The new Chekov, Kirk, Scotty, McCoy, Sulu, and Uhura

Tonight was the opening of the new Star Trek movie. With IMAX tickets booked well in advance, my girlfriend and I and some friends went out for dinner and conversation, then joined an enthusiastic audience for the long-awaited and much-publicized film. It was a lovely spring evening, and overall we had a good time.

I just wish we’d seen a good movie.

I approached Star Trek (no number or subtitle) with cautious optimism. I’d had some cause for apprehension, as I’ve written about, based on the design aesthetic of the new Enterprise and the tone and style of the early trailers. A more recent TV spot tag-lined “Forget Everything You Know” wasn’t encouraging, either:  I’m a Trek fan from way back, and I’m showing up to see a new story set in the Kirk/Spock era because of everything I know, because of my affection for those characters and concepts, not despite it. 

But hey, most of those things could just be chalked up to marketing choices and visual sensibilities. They didn’t necessarily bode ill for the movie as a whole. Certainly the last few years of the Trek franchise under former producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga had been fairly disappointing, on both the small and the large screen, so some new creative blood was called for. Screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman were reportedly sincere Trek fans:  the L.A. Times went  so far as to ask them about their favorite prose Trek novels, and they actually named four—and good ones, at that. So even if director J.J. Abrams admitted to not being a Trek fan, professing more of a Star Wars sensibility instead (anathema!), perhaps the story itself was in good hands. Leonard Nimoy’s willingness to be involved, reprising his role as Spock for the first time in 18 years, also seemed promising. Yes, as details leaked out it became clear that the film would not be a prequel to the original television series (as I would have preferred, all else being equal) but a reboot instead… but even so, it could be good on its own terms. It just needed to be handled thoughtfully and respectfully, with an understanding of the concepts and themes that had made Trek a success all along, and in numerous interviews the filmmakers assured us they were doing exactly that. So I was hoping for a movie I could like, maybe even love.

But Abrams and company didn’t hit the mark. What they delivered wound up meeting almost all of my fears and almost none of my hopes.

This was a big, stupid summer blockbuster, in the worst sense. It was a bad movie, plain and simple. 

[Ample SPOILERS below the fold.]

startrek09logos1This is Star Trek only in the most superficial sense. Aside from names (of people, places, ships) and a few winking acknowledgments of the original, it jettisoned everything of substance. Trek always took a thoughtful approach to its subject matter. It was the most intelligent science fiction on TV by far in its own era, and for many years thereafter. It told stories about the human condition, with fantastic settings and situations that were allegories for the real problems of its day. It indulged in traditional “rubber science” SF tropes, of course, but in ways that were internally consistent and assumed its audience wasn’t completely scientifically illiterate. It aspired to be better than the medium required—and if it didn’t always hit its mark, it did so often enough to capture the imaginations and the loyalties of countless viewers.

This film has no such aspirations. It may be far more expensive than any version of Trek on screen before, but in every way that really matters it’s playing to the cheap seats. It’s big, flashy, and frenetically paced. It has top-flight digital effects. The cinematography is awash in lens flare and harsh close-ups, the screen is full of plentiful explosions, and the music is notable only for being loud. It has lots of adrenaline, but no introspection. It has the absolute bare minimum of exposition necessary to string together the action scenes, the characters are sketched out in the broadest strokes possible, it’s about nothing in particular thematically, and its plot logic doesn’t  stand up to thirty seconds of examination.

I tried from the start to suspend my judgment, to play along and see where the film might be taking me. It begins with a flashy and barely-explained space battle, in which Jim Kirk is born under the most melodramatic possible circumstances. It then flashes forward through his childhood and Spock’s, settling into the main plot during their early days in Starfleet. But even in these early sequences—and more so once the real story starts—it repeatedly runs aground. My patience simply ran out. Every five minutes or so, there’s some story element that makes you want to slap your forehead and ask,”Didn’t anyone stop to think about this?” 

