Thoughts on the new Star Trek movie

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Matt Barton's picture

I finally got to see the new Star Trek movie last night and thought I'd post a few thoughts on it while it's all fresh in my head. I'm going to assume you're familiar with the Star Trek mythos here.

The big question I went into the film with was whether J.J. Abrams gave a shite about the canon. My worst fear was that he'd try to "reinvent" it into something like Beverly Hills 90210 in space, but fortunately that didn't happen. The new cast was very well chosen, and it's possible at times to really see these actors as the younger incarnations--particularly McCoy, played by Karl Urban. Urban really did his homework, and his inflections and mannerisms are so spot-on it'll send chills down your spine. Chris Pine as Kirk does a good job as well.

Scotty and Chekhov are little more than comic relief; with Scotty acting like a total loon and Chekhov another Wesley with an severely exaggerated (even offensive) Russian accent. There's even a JarJar like character that follows Scotty around. I heard some 6-year old squeal a few times when the character was on screen, but thankfully they limited his appearances to two brief cameos. Let's hope they keep it that way.

I was wondering what they'd do with Sulu; I was thinking that they might portray him as frankly gay (given Takei's revelation). However, he's played very, uh, straight, without much chance to shine besides a fun fighting sequence. Even that, though, was a bit overdone. I so wanted him to pull out his old rapier and just whip the guy's ass. Of course, though, they have to have some kind of transformer weapons that look straight out of the Matrix.

Spock (Zachary Quinto) struggles the most, mostly because his part was poorly written and shows a surprising lack of understanding of Vulcan culture (at least as it's enshrined in the mythos). In short, they have him liplocking with Uhuru a few minutes after we meet his character, which in my opinion simply isn't Spock. I don't know who this is, but it's not the Spock we all hated and then grew to love in the original series. This Spock is far more emotional; his stoicism here is clearly only a facade and doesn't even make sense given the constraints of the movie itself. I thought one reason the short-lived series Star Trek Enterprise de-railed was precisely the same reason--they screwed up the Vulcans. Vulcans are not, repeat, not supposed to be sexy and/or caring. They are cold, dispassionate, severely unlikeable, and generally serve as foils to people like Kirk and, to a greater extent, McCoy. At least, that's Vulcans as I like to see them.

To wit, in the original series, the audience had to guess whether Spock actually had any feelings or not. Only slowly, over time, did we begin to see glimpses--cracks in the facade--that he wasn't quite as stoic and robotic as he pretended. Part of what makes the ending of Wrath so emotional is precisely that we have Kirk going nuts and Spock appearing to have to try to look concerned. There's just something miserable and pathetic about that scene (in a good way) that always jabs a knife in my heart. That's power. However, that facade shatters into a billion pieces about 5 minutes after we meet Spock in this movie. Poof. Hell, even Spock's dad is shown as an emotional being, admitting that he loved his wife and didn't really marry her because it made logical sense. It's like J.J. set out with a mission "to bring out the humanity in these Vulcans!" without realizing that was self-defeating.

In a nutshell, the entire movie is based on the concept of an "alternate reality," so everything that happens after an early part of Pike's career is now different. My only response to that is...sigh. I guess it's easier just to wipe the slate clean than try to deal with the canon and its enormous history. I'm not a nut when it comes to this stuff (I always think of comic book guy from the Simpsons), but even I thought this was a bit of a cheap copout.

I also felt Will Shatner's absence in this movie. It would have been so much better if Kirk and Spock had been present in their older selves, both going back to try to fix history. At least, that's my opinion. Hearing Leonard Nimoy read a (yet again) revised version of the "to boldly go" speech just didn't resonate with me the way it would have sounded coming from Shatner.

Probably the weakest part of the film is when Kirk crashes onto a planet and, miraculously, ends up within walking distance of a cave where the old Spock (Spock Prime) has been stranded much earlier. I mean, a whole planet....what are the odds? There are also several places where the high-intensity action scenes seem forced at best. I know that car chase scenes and what-not add pep for those with limited attention spans, but...who really gives a shite about those folks anyway? It's not like they're going to give a damn about Star Trek and would just as soon watch the latest Fast and Furious than Wrath of Khan.

