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Star Trek Review

May 11, 2009

Warning – spoilers ahead!  I saw Star Trek over the weekend and having reviewed a few sci-fi flicks in the past, I thought I’d post a review from the standpoint of a pretty hardcore Trekker and fan of the original series.  Watching Star Trek as a kid really fueled my interests in math and science, so I kind of took this flick a bit personally 🙂

Star Trek is an origin film or prequel and there are two things on every Trekker’s mind.  What kind of back stories will be revealed and will the storylines be true to the original series.  Or, will the director try to take the franchise in a new and different direction?  If you spend 150 mil. on a flick, then it probably needs to appeal to a wider audience than original Trek fans.  So, my expectation was for the storyline to take a lot of ‘creative license’.  I suppose you could, in fact, rename the movie Star Trek Rebooted, just as the Bond  franchise was literally rebooted with Casino Royale and Daniel Craig.

So, how do you get away with a storyline in which Vulcan is destoryed and Spock’s mom is wasted and maintain any type of credibility?  In traditional Star Trek fashion, there are only two logical choices; a transporter malfunction or time travel.  Abrams chose the latter.  Also chosen was a revenge storyline more along the lines of Wrath of Khan instead of more traditional thought-provoking or social commentary storyline that would be the Roddenberry trademark.  If you like action/cgi flicks, then this is the one for you even if you don’t care for the sci-fi genere or the Trek franchise.  Even hardcore Trekkers will appreciate the action sequences and fight scenes as significant upgrades from the original series (no Kirk vs. Gorn, often billed as the worst fight scene of all time).

Since the actions taken by the movie’s villian, Nero, change history, the director is free to move the characters in new directions.   It does seem, however, that the original characters are somehow destined to all make it on the Enterprise and all rise to their familiar rank and position.  Seeing this transpire in a manner that might be deemed a bit inconsistent with the original series is, in fact, entertaining.  After all, how can an original Trekker argue with a time travel plot and there is an underlying theme of destiny taking over even when history is altered by external action?

Of course, the bad guys can’t be the only ones packing big and bad with technology from the future.  The good guys get some help in the form of the original Mr. Spock also being caught in the ‘back in time’ plot and being placed in a position to not only help Scotty get on the Enterprise, but even help his former self.  While being billed as an ‘original’ element of the storyline, the concept of Spock helping his younger self actually appeared in the animated series episode, ‘Yesteryear.’

So, now back to the back stories.  I suppose everyone has a different question, such as how did McCoy get the nickname ‘Bones?’  Writing surrounding the original series suggested that McCoy joined StarFleet as a  result of a devastating divorce and Abrams was true to this suggestion in the movie.   In the flick, he comments that his ex took everything and ‘nothing’s left but the bones.’  In the TOS time frame, it was suggested that ‘bones’ was a shortening of the phrase, ‘saw bones’.

Well, that’s an interesting detail, but what i want to know is what was it like in Uhura’s dorm room and did they have any of those hot green chicks from Orion in StarFleet?  Abrams must have been reading my mind 🙂  While we’re talking about the characters, Uhura is hot past and present, but her strength of character is a bit underused in the movie.  Checkov is well portrayed as a young and talented officer with a funny accent.  Sulu’s background in fencing was explored in a couple episodes in the original series and brought to the forefront in the movie.  Scotty’s character is excellent and he pretty much steals every scene he’s in.  McCoy is well portrayed and I see this character very much as I would have imagined from the original series.

Kirk’s character is somewhat changed by the history-altering actions of Nero as his father dies just after the son is born.  The implusive nature, willingness to gamble, and the ability to take a situation to the edge are all portrayed in a more agressive and slightly less polished Kirk than we might have expected from the original.  It’s not a Shater-style Kirk, yet still true to the major aspects we would expect from the character.  Overall, a good portrayal of the younger character and an excellent performance by Pine.

That leaves us with Spock’s character.  In the original series, we saw more of the Vulcan side of Spock as might be expected because we all know humans; Vulcans were completely new at the time.  In the movie, Spock’s human side is more deeply explored.  We see a Spock that outwardly exhibits much of the expected calm, logical behavior.  His human side frequently takes over and we are given some insight to this tendency from early childhood.  His bond with his mother is very tight, and this is a both a frequent cause for his outrage (which ends up in some serious ass-kicking for anyone on the other end) and his choosing StarFleet over the Vulcan science academy.

Since the director has conveniently changed history, he now gets to explore a world where Spock gets it on with Uhura (take that Kirk!).  Kirk doesn’t have to worry, though, he still scores with the hot green space chick.  Some things never change, regardless of external influence.  Also interesting is that the famous bond between Kirk and Spock did not get off to a good start; in fact, they are the worst adversaries from the beginning.  At the end of the flick, they acclimate to each other and you can see that beginning of what will become both a great team and great friendship.