One of the film’s only emotional through-lines concerns Spock’s relationship with his parents, for example, yet it never bothers even to name-check the characters (Sarek and Amanda). For that matter, Kirk’s mother (Winona) doesn’t get named either, even in a tearful final conversation with her doomed husband.

It conspicuously explains minor things that never needed explaining (Why is Kirk’s name “James Tiberius”? Why is McCoy nicknamed “Bones”?), but only grudgingly explains things vital to making the story work. The battle at the beginning, we eventually learn, involves the Romulan villain Nero’s arrival from over 150 years in the future (i.e., the late 24th century, just after the “Next Generation” era), and although he does nothing whatsoever for 25 years after destroying Kirk’s father’s ship, apparently that single act causes dramatic changes to the history not only of Jim Kirk, but somehow of the entirety of Starfleet. In particular (but for no discernible reason), the U.S.S. Enterprise isn’t built until years later than it was in the unaltered timeline, and Christopher Pike is now its first captain rather than its second.

That’s the sort of continuity detail that might only bother a committed Trek geek (but I am one, and there are lots more glitches where this one came from), but nevertheless it betrays a sloppiness in the writers’ thinking about their revised history. There are other things, meanwhile, which jump out even to the most fandom-neutral audience member, things entirely internal to this film that simply don’t make sense.

For instance, where did Nero and his crew go and what did they do for those 25 missing years while Kirk was growing up? We’re never told. (Apparently there were scenes written and shot, involving Klingons, that explained some of this, but evidently they were deemed expendable in the final cut.) How did Nero know when and where the older (Nimoy) Spock would be arriving from their shared future? We have no idea. 

Why does the Enterprise, called out as Starfleet’s newest flagship, apparently have no senior officers or command structure whatsoever other than Pike? When Pike leaves the ship and transfers the conn to Spock, he immediately installs Kirk as replacement First Officer—even though Kirk at this point is still a cadet, is facing unresolved charges of cheating at the Academy, and is a stowaway on the ship. (If there are any command-level officers aboard, I could forgive them for concluding that Starfleet turns a blind eye to blatant nepotism, since Pike’s main reason to trust Kirk comes down to having known his dad.) Moreover, when Spock himself later leaves the ship, he turns the conn over to Chekov, a 17-year-old ensign. And when Scotty winds up aboard under completely unplanned circumstances, he promptly winds up in charge of Engineering, which we can only conclude had nobody running it before.

When the planet Vulcan comes under attack, how does Spock know that his parents can be found in the Science Council chambers? The whole rationale for his transporting down in person to rescue them is that the Chambers are off-limits to communication (which makes no sense in itself), so they can’t be aware of the planet’s emergency evacuation—but if there’s no communication, how could he possibly know they were there? His mother’s presence in the chambers at all is especially perplexing, since in light of information established earlier in the film about Vulcan prejudice against her as a human, she certainly couldn’t be on the Council.

It’s noticeably convenient for plot purposes (at least, in terms of setting up action setpieces) that the orbital planet-mining device Nero uses in the early stage of his attacks has the side effect of jamming both transporters and communications. Of course, given the staggeringly high tech level of Nero’s vessel compared to the Federation, you might suppose he’d think of intentionally jamming those things, and have the ability to do so from his own ship… but no, apparently not. 

It’s understandable why Spock, once in command, has an insubordinate Kirk arrested by ship’s security. It’s not understandable why he then has him ejected from the ship in a one-man pod onto a frozen, monster-infested outpost planet, rather than just confining him in the brig. Of course, that’s also convenient to the plot, since Kirk happens to run into Old!Spock and Scotty there, but it’s flagrantly illogical in its own right.

It’s also odd that Old!Spock was living in a cave on said outpost planet, since we learn he was only 14 kilometers away from the Federation base in which Scotty was posted, with ample heat and food. He had no trouble getting there once Kirk arrived—but clearly hadn’t visited before, since he and Scott hadn’t met.

