Finally saw JJ Abrams’ version of “Star Trek” last night. I have some issues with it…but it was basically entertaining, and was no worse than the first movie from the original cast. I took some notes on it—because I’m a crazy person—and I now present to you those notes, cleaned up and expanded.
Let’s start with the stuff I LIKED:
- The guy that played Bones kinda worked for me. He seemed to have the right respect and reverence for the character. I was told he grew up loving the show and wanted to honor DeForest Kelly’s memory. I think he did that.
- EXCELLENT reveal of the Enterprise ship. The original Trek movie with the original cast did virtually nothing but glory shots of the ship (mostly because they finally had the budget to do it). This one gave you one gloriously lovely reveal. They did it right.
- Enjoyed the Chekov joke with the “V” mispronunciation for the password into the computer. Never been a huge Chekov fan…but the kid they had playing him in this movie handled it pretty well.
- Nice reveal of the destroyed ships at planet Vulcan and Kirk’s explanation leading up to it was well done. They did a good job with that as an “Oh my God!” moment. Even though you know they’re all going to be fine (because they’re on the damn Enterprise, after all), you felt like there was danger there.
- I did enjoy how they unfolded and developed the “coming together” of the crew and everyone falling into their places. If they’d all just have been there already at the beginning of the movie, it would’ve been jarring. Each character kind of got their own introduction and you got to see how and why they got there. That was well done.
- I’d watch the “Captain Pike” movie. If they’d just made THAT the prequel, I’d have been cool with it.
- I liked that they kept the “red shirt” rule, when they killed the guy who was late opening his parachute. 🙂
- Enjoyed the use of REAL Spock (Leonard Nimoy) in his couple of scenes. And enjoyed Kirk responding to “I am Spock” with “Bullshit.” 🙂
- Even though I think they had Spock show too much emotion (more on that in a moment), I did like the scene where Kirk pushed him into snapping.
- They did right by Nimoy allowing him the “Space the final frontier…” line at the end.
- I liked the use of *some* well known names. Like Kirk’s mom being the chick that played Cameron on “House” and Spock’s mom being Winona Ryder. They were smart to sprinkle in some of the well-respected (particularly female) names to make the nerds think, “Oh…Jennifer Morrison’s on board with this thing…maybe it’ll be alright.” It’s a little bit of a cheap trick…but they do want us to want them, after all. (Get it?)
Okay…now the stuff that DIDN’T work for me. I want to emphasize in advance that I did basically enjoy the movie…but Star Trek is something I genuinely love, and on the rabid, insane level, I have the following issues…
- Didn’t like the casting of Spock or Kirk. Sorry. I really tried, but neither guy worked for me. Here’s why.
- Re: Kirk — Okay. He’s a better actor than Shatner. A lot of people are. But “good” acting doesn’t make a character. Shatner has an unmistakable quality about him that you just WANT to like him. The guy in the movie just played the role with such arrogance and (unearned) bravado that I wanted him to lose. He is a VERY good actor, and I take nothing away from his abilities, but his KIRK…he just doesn’t have the warmth of Shatner—the humanistic “I want him to win” quality. The vulnerability of the character just isn’t there. They got the hair right, though.
- Re: Spock — I can’t believe I’m saying this…but the guy who played Spock is too wooden. The emotional scenes of Spock were out-of-place anyway…but made all the more so by the fact that they guy didn’t project enough emotion into it. He also seemed to walk through the “logical” aspect of the character. I read online that he wasn’t especially a Trek fan before the movie. Maybe that should’ve been their first clue that he wouldn’t work out. You’ve got to love the thing you’re doing if you want to be good at it. He clearly didn’t…and that makes me wonder if Abrams did, either. (And what was up with him shoving his tongue down Uhura’s throat???)
- Uhh…those WERE NOT ROMULANS. Romulans DO NOT look like that. They could’ve been a cool, new villian…but instead, they just raped the Romulans. (Of course, I am sure they were just supposed to be some Romulan cult or something of that like, since we briefly saw some real Romulans in the “mind-meld” segment…but…they didn’t bother saying that.)
- Overall, I found the movie to be too effect heavy/effect dependant. Not every scene has to be a money shot. Almost EVERY scene in this movie would’ve served as a perfectly good “last battle” sequence in any of the previous movies. They worked so hard to dazzle us with the early stuff that the final explosion just wasn’t as dazzling as it should’ve been.
- They’ve been selling this series as an “alternate timeline” to the original series, thereby giving themselves liberty to mess with (or in many cases outright IGNORE) the timeline and history of the show. That’s a cop-out, first and foremost. Clearly they just didn’t want to put up with the inevitable “…but Kirk was already known to be at such-and-such place during that stardate!” crap—and I get that (and support it)… But calling it an “alternate timeline” then having every member of the crew be exactly the same, have exactly the same roles, and be based on exactly the same character models as created by Gene Roddenberry… I’ve got to wonder just what’s so “alternate” about it. Seems like it’s exactly the same, but with no rules about where/when they are and who is living or dead. That’s stupid, and BARELY “alternate.”