Probably the biggest problem with the movie, though, is the villains. As usual, the threat meter is cranked up to 11 and some godlike beings from the future are going around destroying planets and threatening the universe or some such drivel. They are supposed to be Romulans, or at least reject Romulans...Or something. I don't know. I didn't really ever connect to them, and their suicidal quest to destroy Star Fleet was just barely credible. After you meet them for a few seconds, they fit neatly into the "psychopaths out to kill at any cost" and that's the end of their development. I mean, goddamn, didn't anyone learn ANYTHING from Wrath?? To be a really effective villain, you have to have some way to connect to him, even if it's on a sick and demented level. I mean, these guys are tatted up and even wear black trench coats for crying out loud. Stupid.

Overall, though, the movie works well for what it is. I'm more curious at this point about what will happen to the franchise. A new series? Will this prequel get a sequel?

My favorite reviewer remarked that the movie doesn't really get interested until after the climax and just before the credits roll. There's a fun moment after the baddies are destroyed where the crew is looking at themselves in a sort of, "Wow, we did that??? What now?" kind of mood that really worked well on screen. If I were directing the next movie, I'd make it all about bruising those now-inflated egos and making them work much harder for their next victory (or, indeed, showing how they deal with defeat).

Comments

Bill Loguidice
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I think Spock's personality

I think Spock's personality can be explained in the original pilot - the non-Shatner pilot. The character was rather more emotional. Not having seen it, but based on what you wrote, it makes sense to me. Besides, Spock is half human and part of the issue was always wrestling with the two sides, but ultimately the two side making him "better" than the average Vulcan.

There was no way for Kirk to be in the film since he was dead and/or banished to that other world in that Next Generation/STOS film. Also, Shatner's personality/presence would have been too much. If you want to reboot the franchise, you go low key and I think Nimoy/Spock would have been the way to go. Spock's character was the only one who lived through the Next Generation era AND an actor who's still actually alive and with it. Again, makes total sense there.

I'd love to see the film, I just don't think I'll get the chance.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Rob Daviau
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Me and my wife saw it, we

Me and my wife saw it, we are casual fans, we watch all the series and movies but don't dress up or go to conventions, well we did do the Star Trek experience in Vegas.....
Anyway we absolutely loved it. Thought the cast was great, funnier than expected and just the right amount of fan service. Sure we could go on and on but I will leave that to others as there will be no shortage of discussion I am sure. We were highly entertained and that as all we ask for the price of our ticket, it could have gone horribly wrong but I think it was a great "reboot" to satisfy current fans as well as bring in new ones..........

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Rowdy Rob
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ST News Report from "The Onion."

I haven't had a chance to see it yet, but here's a credible news report from "The Onion" news service. :-)

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Gashead (not verified)
Use of words

Good review Matt.

Not seen the movie yet.

What has caused me to post however is your use of the word shite! Fairly inconsequential you may think but I have never seen or heard an American use this word before. I'm from the UK where this word is common parlence. I just wondered where you picked this up? British TV or maybe a cultural exchange.

I am used to americanisms (is that a word) creeping into our speech but it is heartwarming to see the opposite happen!

If you want any more British swear words to drop into reviews please let me know as I am a mine of information.

Btw I got your Vintage Games book recently and I am really enjoying it.

Keep up the good work.

Bill Loguidice
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Potty mouths
Gashead wrote:

What has caused me to post however is your use of the word shite! Fairly inconsequential you may think but I have never seen or heard an American use this word before. I'm from the UK where this word is common parlence. I just wondered where you picked this up? British TV or maybe a cultural exchange.

We use "shite" occasionally here in America. I'm sure it's from all the British TV/movies we consume. I personally tend to think of it as a less offensive version of the word without the "e", though I do realize it's the same exact thing.

Hope you like the book and if you're so moved that you write an honest review on Amazon UK. Thanks!

Vintage Games book!
Xbox 360: billlog | Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Matt Barton
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LOL, I used "shite"

LOL, I used "shite" precisely for the reason Bill suggested--it's considered cuter and not as offensive as "shit." While both would probably get you in trouble if you said them in church, it's about the equivalent of "damn you" vs. "f*** you." The latter is patently offensive and will quickly alienate many people. Damn is much more tolerated, about the same level as bastard. "Bitch" is somewhere between f*** and shit in terms of offense, I suppose. Some of my friends got in the habit of calling each other "my bitch," something I found offensive and would not tolerate.