Moreover, that outpost planet brings us into the territory of scientific gobsmackers. Apparently this outpost is within Vulcan’s solar system—possibly even a moon, since in Spock’s mind-meld flashback with Kirk he sees Vulcan’s catastrophic destruction loom large in its sky. Yet Vulcan is destroyed (in minutes!) by a manmade black hole—of a kind powerful enough, as we see in the very same flashback, to snuff out a galaxy-threatening supernova. (And let’s not even delve into the scientific preposterousness of the very concept of a galaxy-threatening supernova.) It’s inconceivable that such a black hole would devour a planet, yet leave the immediately neighboring planet(oid) completely safe and untouched.

(And here’s another geek-alert glitch: this outpost planet(oid) is named Delta Vega. That’s an obvious Easter-egg callout to the Delta Vega named in the original series’ pilot episode. Trouble is, that Delta Vega was a mining planet located on the edge of the galaxy, a long, long way from Vulcan. Apparently Nero’s time alternation not only changed Starfleet but moved entire planets around.)

(And another: Kirk and Scott get back to the Enterprise by beaming from the planet’s surface to the ship while it’s in warp. Much is made of this in the story, exposition-wise, with Old!Spock telling Scott that his own future self devised the theory that makes it possible. Trouble is, it was firmly established as not possible in the TNG-era future that Old!Spock came from, and moreover any ship traveling at warp speed would instantly be far beyond the 10,000 kilometer range of transporter technology.)

That two-minute Spockian flashback, by the way, is the closest thing we get to any hint of motivation for Nero’s genocidal rage. We learn that the Super!Supernova destroyed the planet Romulus; that Spock was slightly too late to prevent it from doing so; that Nero blames him for this; and that they both got sucked into the past by the resulting black hole. Why the Romulans themselves didn’t seek to prevent or flee their fate isn’t mentioned; why the Federation would respond to such a monumental threat by sending a sesquicentennarian ambassador in a one-man ship is likewise unexplained. Some of these TNG-era events are fleshed out and made at least marginally plausible by the movie-prequel comic book released in recent weeks… but in terms of what’s actually in the movie, these crucial story-precipitating events barely qualify as a plot sketch, and the villain’s motivations can only be described as “insane.”

Inevitably and predictably, after destroying Vulcan, Nero moves on to attack Earth… and we again reach a point where, even judged strictly on its own terms, the story descends into raging implausibility. We’ve already been told that the rest of Starfleet (apparently all of it) is away in some inconveniently distant star system. And we’re at least given a quick in-story explanation for how Nero evades the Sol system’s remote security sensors. But once he arrives and sets his orbital mining device to work on San Francisco Bay, we’re asked to accept that the hometown of Starfleet Command, on the capital planet of the Federation, apparently has no other defensive measures whatsoever. People just run around in a panic planetside while the orbital platform merrily drills away, completely unthreatened by any ship, shuttle, plane, missile, or phaser—until Spock shows up in a one-man ship to save the day and immediately blows it out of the sky.

And so it goes. The big plot beats are like this, and the small details are no better. Scene after scene is predictable, or clichéd, or laden with unanswered questions and logical inconsistencies. Why did young Kirk’s mother abandon Earth and leave her child in the care of an unnamed guardian? Who knows? How is it that Kirk’s dad saved “800 people” from the Kelvin (nearly twice the crew of the original Enterprise), yet the new Enterprise appears to have no more than a couple of functional decks (people run straight from sickbay to the bridge on the same deck!) and no room for more than a skeleton crew, with the entire Engineering hull packed full of arcane tubes, conduits, and catwalks? Speaking of catwalks, how tiresome is it that the villain’s ship is full of them, sans guardrails, placed arbitrarily over fatal drops (and with full artificial gravity on, of course)? Is there any viewer  who doesn’t know, the very moment Scotty promises to beam Kirk and Spock into an “unoccupied cargo hold” on said enemy ship, that they will instead materialize surrounded by armed Romulans, providing the excuse for a pointless phaser shootout? Why does a bridge full of people, including armed security officers, stand around for a good thirty seconds doing and saying nothing while an enraged Spock attacks (and plainly tries to kill) cadet Kirk? Why on earth does Abrams think having Kirk behave like an impulsive, self-important fratboy is somehow “much more relatable” for audiences?

