Sunday, May 10, 2009

Star Trek

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.


Justin Garrett Blum said...

I can't disagree with any of your nitpicks or the many others I've read from other, smart viewers. I pretty much had all of the same complaints about the plot. I understand why you're so conflicted about the film, because as a fan of science fiction, I feel the same way. As a fan of Star Trek, I just handwave all of the problems for the sake of seeing this crew back in action.

Unfortunately, that means that I pretty much have to handwave every scene in the movie, because there almost literally wasn't a single stretch of more than five minutes that didn't contain some sort of plot flaw. But oh well--it still rocked.

Just a couple of comments: I caught "Shore Leave" on TV again a couple of months ago and I was SOOOO hoping Finnegan would make an appearance in this film. I mean, couldn't they have at least given one of those cadets that roughs Kirk up in the bar an Irish accent?

I loved Chris Pine, but he was a much better proto-Kirk than Captain Kirk. When you watch any episode of the original series, you realize that while Kirk does have his brash, unpredictable moments, he also has a lot of quietly rational moments. Pine has all of the swagger down, but if they do another movie, I hope they evolve the character into something a little bit more than a cowboy. This is all why--despite how good I thought he was--I still have trouble with him becoming Captain at the end of the film. Yes, he exhibited bravery and leadership, but there is still a lot of Captain Kirkness missing from the character. I just watched "Dagger of the Mind" last night on That's a good example--it shows how canny Kirk can be, and that's really important.

Donald said...

I think of this movie as an adaptation of Star Trek, and not as an actual Star Trek movie. I mean, this film is to Star Trek what That Eddie Murphy I Spy movie is to the original TV show. It's a lot better than that stinker, but you know what I mean.

And, yeah, Kirk wasn't ready for the Captain's chair at the end of this film, and it was a disservice to the character to have that happen. Why end with his promotion? End the film with him graduating from the Academy. That would've been good enough for me.

And Finnegan was the best Trek villain of all time. They should've gotten rid of Nero had had the villain be an even more evil Finnegan from the future.

"Remember me, Jimmy Bye? I'm back ta finish the job, me boyo!"

I wonder if the Finnegan in the Mirror Mirror universe is actually a really nice guy.

Justin Garrett Blum said...

"They should've gotten rid of Nero had had the villain be an even more evil Finnegan from the future."

I wish I'd thought of that. That's seriously one of the best ideas I've ever heard. Eric Bana could do an Irish accent, I'd bet.

Shanrock said...

I totally don't think Kirk deserved to be captain in the end.. It kinda seemed like they had to do that so they could say "Captain Kirk" and non trekkies could be satisfied. I am not a trekkie. I've seen an episode here and there but have never actually seen the original series (or any specific episode). Of course I know who Spock and Captain Kirk are, but I had no idea his first name was James or that he was from Iowa, etc. When people ask me if I thought the movie was good I say: "Yeah, it was a good action movie." I think if I knew more about the series and the background I would have liked it more because I could have related the show to the film.

Going back to Kirk becoming Captain at the end: I didn't really think he was smart enough. Yeah he's brave and all that, but he pretty much ended up on the Enterprise by luck and loyalty. What would have happened if McCoy hadn't have given a shit and was like-- k see ya bye. Well, there'd be no movie. But anyway, I still don't think he was very deserving of captain.

I liked the fact that Uhura and Spock were an item. It was kind of an "in your face" to Kirk and somewhat unexpected. Plus I always want Vulcans to show their emotions so I was glad when they had their little moment. And I liked that actor as Spock.

K that's enough. bye.

aak said...

Didn't it feel to anyone else like a pilot for a new TV series? It felt hastily thrown together, loose with the story, edited for time, etc. I left thinking, I'd watch that if it came on every Friday.

Agreed about Kirk not really being smart enough for the captainship. Agreed about the stupidity of the Nero backstory and waiting around for 25 years. But I thought Spock was okay. Everybody's so jumpy about him showing emotions, but that was what this movie was about. And him and Uhura... yeah, well, I got over it and by the end thought it was okay. Making out on the transporter pad was too much PDA, though.

All in all, I was not disappointed, and that's good enough for me.