I enjoyed the cuss words in British programming. I'm not sure how many are real and how many were made up. For instance, the "sod off" in Blackadder, or the "smeghead" in Red Dwarf. I looked up "smeg" and it does indeed have gross connotations, but I don't know for sure.

At any rate, one more thought on STar Trek. One thing I thought had promise with Star Trek Enterprise was that humans were the "new kids on the block," so to speak, and that many alien races had never heard of them or thought they were not even worth paying attention to. I rather enjoyed that role reversal from the rest of the Star Trek shows (with the exception of Voyager, I suppose). There are many ways to make good movies based on the concept of how the humans managed to impress the other Federation races and work their way up the social ladder, so to speak.

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Gashead
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Sorry had to reply

Sorry I don't wish to turn your site into a discussion of the word shite or British swearing in general! But nevertheless I felt I would reply to you implied question regarding Black Adder and Red Dwarf. Also in the spirit of cultural understanding it is good to clear these things up (so to speak). For instance a friend of mine had someone from the US visiting recently and I got them to explain to me what a Twinky (spelling?) was as they seem to get mentioned continously in US films and TV.

Anyway in summary sod off is definately 'official' British swearing which everyone in the country will understand and use. Smeghead is an invention (or least I think it is happy to be proved wrong) by the Red Dwarf writers to get some swearing into their program under the radar. In someways a bit like Frak in Battlestar Galactica although as you say apparently the word smeg did previously exist it wasn't very well known and certainly not previously combined with 'head' as an insult.

Apologies again, my last word on the subject honest!

Sorry just broke my promise. This link is to the urban dictionary which records definitions of all such interesting and colourful language. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Shite

Right that really is it! No more ;)

Anonymous (not verified)
So, is it alternate reality?

I am so confused by the destruction of Vulcan. Is it an alternate reality or has this "re-boot" wiped out all of the past star trek history?

Mark Vergeer
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Ah the new startrek movie....

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Armchair arcade Editor | Pixellator | www.markvergeer.nl

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Rowdy Rob
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Just Saw Star Trek...

I finally got around to seeing the new Star Trek film, and these are some of my thoughts.

First of all, it was definitely a reimagining. The difference in feel from the original series and movies was jarring, almost to the point of not being "Star Trek" at all, or at least as I knew it.

Considering the fact that they rebooted the franchise with a young, teenybopper-friendly cast (which I originally thought was a terrible idea), I think they did a terrific job with the casting of this movie. To me, just about every character felt right, or at least close enough to be fun and effective.

The FX shots were well done.... all five million of them. I guess that's what bothered me the most about this movie. Trek isn't "Star Wars," and was never meant to be. It was a thought-provoking, cerebral, and character-driven franchise. As Matt said, some of the action sequences seemed shoehorned in to keep the movie moving at a frenzied pace. The older Star Trek show would have stopped to ponder the mysteries of what's going on and allow the interplay between the characters to keep the viewers' interest.

All that having been said, I enjoyed the movie for what it was. As a Trek enthusiast, I found many of the character's backgrounds and introductions to be fascinating. Most of it felt right. And despite all the action, they still managed to keep the characters in focus enough to make an impact.

I disagree with Matt on Spock (as portrayed in this movie). Let's face it, NO ONE has played a Vulcan like Leonard Nimoy, and nobody can duplicate his great performance as Spock. That having been said, I thought Zack Quinto did a fine job in his performance as a young Spock still struggling with his emotions. Actually, there WAS an episode of Star Trek where Spock had to take command of the Enterprise because Kirk was stranded in a parallel universe (or something like that), and Spock's actions and demeanor was not much different than Quinto's Spock was in this movie. (I forgot the name of the episode, but I remember it. I don't know if that solidifies my geek cred or negates it!) Needless to say, I wasn't disappointed with Quinto's performance, because it wasn't totally out of character, in my opinion.

When all is said and done, it wasn't a GREAT Trek from a Trek geek's perspective, but it was an interesting take on it, and they've assembled a fine cast that could fill the shoes of the previous cast quite well. I'm curious to see if they settle down in the next movie and let the characters do their thing, or if the new "Trek" style will continue to be slam-bang ADD action. Either way, it's still cool to get some new Trek to ponder.

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