(And one final geekish complaint:  it dawned on me partway through that in the new timeline, stardates now represent actual calendar years—2233.xx, 2258.xx, and so forth. Not only does this change make no particular sense in itself, but it’s even handled inconsistently within the story:  the computer of Spock’s one-man vessel, built in the previous version of the 24th century, reports that it was constructed on “stardate 2387″—clearly a date from the new system, rather than the 5-digit, non-calendar-related system it would know from its native timeline.)

All these are exactly the sorts of problems I’d feared. Orci and Kurtzman were the writers of last year’s big hit Transformers, and before making the jump to film they worked with Abrams on the TV show Alias… so they have a clear track record of telling stories that are big and flashy and action-packed, but which suffer from tenuous plot logic and amount to nothing thematically. Though I’d certainly hoped for better, and perhaps they sincerely tried, it’s no real surprise they brought that same sensibility to Trek.

I’ll give credit where due:  some of the performances are decent. Bruce Greenwood as Pike is a particular standout… although given the nature of the story, there’s no chance he’ll appear in any future films. Same goes for Nimoy, of course, on both counts. Zachary Quinto is passable if not great as Spock; Chris Pine is at best decent as Kirk, though a lot of that can perhaps be blamed on the writing. Karl Urban is terrific as McCoy, Anton Yelchin is undeniably charming as Chekov (although he really  has no business being on board at all, unless the new timeline somehow got him born several years early), and Simon Pegg is cute as Scotty. On the other hand, John Cho is forgettable as Sulu, and Zoe Saldana’s main purpose as Uhura seems to be to shock the audience by being in a romance with Spock. (It is indeed a surprise, but does nothing to serve the story.) Really, though, it’s hard to judge the acting, since all the secondary characters are given next to nothing to do, and (as noted earlier) their personalities are limited to the broadest strokes.

All the familiar audience-reaction lines are there: “I’m a doctor, not a [fill-in-the-blank]”; “I’m givin’ ye all I’ve got, Cap’n!” But there’s just nothing beyond that. Character-wise, the story takes the most obvious, straight-line path to setting up the shipboard roles familiar from the TV series, even to the sheer absurdity of having Kirk promoted straight from cadet to captain at the end. 

This is all the more ironic and pointless, of course, since the story drives home with multiple anvils that this is not the same ship and crew we actually remember from that TV series. If Kirk’s new backstory and the destruction of Vulcan didn’t make it sufficiently obvious, the characters themselves figure it out eventually, with Uhura exclaiming “an alternate reality!” Sadly, though, no reset button is pushed at story’s end to restore the timeline we remember.

What we’re left with is like a palimpsest of real Star Trek, scraped clean and written over, simplified and dumbed down to suit the worst Holywood stereotypes of what mass audiences want. The plot conflicts are big and obvious, not complex and subtle. The humor is broad, not witty. The moral dilemmas are nonexistent. The character nuances are trimmed away. The promised “optimistic” future of wonder and exploration and human potential is simply nowhere in sight.

Chicago Reader critic J.R. Jones—who’s obviously a genuine Trek fan, citing several original episodes in his review—nails it when he sums it up:

…the new Star Trek is a relatively mindless thrill ride that would have made the old NBC execs grin from ear to ear… There’s little evidence of the thought-provoking, concept-driven sci-fi that made the early Star Trek episodes so engaging.

Good reboots are possible in Hollywood: new visions that add depth and sophistication to the source material. Daniel Craig’s James Bond, Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica. This is not one of them.

This is Star Trek in name only. If continuing the franchise means more movies like this one, it would have been better to let it die quietly.

