply for Star Trek, his blockbuster reinvention of the 1960s cult classic, which has made instant movie stars of Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. Abrams succeeded at rehabbing an old pop enterprise into a state-of-the-art movie franchise that should boldly go go go for years to come. Defying skeptics, Abrams’ opus has grossed $191 million to date. Star Trek may not be the first hit of the summer season — but to everyone’s surprise, it may become one of the biggest.

While Lost (piloted by exec producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse) wrapped up another season as TV’s most intensely debated drama, Fringe finished its top-rated rookie year. After a clunky start, Abrams and his collaborators nurtured Fringe from X-Files wannabe into something uniquely creepy-cool, thanks in part to characters like Anna Torv’s Olivia Dunham, who once again affirms Abrams’ knack for creating compelling female heroes. May that kind of vision and talent live long and prosper.