I saw this movie at 7:oo pm Thursday evening, and, four days later, I still don't know what to think of it. As a die-hard Trekkie (in case you haven't noticed), I found a lot more to love about it than I thought I would. It was reverent and respectful to the original series in many ways, and was filled with enough inside-jokes, references, and homages to keep even the most resistant of Trekkies smiling. But...
Unfortunately, as a film, it was kind of a trainwreck.
Let's pretend for a moment that this wasn't a Star Trek movie, and that it was just another generic science fiction film, like Event Horizon, Red Mars, Supernova, etc. Would it be compelling on its own? Would it stand up as good science fiction? Would it be considered a good movie? Would it, dare I ask, justify its existence? Well... no. It would've sucked. Just like Event Horizon, Red Mars, Supernova, etc. The science was bad, the script was lazy and poorly written, and very little made sense.
But it was entertaining. Let's talk about what worked first:
The cast was great, pretty much without exception. I had reservations about the casting of Chris Pine as Kirk -- even though I liked him in the two movies I had seen him in previously -- but he pretty much blew me away. He was hilarious, heroic, charming, and seemed born to play this kind of role. And Karl Urban, an actor I've always liked, was incredible as McCoy. I've read a few reviews that called his performance too much of an impersonation of Deforest Kelley, but I thought he was perfect. He was my favorite thing about this movie, and every line he was given was gold. I wish he had been given a little more to do beyond being just comic interest, but that was pretty much all anybody was given to do, except for Uhura who was a pretty and independent and brilliant and all that, but was still a frightful bore.
The only actor I didn't like was the guy who played Spock, who just wasn't very good. Every line of his dialogue was spoken either through a smirk or through gritted teeth. This guy is a Vulcan? You'd think having Nimoy on set would allow them to get this character right, but as it turned out, he was the only one they really got wrong. And did they really have to go so over the top in the scene where he loses control so Kirk can take over? Why not have him throw a punch and then realize he lost control? They had to have a knock down, drag out fight that ended with Spock almost chocking the life out of Kirk? Wouldn't Spock be court-marshaled for that sort of thing?
Also, this movie was really, really funny. And in a good way! For the most part, anyway. There were a few scenes that felt too much like Galaxy Quest, like when Scotty transported himself into a water tank, but for the most part, the humor came naturally or through witty dialogue. The might want to tone the slapstick down a bit for the sequel, however.
And the special effects were great, but that kind of goes without saying these days. The action sequences were off the hook, even when they didn't really make too much sense, like when Kirk is outrunning some giant snow bug, or when Sulu is having a sword fight on the edge of a space drill. And even though they were way overused, I even liked the shakey cam and lens flares. But, they also might want to tone those those down for the sequel as well.
But, storywise, this movie just didn't hold together at all. The script was lazy and tried to move way too fast for its own good. They could've even wait until the cadets graduated from the Academy before sending them on their first mission? And, sure, they did really well, but I still take issue with the fact that none of them really earned the roles they're given at the end of the film. There's nobody else more qualified to captain the flagship than a cadet who barely even graduated? What happened to Kirk's time spent on the Farragut, or whatever his first ship was called? And shouldn't they send Scotty back to that iceplanet? They really just made him chief engineer because he, well, happened to show up? This was all lazy storytelling that hurt the characters more than it helped them, in my opinion. And where was Finnigan? I would've loved to have seen a cameo from that character.
There there was that ridiculous scene where the "plot" is revealed, at which point the film completely fell apart. The villain's origin, his motivations, and the time travel plot were all revealed in a really strange, awkward, five minute interlude that made zero sense. My girlfriend turned to me and whispered that she didn't get it, and I had to tell her that I didn't either.
Seriously, I'm no dummy and I've been reading science fiction novels since I was a kid, and this was one of the dumbest science fiction films I've ever seen, at least from a storytelling point of view. It pretty much ruined the film for me and turned it into a train wreck.
Here are a few other nitpicks that DEFINITELY CONTAIN SPOILERS:
- Uhura and Spock are lovers? Why did they feel that was necessary?
- Why in the world did Spock maroon Kirk on that ice planet? The Enterprise doesn't have a brig or even a broom closet with a lock on the door? That was moronic.
- And after getting marooned, Kirk just managed to find Future Spock? On a barren ice planet, these two just happened to run into one another? That's some of the worst storytelling I've ever seen.
- Did nobody tell the director that Vulcan also has starships? Wouldn't they have some kind of planetary defense system in place? They really would do nothing while a Romulan ship drills a whole in the crust of their planet?
- Kirk used a Nokia radio at one point. We really need product placement in a Star Trek movie?
- Nero and his crew hung out in space for 20 years doing nothing? Huh? And, really, what was he so mad about? I ask because I honestly don't know. He was mad at Spock for... attempting to save Romulus and failing? Or something?
So... this movie kind of sucked. But it was also entertaining. You know, like most Summer blockbusters. I'm being hard on it because, frankly, Star Trek should be better than your average Summer film.