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26 Responses to “J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek: boldly going nowhere particularly interesting”
  1. Myangel says:

    I got Deanna Troi.I’ve never really whceatd the show though.It does look appealing to me, and I love how people get really into it. I just never took the time for it. I guess? Maybe I should try it.The science fiction story I used to love was V. Do you remember that miniseries?I’m sorry about your health problems, and I’m very sorry about the loss of your friend.It’s nice to hear from you though.

  2. Andrew says:

    Intriguing indeed … Still the new movie isn’t as good as the original, but for an average fan it should be more then enough!

  3. Steve says:

    I am partial to the Star trek episodes written by Harlan Ellison All of the movies were o.k. but The original episodes were the best in my opinion Kind Regards

  4. Joseph says:

    Thanks for pointing out how little thought was put into this film. They tried to hard to figure out a way to create an alternate time line to satisfy the Trekkers, while pleasing the main stream MTV generation, who obviously would not care about the contradictions identified in the movie.

    Some are simple minded enough to accept the alterations JJ made. But not me! I will not settle for a movie entitled “Star Trek” yet does not remain true to its roots.

    I was impressed with your explanation about Vulcan’s moon, Delta Vega. I thought that was odd as well, because I don’t remember seeing Vulcan with a nearby moon made of ice. I’ve also thought it was a drilling site, but I don’t remember. What I do remember is that there was NO Delta Vega near Vulcan. And considering it takes thousands of years (in theory) for planets and moons to form, it’s not possible for Nero to disrupt time in that fashion. If Nero’s presence occurred during the birth of James T. Kirk, did this moon somehow suddenly arrive when Nero shows up? That’s absurd to say the least.

    Jerry may have liked the film, and that’s good for him. If he’s willing to watch 43 years of Star Trek become bastardized, to satisfy his desire to see the old Star Trek (Which isn’t the Old Star Trek), then I applaud him. However, neither he, or the MTV crowd will make the difference. Those of us who expected a pure Star Trek on the menu as Steak and Potato Chives, will not be satisfied with an order of liver and onions.

    The Movie SUCKED!


  5. Jerry says:

    I’ve been a trekkie about 40 years. I absolutely love the new film. I love it for all the reasons why I loved the original. I really dislike TNG for being too drab and boring. Enterprise is by far my favorite TV Trek after TOS. VOY and DS9 were OK but still missing the fun of TOS. I wanted that back. This new movie gives me exactly what I wanted. TOS with better effects and younger actors.

  6. phredd says:

    Somehow, I manged to enjoy it despite all the massive plot holes quite rightly pointed out. I think it was the triumph of low expectations. I did gag a bit at the supernova that blew up right next door to Romulus.

    But what really stuck with me negatively is that the Federation just suffered something orders of magnitude worse than 911 and after the bad guys get blown up real good and and prevented from doing further harm, it’s all smiles and promotions and cheering. No. Vulcans keeping a stiff upper lip in public, sure. Cadets keeping their shit together while on duty, sure. But there really does not seem to be any sort of mourning for Vulcan, its billions of citizens (including, no doubt, significant numbers of non-Vulcans from every corner of the Federation there on business or tourism) and its culture – a culture that is/was the keystone of the Federation’s raison d’être.

  7. J. S. Penn says:

    I really wanted to love this movie and was quite excited when I heard they were going back to the beginning .
    I thought it would add greatly to the lead in to the original series.
    Finally saw it last night , and genuinly enjoyed it. Loved all the references to charachters and previous stories we all have come to love.
    Visually it was fantastic, the ships going into and coming out of warp were breathtaking and dare I say appear to be what I think would be more realistic.
    I thought all the actors brought out the essential parts of the main charachters particulary Zachary Quinto as Spock.
    However I was dismayed when I discovered we were in a new timeline , not unheard of of course , and more so that we were staying in this new timeline, an alternate reality.
    I`m not really sure how this will pan out for us Trekkies and if I will like this new future Trek !

