I went and saw "Star Trek" Thursday night. And I'm a little disappointed.
You see, I had some choice material already thought-up for my review. About the movie being an utter, unwatchable train-wreck. About how they'd screwed everything up, and the characters were all just vapid, Hollywood pretty-boys. I even had a great line about how Star Trek the movie was basically like an over-the-hill Hollywood starlet that had had one-too-many plastic surgeries, and you kind of felt bad for it because it had too much work done, looked all trampy and fake, and was still dumb as a fence post.
And now I can't use it. Any of it. I had to start over from scratch.
I'm a little disappointed about that.
As much as I hate to admit it, Star Trek was actually a pretty-good film. Not bad, in fact. Flawed to be certain, but not the horrible, catastrophic disaster I was sort-of hoping for, in an admittedly sadistic way. (Bad reviews are always more fun to write.)
But I'll admit it - I enjoyed the film more than I expected to.
The characters, for the most part, were pretty well-written, and if not faithful to the originals, at least recognizable in their respective roles, and in some cases (Chekov, for example) actually improved (admittedly, for Checkov that wouldn't be too hard).
The actors (whose names I don't recall - so I'm assuming they're all relative unknowns) did a pretty good job. The most annoying thing I found, oddly enough, were the instances where they were lifting lines directly from the original series. Dr. McCoy was the most frequent with at least one "I'm a doctor, not a (insert occupation here)!", and various insults aimed at Spock. It all seemed a bit too self-conscious, and it would have been better to just let the new characters figure out their own such phrases and moments, instead of having the "classics" down pat already. It all seemed rather forced and obvious, like "Hey, let's hit the audience over the head with this one now!" There were other obvious nods to the original series and movies, too. I don't think they were really necessary, but I suppose maybe they keep the Trekkies, Trekkers or (gack) Trekkans happy. I found them a bit distracting, since I found myself thinking "Oh hey... they took that from such-and-such film".
One thing they did do well, is they kept the background characters (Sulu, Chekov, Uhura, and Scotty) basically where they belonged - in the background, as supporting characters. One of the problems Star Trek in general ran into, as that when the original series became a cult classic, the ancillary characters likewise achieved cult status - and they were never meant to. They were supposed to be perfunctory characters. Seat-fillers, essentially. And what happened over successive Star Treks is that the shows became over-populated with what should have been minor characters getting too much screen time, instead of focusing on the core relationships at the heart of each series. Here, however, they struck a good balance between using these characters, without them getting too much of the spotlight. Each of them got their moment, and that was enough.
They even had the obligatory red-shirt death (memo to Starfleet captains: never give the explosives to the guy wearing red).
Generally, I thought the backstories were pretty good.
The whole pre-titles story with Kirk's parents was actually pretty interesting, and I wouldn't have minded if the movie was about his father, actually. (Same goes for Captain Pike - another very good character, and nicely-acted.) The whole bit with li'l Kirk driving the Corvette off the cliff still looks as stupid and pointless as it did in the trailer, but it does serve as a counter-point to Spock's time as a youth. That said, the whole idea of a fully-working Corvette still existing 200+ years from now and a 12-year-old kid driving it like Colin McRae is pretty absurd. The sub-plot with Spock and Uhura was also a little overdone. Okay... we get it. Forbidden love. But shouldn't Spock be struggling with that a little bit more?
Aside from that, they did a nice job of developing his backstory, and letting us into his world a little bit. Maybe spending a little more time on McCoy would have been good too, but he seemed to be the one most directly aping his original-series counterpart (which I found a bit distracting), so maybe it's just as well. Scotty, on the other hand, came off as kind of a goofball,
and suddenly this guy from nowhere ends up in charge of the engineering section of a ship he stowed away on?
How the sweaty-heck did that happen?
The main villain (Nero) was decent. At least he's got motivation, if not much in the way of smarts. Certainly as far as Star Trek movie villains go, he was a far cry better than some of the ones they've had (although hardly in the league of someone like Khan).
But he was just there to serve a purpose - to be the guy responsible for the new timeline, and you knew by the end of the film, he'd be dead and gone.
It would have been nice if they could have developed a villain to be an ongoing nemesis for the future. I think that's something Star Trek has sorely lacked in the movies.
Given how science fiction works, maybe he'll be back anyway, but I don't think he was really interesting enough to merit a sequel.
As for the plot... well, it was serviceable. And I think that's all it was meant to be.
It went out of its way to let people know that the timeline had changed and the Star Trek we all knew had changed forever and everything was different now. Really - they could have just about turned to the camera and told that to the audience directly, given how painfully-obvious they went out of their way to make it. It was almost like breaking the fourth wall. Several times. It was kind-of annoying, and bordered on silly. Yes... we get it already. It's a different Star Trek. Thank you, now back to the movie please.
There were points in the film that were just absurd to the point of ridiculousness.
The whole convenient meeting up of Kirk, old Spock, and Scotty on a remote ice planet was just beyond all credibility. Even Spock's reaction to what was happening seemed as if Leonard Nimoy was in on it as a joke. "Well, it can't get any sillier at this point, so we might as well go all the way with it - so here's Scotty, too!" And then they throw in a convenient technology which can beam them back to the Enterprise, which by all rights would be light-years away by then. The whole evil-black-hole-creating-red-goo thing was, well, even for pseudo-science fiction just plain unbelievable on any level.
Certainly, that could have been handled in a better way. Star Trek in the past has excelled at making techno-babble at least seem plausible. And of course, there were plot holes all over the place big enough to fly a starship through.
Like - if it was so easy to destroy the drill by shooting its support cable, why didn't they just do that the first time?
Still, I was able to (mostly) suspend disbelief and eye-rolling enough to enjoy the ride for what it was: a pretty decent Star Trek-flavored sci-fi action movie, with just enough likable characters to keep my attention for the duration of it.
What I really found annoying though, although there was mercifully not an over-abundance of it, were "shaky-cam" scenes. Particularly in space battles. Let me say this to all directors out there: THAT IS REALLY ANNOYING ON A BIG SCREEN! You create special effects and edit your films on relatively small monitors that aren't three stories tall and don't fill your entire field of vision. So stop assuming that just because it looks good on a desktop, that it won't be headache-inducing and impossible to watch in the theater! KNOCK IT OFF!
This is exactly why Speed Racer didn't work (that, and really awful acting).
Despite those problems however, and despite my best intentions, I actually did find myself enjoying the movie.
Several times, I actually sat there and thought, "hey - I'm enjoying this". Although really, if the movie had been holding my attention all the way through, I shouldn't have actually been thinking that until after the movie. But whatever. I still have to give them credit for what I'd call a successful reboot of the series.
Also, I'll give them credit for having the nerve to destroy a critical planet in the Federation, nearly wipe out an entire key race, and kill off a supporting, but still important, original-series character.
I wasn't expecting any of that. I figured they'd use time travel to somehow go back and fix it. Well, that didn't happen. So hat's off for not taking the easy route. I think that was important because it made it "seem" as if anything could happen,
even though you still knew that by the end of the film, the bad guy will have been stopped, Kirk would be Captain, the crew would all be in place, and everything would be lined up to go for the next movie.
In the end, me and the twelve other people in the theater all seemed to like it well enough. Maybe it would have been even better with a crowd, but there's something to be said for going to a 10:30 PM showing on a Thursday night.
In the end, Star Trek gets a rather generous 7/10.
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