- I did not appreciate the use of popular music. What are the Beastie Boys doing in the Star Trek movie?!?!?!?!?!? I didn’t like “Sabotage” in high school (over 10 years ago—wow, cutting-edge music choice there, JJ) and I like it even LESS now. It was music used to make the scene more exciting…and there’s no reason it couldn’t have been original score, especially when Michael Giacchino is your music director. Or at least use something timeless. Something that 30 years from now, we’ll still be in love with. Some Bowie or Zeppelin. The Beastie Boys will eventually only be a rock and roll footnote (this news brought to you from the “They’re Practically There Already” Council). They don’t belong in something that is sci-fi and is therefore supposed to be kind of timeless. That song DATED this movie…and it dated it to 10 years ago, when it SHOULD be in the future.
- Spock displays too much emotion. Like WAY too much. Yes, he is half human…but Spock is supposed to suppress that half. He was an emo crybaby almost immediately out of the gate, all bummed out because the Vulcan High Council (or whatever) didn’t like his mommy. Ugh. Anakin, much?
- Uhura used to be a strong, black, female character, with it rarely mattering that she was either female or black. In this version…she’s just a pushy bitch—who is apparently sleeping with her professor…
- The bridge of the Enterprise was unmemorable. I didn’t expect it to look like the iconic bridge of the original series or anything like that. And it doesn’t even bug me that it looks like it couldn’t have existed before the technology of “Next Generation” either. It just doesn’t have any definition to it at all. When you’re dealing with the Enterprise, the ship itself is a character. They didn’t give it any personality. It looked like a hospital room and I can’t even remember what the captain’s chair looked like. That’s just upsetting, as a Trekkie.
- I was distracted by the kid who played Sulu having been one of the douchebags from the Harold and Kumar flicks. Just like I was when he was on “House” as one of the patients. (Weirdly, though, it didn’t bug me when the other one was one of House’s team members. Maybe he’s a better actor?)
- Okay. I’m going to say something I am not happy about saying, because I love Simon Pegg. (Seriously, the guy’s a genius.) I didn’t care for Scotty that much. They went WAY too cartoony with it. Although, at the same time, he did a VERY good job of not looking/sounding like Simon Pegg and he made the role his own. Scotty’s a difficult role and sometimes even Doohan was too cartoony with it, so I see where the mistake was easy to make…but unfortunately, it wasn’t in Pegg’s performance (which, taken on its own was brilliant) it was instead in the writing. They made him a cartoony cliche, and I didn’t like it.
- Umm…they fucking imploded the planets of Vulcan AND Romulus! No. I refuse to accept that.
- One of my biggest issues is that, “emotionally compromised” or not, a Captain in the Federation (Spock) fired his (unconscious) first officer out of a ship onto an ice-planet (Hoth, much?) and left him there to die. What the hell was that? Spock wouldn’t have done that. Especially not while they have a perfectly useable brig… That just sucked and made me want to take a shit on the DVD. (And then the red thing that attacked him was basically the monster from Cloverfield…)
All in all that’s 11 things I liked enough to write about and 12 things I didn’t like enough to write about. So that comes pretty close to breaking even, and I’ll probably give the next one a shot.
For the record, I tried to enter it thinking, “If I don’t think of it as Star Trek, maybe it’ll stand up on its own.” The problem is that they’re BANKING on you thinking of it as Star Trek. They don’t explain a lot of the “scenery” aspects that Trek fans are familiar with…if you don’t already know something about the franchise, you’re probably a little lost just in the terminology/proper nouns. They NEED you to be a Trek fan. And as a Trek fan…I felt a little disrespected by the “alternate timeline” bullshit. The “in jokes” and meta-universe references were leaned on WAY too heavily for something that—frankly—I’m not sure respected the source material as much as it claimed to. This wasn’t a bad movie…it just wasn’t a good Star Trek movie—but neither was “Voyage Home” so…y’know…it evens out.
All in all, I just didn’t feel like this movie had the wholesomeness the other adaptations (yes, even “Enterprise”) have had. This seemed a little bit like the characters are all pissed off and think they deserve to have the entire galaxy handed to them on a silver platter…but they haven’t even taken off their shoes and shit in the ship’s toilet yet. I just didn’t like the “We’re Star Trek. Suck it.” vibe of the movie. Hoping the next one feels a little bit more like my old pair of shoes…because this one just doesn’t have the arch-support it needs.
Weirdly…this movie is a pretty good parallel to my bathroom. There are some things that I really like, and it looks pretty good…but the plumbing’s leaking. If they can fix the pipes, maybe I’ll enjoy sitting through it a little bit more next time.