  8. A couple more interesting (and critical) reviews I’ve run across, FWIW:

    One from deep in the blogosphere, cheerfully yet methodically lining up and shooting down the film’s myriad “WTF” moments…

    …and one from David Edelstein in the pages of New York, pithily noting its shortcomings while ruefully acknowledging that this is Trek now, and thus for audiences “what choice is there?”

  9. Mike Ellard says:

    I’m with Chris on the supernova issue – it just didn’t make any scientific sense.

    And the idea of “saving” a planet by opening a black hole right next to it — well that seemed like a bit of a stretch too.

    I also didn’t see why they’d need to drill a hole in a planet in order to inflict damage with a black hole. It seems to me that if you just dropped a black hole onto a planet, it would eat its way into the center quickly enough. Why bother with the drill?

  10. Neither the supernova nor the black holes in this movie behaved remotely like the things that go by those names in real science.

    A real supernova can have wide-ranging effects, yes… over vast spans of time. But those effects obviously can’t propagate faster than the speed of light, and at stellar distances they’re not going to devour a planet instantly, as was shown with Romulus.

    Real black holes, meanwhile, can consume whatever they have a gravitational relationship with (e.g., they’ll slowly devour their partners in binary star systems). It appears that the “red matter” in this movie operates by somehow greatly multiplying the strength of gravity in a given locale—hence its ability to create black holes that can absorb the super!supernova, or the entire planet Vulcan, not gradually but virtually instantly. (The near-absorption of the Enterprise at the end underscores this effect.) Logical consistency suggests that such a gravitational change would have some effect on other bodies in the same system as Vulcan, like “Delta Vega.”

    In both cases, a little bit of science-fictional imagination on the part of the screenwriters could have cobbled up explanations that avoided these problems and remained plausible, at least within the traditional bounds of Trek’s rubber science. (In her Trek novels, for instance, author Diane Duane convincingly imagined a system-threatening phenomenon that propagates from star to star at subspace velocities.) The writers simply didn’t bother. Granting the benefit of the doubt that they knew what they were writing was nonsense, they apparently calculated that using familiar-sounding terminology would nevertheless be more “accessible” to a wide audience than the SFnal exposition necessary to make the story plausible.

    Aside to Tom Galloway: the instant promotions at the end are even more laughable when you consider that the one character not promoted was Spock, even though he (not Kirk!) is the one who actually saved Earth and disabled Nero’s ship!

  11. earth-shattering kaboom says:

    It’s inconceivable that such a black hole would devour a planet, yet leave the immediately neighboring planet(oid) completely safe and untouched.

    No it’s not. Black holes grow by consuming whatever comes into contact with them. If you dropped a blob of Strange Matter into the Earth, it would oscillate around for a while, eventually snarfing up the entire planet and turning it into a black hole with exactly the same mass as the planet had before. It wouldn’t affect the orbit of the Moon at all.

  12. earth-shattering kaboom says:

    I thought the supernova was one of the only things that made any sense.

    Supernovas do come in all different sizes, and some of them can cause mass extinctions on a galactic level.

    Or so I read somewhere. A supernova is not a toy.

  13. I was pleasantly surprised at the new Star Trek movie.

  14. Christian says:

    Mr. Miller’s comments are accurate. I was able to enjoy the film for the action but it was not a “Star Trek” film.
    I’m guessing Nero spent some of the 25 years giving advanced technology to Romulans of the past which will set up the next movie.
    Can anyone explain what was going on with Nero’s ears? Toward the end of the movie his right ear looked like it had been mutilated (no longer pointy). Then the point came back (bad attention to detail) and finally it was mutilated again.