Overall, I liked the character treatments and the performances were either as good as hoped for or in the case of Quinto’s Spock, even better.  While remaining true to TOS in many ways, the movie expands in new directions and avoids the carbon-copy syndrome that would have lead to something like Pine imitating Shatner, playing Kirk.  Yes folks, that means no more dramatic pauses 🙂

There are a few things that I didn’t understand such as why it’s so difficult for a human to engage in combat on the Vulcan surface (in Amok Time), yet it’s no problemo in the movie way up in the atmosphere, where humans probably should not even be able to breath at all.  And, what’s up with the whole monster-chasing-Kirk scene?  Looks like George Lucas CGI for the sake of CGI.  And, now, transporting across planetary distances is easy where in TOS, transporters clearly had limited range.  There are several plot coincidences and loopholes that hardcore Trekkers will deem unworthy of the Roddenberry legacy, but that’s storytelling in a money-trumps-all, Star-Trek-for-the-masses flick.

Romulans, btw, have really bulked up in this rendition of the story.  I suppose they’ve been getting into space steroids, and they all go to the Mike Tyson school of tattoos.

Still, I’d say that I really liked it and I hope the new franchise lives long and prospers, except that if you’re going to alter time, throw me a bone.  Fast-forward into the future and beam Wesley Crusher into a wall.  Then, your flick gets an A+ instead of an A!

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  1. May 11, 2009 at 10:23 am

    “Beam Wesley Crusher into a wall” – LOL.

    Thanks for the review. I’d agree on all points. One thing that they missed was the trail after the Kobayashi Maru test – which, by the way, was fantastic to see. I wish they would have at least gotten close to the point that Kirk can make a case that he deserved the “Commendation for original thinking”. That would have been a good bonding moment between Kirk and Spock to see Kirk argue his point logically and Spock to concur. Oh well, we’ll just have to take what we got.

  2. May 11, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Yes, one problem with this type of film and the multitude of characters to develop is that subtle details and good opportunities for dialog are often missed or glossed over.

    I also wish we could have gotten a glimpse of the younger yeoman Janice Rand. Maybe in the next flick!

    thx!

    – jim

  3. JT
    May 11, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    I just saw the movie too, although I grew up on TNG – never saw TOS. Always thought Picard was kind of stuffy. How was Kirk in TOS?

    • May 11, 2009 at 12:37 pm

      JT – the reason Picard seems stuffy is because he’s always pulling that uniform top down like it doesn’t fit when he should be pulling the corncob out of his butt. TNG in general, and Picard specifically, is a case of PC gone wild. Picard is obsessed with philosophy and bantering around like he’s some mentally superior diplomat.

      Kirk always said, “I’m a soldier, not a diplomat.” He was just cool. Let me break it down this way. In a single episode, here’s what Kirk would do. First, he would go back to the planet with the Guardian of Forever (City on the Edge of Forever). He would have Data secretly send Wesley back into the Romulan’s past so that they would destroy themselves to avoid being around him. After all, the only thing more annoying than dealing with Wesley is watching Barney episodes. To keep his mother distracted, Kirk would score with both her and counselor boy-toy in the ready room.

      After finishing with them, he would order Riker to grow a beard so that he doesn’t look like such a dork. Unfortunately, that stupid Traveler saves Wesley so there are still a few Romulans left. When they attack the Enterprise in retribution, Kirk would talk their computer into destroying the Romulan ships. He would arrange for an away team to beam over to help survivors, but Wesley would ‘accidentally’ be beamed into a wall. Too bad. Kirk would then score with his mother to console her.

      Unfortunately, a Romulan survivor would activate a massive bomb aboard his damaged ship and manage to disable the Enterprise’s warp drive since LaForge is wasting time in 10-forward because he doesn’t know how to score with chicks. Kirk would then activate a holographic display of Scotty and tell him ‘we need warp drive in two minutes or we’re all dead.’ Holo-Scotty would get the job done, somehow, at the last second.

      Then, Kirk would get into a cool fight with the Romulan survivor that disabled the warp drive, managing to get his shirt torn in several places before kicking the Romulan’s ass.

      He would speak to the Traveler in dramatic pauses, telling him to get the hell off his ship. Afterwards, he would score with a couple exotic space chicks and then call it a day.

  4. Mike Licht
    May 11, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    It’s just TOO horrible. They got the food ALL wrong!

    See:

    http://notionscapital.wordpress.com/2009/05/10/intergalactic-eats/

  5. KtD
    May 12, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    I consider myself somewhat knowledgeable in the Star Trek department. Although not, I am sad to say, a diehard “trekie” myself, I have grown up watching the original episodes with my family (in particular, my “trekie” Dad). I still have yet to see the film, but I am excited–it truly seems as though both the hardcore fans and random moviegoers that I have talked to have enjoyed this film.
    And the critics love it too! I watched an interesting summary video on the new film at newsy.com earlier today. The video is both informative and hilarious. In other words, it isdefinitely worth looking at:

    http://www.newsy.com/videos/beam_me_up_box_office/

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