Star Trek (2009)

So, we saw Star Trek. I wanted to like it. With everyone raving about it like mad, I was really excited. And the result?

Well, it was OK. There were good bits and bad bits.

Let me go into detail. (WARNING: SPOILERS)

The Positive:

  • I can’t say that the film isn’t Star Trek. I mean, I can count it as a Star Trek film, which I can’t really do with Star Trek: Nemesis. I’m not saying it’s good, but it’s better.
  • Leonard Nimoy is in it. And he is, as always, amazing. When we finally hear him speak the words (more or less) of the original intro, it’s hard as a Trekkie not to cry. Space: the final frontier… *weep*
  • The sets and effects are well-done. I’m not 100% happy with the super-futuristic iTrek design, but it’s certainly better than the shit that was Nemesis, or the amateurish nonsense of Generations. I’ve always said that one of the major problems of Star Trek is that while the people who created it were a family, it was a family where quite a few people just weren’t particularly good at what they did. If you compare Deep Space Nine to something from its own time, like Babylon 5, it’s shocking to see how antiquated and badly done it is. First Contact and Insurrection are well-shot (especially Insurrection), but films like Generations and Nemesis are just embarrassingly badly done. And even at its best, old Trek is… flawed, on a technical level. Not so this new installment.
  • The music is good. Star Trek, despite having two awesome themes, generally has dreadful music.
  • The actors… well, the actors didn’t bother me, except for Anton Yelchin, who while a good actor did not work as Chekov. At all.
  • The writing was occasionally funny, and at least did not totally throw out everything about the continuity (such as it was).
  • The opening was very, very powerful.
  • It was entertaining. As an action-heavy work of popcorn, it was entertaining.

The Negative:

  • This may not seem like much, but the product placement drove us nuts. After the very powerful opening mentioned above, which had us in tears, the movie suddenly throws a gigantic Nokia advertisment at us. And that’s just offensive and wrong. The world of Star Trek is not capitalistic. It’s just not. When the characters go back to the 20th century in The Voyage Home, they are utterly unable to deal with silly concepts such as money. Whether you like it or not, the world of the Federation is basically socialist. That’s not me projecting my ideals onto a series, it’s just how it is. And having a big fucking product placement in front of our noses just does not fit.
  • The portrayal of Starfleet as a purely military organization. A character refers to them as a “humanitarian and peacekeeping armada.” Well, that sounds a whole lot like the people who bombed Kosovo to me. I realize that this isn’t the first time Star Trek has gone in this direction – it starts with the influence of Nicholas Meyer, goes through Deep Space Nine and ends with the disgusting mess that is Enterprise – but it’s not what Star Trek was meant to be about. There’s a reason it’s the Starship Enterprise, not the Warship Enterprise. Star Trek is about helping people and exploring the universe, not bombing some innocent planet back to the Stone Age. Granted, this doesn’t exactly happen in this film, but basically Starfleet is shown as a slightly idealistic version of the US military, complete with unpleasant thugs who beat up people in bars.
  • Fitting with the above, the outright rejection of diplomacy in favour of revenge at the end of the movie. That’s just disgusting. They have defeated their enemy, and now they have to kill them and enjoy it? No thank you. That’s not the spirit of Trek, and that particular scene leaves a very bad taste in one’s mouth.
  • The fact that the movie reboots all of Star Trek, thereby invalidating everything from the TOS movies to The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. Why? This wasn’t necessary. Why not just leave things alone and do something original?
  • They could come up with a wonky plot to screw up the whole continuity but they couldn’t come up with a way of bringing back Kirk and undoing the awful awfulness that was Generations? Pffft.
  • The lack of plot or character development, at least outside the Kirk/Spock relationship. The overall plot is contrived and unnecessary; the main villain starts out with a motivation which basically disappears about halfway through the film, making him rather one-dimensional; and apart from Kirk, Spock and Uhura no-one gets more than a few lines, let alone character moments.
  • When we got home, we decided to watch an episode of the original series. I’d gotten the first two seasons as a present, and we still hadn’t looked at them. I grew up with TOS, but it had been at least six years since I’d last seen an episode. Verena grew up with TNG, and had only seen a few episodes of TOS in German. Now, TOS is of course quite flawed. The sets are… less than fantastic, the editing is bad, and the music is mostly annoying. But after fifteen minutes of The Man Trap (not the most brilliant of episodes) we agreed that there’s a reason that the original cast in legendary – every single actor has oodles of charisma and screen presence, and they feel more real after those 15 minutes than the cast of the new movie feel after two hours.
  • And they have more dialogue, too. Especially poor Mr. Sulu, who barely gets to say anything in the new film. In TOS, the characters have dialogue that gives them personality. Combined with the excellent casting, that makes for a pretty cool experience. The characters in the new film feel a lot more detached, and the writers rely rather heavily on people’s recollections of the characters from TOS and the older films.
  • Kirk is actually portrayed as something of an idiot. Or at least arrogant to the point of being unpleasant. That is not the character. The actual Kirk is a lot more interesting: he’s cocky, yes, but also extremely intelligent. That does not come across properly.
  • In The Man Trap, the crew of the Enterprise ultimately kill the “villain” of the episode. And yet, at the end, Kirk isn’t happy about this; there’s a sense of tragedy about having had to kill the creature. A sense, even, of compassion. There’s nothing like this in this film. Bad guys are bad, and need to be killed. End of story. No complexity, no nothing. Good military dudes versus evil crazy miner dude. Good guys win, all happy.
  • You know, some idiots make fun of fans who would prefer dialogue and diplomacy scenes to things blowing up and people shooting at each other. How sad is that? Have we all become so anti-intellectual that we complain every time a character in a movie starts using arguments and logic? Is it too hard to follow, perhaps? Shall Giant Corporate Mommy pre-chew all our thoughts and spit them down our throats? Or is it just that words hurt cause words make brain think, urgh? Because as much as I enjoy a cool adventure film – and I really do – I also really think that Star Trek is about more than just explosions in space.

All in all, it’s enjoyable enough, and despite some moral issues it’s at least related to the Trek family; but there’s not a whole lot of depth to it, and about thirty minutes after it’s over it starts to dissolve in your mind. There’s not much more to it than that. People will never remember it like they remember the one about the whales. (Which, by the way, didn’t need another bloody supervillain. When will people get that you can do good stories without having to kill someone? That’s what Star Trek is all about.)

In short: shiny surface, no real content.

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