  15. Tom Galloway says:

    Another plot hole, and expansion of one you mention;

    So, Kirk can depose Spock by citing clause 619 which forces a Captain with a personal stake in the mission to step down, and Nero had killed Spock’s mother (yeah, the rest of Vulcan too, but what pushes Spock over the edge is the “yo mama” comments). Um, who else has Nero killed? Kirk’s father maybe? And Kirk has at least as many daddy issues as Spock has mommy issues. I figure you end up with Chekov (who in this version has apparently swiped Spock’s traditional “human calculator” skills when he wasn’t looking) in charge.

    And the silliness of Kirk going from cadet to Captain is only exaggerated by the entire Starfleet flagship bridge crew save Spock consisting of cadets who’ve apparently been on a whopping one mission ever. Not during the Nero incident, but at the end of the film when they’ve all apparently been assigned these positions by Starfleet.

  16. Nomad says:

    Now, if only J.J. Abrams would do a “reboot” of Wolverine, X-Men Origins…

  17. Charlie H, UK says:

    Yeah, to be fair a lot of Star Trek has plot holes. But in this film, they are as big as that black hole than Vulcan falls in to. You have to really stretch to come up with your own explanations (e.g. the whole thing was set in a parallel universe) and in the end I don’t think you can. If it was made properly, you shouldn’t have to.

  18. Well, I think Charlie makes some strong points. We can interpolate all sorts of things that “we don’t know didn’t happen,” but that quickly becomes an exercise in making excuses for the writers. If something is necessary for the story to make sense, then it should’ve been in the movie.

    Almost everyone commenting online seems to agree that the cast was pretty good, as were the production values (the brewery-as-Engineering-deck aside), but most also acknowledge that the story had some really serious flaws. The real dividing line is whether people enjoyed the movie despite those flaws or not. For me, the answer is no.

  19. We don’t know that Spock and Uhura didn’t try to alert the Delta station and I’m pretty sure those pods are supposed to be rigged to alert the nearest UFP facility by design on top of that. So, assuming best case, Something Went Wrong with both signal attempts.

  20. Charlie H, UK says:

    To add to your list of illogical plot points: surely Spock marooning Kirk on a planet with ferocious animals would be a court martial offence. Maybe Kirk was supposed to stay in the escape pod and wait for rescue, but Scotty didn’t seem to be aware of him. That’s gross negligence on his part or Spock’s for not telling him.

    Spock handing over command to a cadet is bad enough, but then when he returns to duty, he seems happy to take orders from Kirk. Even though Vulcans are not supposed to have pride, that’s a bit much.

    Also, the baddies are supposed to be Romulans, but they are completely unlike Romulans from the series. Romulans are supposed to be intelligent, devious and calculating. Obviously, the producers thought this would be a bit subtle so decided to transform them into the evil, brutish baddies with big teeth (which even their ship seemed to have) seen in most Sci Fi and fantasy films. If they originally were going to be Klingon, at least that would have made slightly more sense.

    Apart from these points, the whole film’s focus on action means that as well as the liberal vision of the future, it misses the characterisation that was the series’ strong point. In particular, the Kirk-Spock-McCoy trio was the backbone of many of the episodes, but McCoy barely features, and there’s little interaction between Kirk and Spock.

    In general, despite lip service being paid to Spock’s identity crisis, there’s little character development. This is a shame as they generally seemed to have picked the right actors to play the parts – they are physically similar as much as you could expect. Chris Pine’s alright as Kirk, Zachary Quinto nails Leonard Nimoy’s Spock, while Zoe Saldana’s Uhura is unlike the original since she is far more assertive, but you’d expect that given the times. Anton Yelchin is good as Chekhov despite his main role apparently being to say ‘enemy wessel’ as many times as possible. In fairness, that was about the extent of Walter Koenig’s role as well.

    Basically, in summary, like for many Hollywood films, the producers think we’ll be so hypnotised by the dazzling special effects that we’ll not notice the absence of any plot or characterisation.

  21. I don’t believe that it precludes the existing history. Especially given the plans for continuing exploitation of that timeline via the novels and online gaming that are still very much active at this writing. No, this is an expansion of the playground, whatever the company’s official line on the subject has been, no matter how many reviewers are reciting the official “reboot” line. New toys alongside the old, which works for me.

