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.

Leave a comment

8 Comments

  1. John Hauser

     /  May 8, 2009

    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.

    An this is wrong. Why? “Bad guys are bad, and need to be killed”

    And what would happen if you would be the son of the bad guy? What would happen if you would see your father being shot indiscriminately? If i carry that to the real world, that is EXACTLY what the bad dudes do. And saying that by doing that, they can earn it, and that they must not be given any new chances, is getting as low as them, Jonas. In short: murder is WRONG, except when you defend your live, or others, or when you don’t kill intently, because then it stops being murder.

  2. John Hauser

     /  May 8, 2009

    So, in ultimate, i agree with Kirk

  3. JM

     /  May 8, 2009

    From the sound of it, i’ll like the movie. But product placement for Nokia? That’s crazy. Of course private buiseness and – moreso – brand would continue even in the Star Trek society, and actually I would have liked to see it in the past, but telecommunications of all things? That’s where I would expect everything to just be completely free, actually it’s the one sector where such a development is most likely. And since NOKIA is not a brand name of a communication system, but of a company, I wonder why they would continue to exist. Even in Shadowrun, they merged with Ericsson. 😉

  4. And what would happen if you would be the son of the bad guy? What would happen if you would see your father being shot indiscriminately? If i carry that to the real world, that is EXACTLY what the bad dudes do. And saying that by doing that, they can earn it, and that they must not be given any new chances, is getting as low as them, Jonas. In short: murder is WRONG, except when you defend your live, or others, or when you don’t kill intently, because then it stops being murder.

    I don’t understand what you’re trying to say. Are you under the impression that I am in favour or murder?

    Of course private buiseness and – moreso – brand would continue even in the Star Trek society, and actually I would have liked to see it in the past, but telecommunications of all things?

    Exactly! When they order a Budweiser (and a Slusho, sigh) later in the film, I’m fine.

  5. Marsden

     /  May 8, 2009

    Re: Generations.

    Don’t forget, Picard’s wish was Kirk out of the way, so he’s the one still in the Nexus and the rest of the movie was his Nexus fantasy. 😉

    On the overall entry:

    It’s hard to balance something that’s good and thoughtful and has a lot of action and wide appeal. Not impossible, but hard to do. I think they just tried to concentrate on one thing, the action, and let the thoughfulness and character moments fall by the wayside. Maybe in the DVD extended director’s cut version they might leave in the character moments? Thanks for your review.

  6. My mom wants to go see this for Mother’s Day (widow of a Trekkie, and she didn’t mind the Trekkie part one bit). I’m looking forward to New Spock and New Scotty, but New Kirk? Well… okay, I’m gonna be brutally honest here. New Kirk looks like he’d glitter in the sunlight. He does, he really does.

    So, I’m not entirely sure if I’m looking forward to the movie itself or not.

  7. I think they just tried to concentrate on one thing, the action, and let the thoughfulness and character moments fall by the wayside.

    I think I would’ve been fine with a pure adventure movie with good characters. The Mummy Returns is one of my favourite films – but despite being so heavy on action, The Mummy Returns is ten times as full of character moments and witty lines as the new Star Trek film.

    But even that I think I could take if the damn thing didn’t have those small moments of disturbing immorality and jingoism. (And didn’t reboot the universe, too.)

    To put it differently: this whole film seems to be a better-done version of Nemesis. Same recycling going on, same idiotic villain, etc. – just done with more flourish and technical expertise.

  8. Well, finally got to see it. Now, I’m the son of a Trekkie. And to top that off, my mother knows almost as much about Star Trek as my father did.

    Now, my opinion was that I loved the new movie. The action was great, but that’s mostly because the explosions seem to be the kind that don’t grate against your ears like in Mission Impossible 3. I have no idea why, but that’s just how it is.

    Seeing Leonard Nimoy reprise his role as Spock one more time was just as fantastic for me as it was for you, Jonas. Simply amazing.

    Most of the characters were true to the original versions. My favorite part? Bones: “Green-blooded hobgoblin!”

    Kirk was no idiot, he was just arrogant and undisciplined. Time travel killed his father, so, yeah.

    Nero could have been a better villain, I admit. But he still had a decent villainous plot after fulfilling his first villainous plot (a Romulus free of the Federation).

    New Spock did a fantastic job taking up the mantle in my opinion. Although I think he could have gotten that eyebrow up a little higher.

    Scotty: “I’m givin’ ‘er oll she’s got!” Also, the transporter theory was cool. I think THAT was a throwback to Star Trek IV.

    As for the time travel, I believe it’s completely fixable, although this particular theory of mine is completely untested in anything fictional, hasn’t even been thought of before, and, even if it DID work, would leave Spock Prime stranded in yet another alternate timeline, however similar to his it may be.

    Just have Spock Prime go back to a point BEFORE all this nonsense began, and then have him move back forward. If I’m correct, he should move along his original timeline and wind up in the future on the “correct” timeline. If he arrives just before everything gets screwy and fixes the problem before Nero has reason to lose his Romulan marbles, then Star Trek history will be fixed while still allowing the movie to exist as its own time string. But as I said, Spock Prime could never return to his own time string.