    And one correction: Greenwood’s announced to the Toronto Star, per today’s edition, that he’s locked in for the next movie. Seeing as he’s from my side of the border, you bet I’m paying attention to that. 🙂

  22. Glad to see some folks commenting! More! More!

    Charlie, you’re right that this is not just a fresh start, it’s a restart that flat-out precludes a lot of the Trek history we remember. A reboot like that would be hard enough to swallow no matter what, but still it could at least have been a good film, even by the terms of a “fast-paced action bonanza.” (Consider, say, The Bourne Identity, or the classic Aliens.) Sadly, as Tuuli points out, it doesn’t even do that.

    Phil, you’re quite right about the target audience, although I think Abrams and Paramount may be selling short the interests and tastes of that audience. Even among action films, the best (like those I just named) still manage to explore some humanistic themes. FWIW, though, I’d have to argue that Babylon 5 is just as much a “liberal’s vision of the future” as Trek… albeit not quite as optimistic.

    Michael, we’ll have to agree to disagree about Lost… I think it’s firing on all cylinders these days, now that it’s completely embraced its SF-ness. Either way, though, the credit or blame doesn’t really fall to Abrams… he hasn’t really been involved in the show since S1.

    More thoughts on Trek in my next post…

  23. michael says:

    I’ve never been a Trekkie per se, but it was always clear to me that J.J. Abrams would almost certainly screw this up. Look what he’s done to Lost!

  24. Tuuli says:

    Thank you for your spot-on review. I have been a bit dismayed after seeing the enthusiastic critic and fan reaction – at one point I wondered out loud whether they saw a different film. Granted, it took me two viewings before I could admit to myself that I just did not find Abram’s Star Trek a good Trek film at all – indeed, it is not good Trek, and it is not a good film. This is a huge disappointment to me. I am mostly a fan of the Original Series and loved the idea of seeing the legendary crew again on the big screen. Oh well, I guess there’s no hope of a good sequel either since I am told that this is the kind of cinema which sells these days and so the next installment will most probably follow in the footsteps of this one.

  25. phil from new york says:

    Nice tough criticism. I’m disappointed, but not surprised, that the movie turned out this way. I haven’t wasted a lot of brain cells keeping up with this movie, but my feeble impression is that it wasn’t made for an aging Trekker like you or an old worn-out baby boomer like me who actually remembers when the original series came out. It was made for kids who don’t give a shit about the original stuff and certainly don’t care about keeping the franchise consistent and the original themes alive. If this movie goes over well, you probably can look forward to a lot more of these bastardized movies that are “Star Trek” in name only.

    Without going too nuts about this, I have always looked at Star Trek as the liberal’s vision of the future. Certainly Blade Runner and Babylon 5 are probably more realistic interpretations of how the future will pan out, but at least Star Trek gave us a template for how a compassionate society ought to operate. I hope we don’t lose that vision that with this new franchise.

  26. Charlie H says:

    That’s a really interesting deconstruction of the films for Trekkies. I think the biggest problem with it is they destroy Vulcan. This basically messes up the whole timeline concerning every Star Trek film and series ever produced, with the exception of Enterprise. The TOS films involved scenes on Vulcan, as did some TNG episodes, which now apparently never happened. Also, can Vulcan characters like Tuvok ever have existed?

    It’s clear that the film was produced by people with little understanding for the Star Trek universe. Where’s all the moralism and utopianism of the series? The film mainly offers us a fast-paced action bonanza, which it admittedly does well. But Star Trek isn’t that.

    You could level a similar complaint against the last film, Star Trek: Nemesis (why is Picard’s character completely different from the series? How did the Remans suddenly develop technology capable of defeating the Federation and Romulans, despite being the slaves of the latter?). In short, Star Trek is being transformed to appeal to a mass market, with the coherence and continuity of the Star Trek being sacrificed.

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