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Try New Star Trek LiteTM! 12.05.2009

Posted by Commodore Mendez in Star Trek Stuff.
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Where do I belong in the new continuity, huh?

Dear Gene Shalit’s Mustache Weaver,
You were right. When you said since I was expecting less, I would like it more. In this case, marginally more. My first feeling, more than anything, was happiness that the movie did not suck wild Ferengi ass. It is a fun movie. But it is chock full of contrivances and plot holes, and as the days go by I think of more and more of them.

Let me riff through the movie for a bit, checking plusses and minuses. Opening battle sequence was okay, even poignant. Although the hibbity-gibbity quick cuts and lens flaring that seem de rigeur for modern action movies really get on my nerves.

Credits fine, respectful to the point of worship (check out that font). What, no familiar theme music?

Young Kirk in the car. Okay, so this is new continuity. Where product placements are prominent. Hello, Nokia! Wait, let’s show it again to make sure we’ve seen it. Young actor, move your hand just so, so we can catch that logo. Thanks!

Well, I guess that and the prominent future Budweiser reference helped pay for an extra ten seconds of CGI, so what can one say? Maybe that a microbrew might’ve been cooler?

The young Spock sequence was great. And in these two Trek kids sequences, we begin a textbook example of the Mckee school of screenwriting—create characters in conflict. Spock’s we always knew about before—his struggle with his split heritage. But what was Kirk’s motivation? Just being really good at something is not enough. He has to have lost something. Now we get it (but did we really need to? See my last entry.) So Obi Wan—I mean, Captain Pike!—calls upon Kirk’s daddy issues to compel him to join Starfleet. So long, Iowa!

The Academy. Wait, um, what is Nero doing this whole time? Playing Romulan Sudoku? Working on his tats and his lats? No, just floating in space waiting for Spock Prime to arrive. Could he maybe bring some Red Matter to the Romulan Empire and, maybe, I don’t know, conquer the galaxy? Nah, Romulus is dead to him, and Nero has made his private war personal, so nothing doing until Spock Prime arrives. That’s a loooong time in a dark spaceship to plot a pretty thin revenge plot. I’ma make Vulcan implode like Romulus esploded and make-a you watch. Can I help it that traffic made you late? No, Spock, you gets-a the full blame!

(Honestly, Nero’s motivation is fleshed out in the comic book prequel series Star Trek: Countdown. It’s carelessly drawn and written, but it does help explain things, like that the Red McGuffin—oh, I mean Matter—is refined from an element that Nero and his crew mine.)

So, Kirk at the Academy. He’s no stack of books with legs this one. He’s pretty smart, this fella. He’s also a real dick, especially in the Kobayashi Maru test. Nice nod to ST2:TWOK with the apple, by the way! Where was the commendation for original thinking? Oh wait, new continuity.

Okay, in this second act, things move quickly. Though once again, the galaxy is in trouble and so Starfleet immediately sends in a bunch of fresh cadets. It’s like the frikkin’ war in Iraq in the 23rd century!

Then Kirk gets kicked off the ship for no good reason but to add a CGI chase sequence and get him to run into the same exact cave Old Spock is chillin’ in. Yeah. It was heartbreakingly wonderful to see Nimoy, but honestly to me he felt a little out of place. In fact, at that point I began to feel the whole time-travel plot seemed out of place, put there to justify bringing Nimoy in and giving canon-happy Trek fans a new bone to chew on. I smell marketing. Maybe they just should’ve started from scratch.

Then some great new things started to happen. Vulcan is destroyed! I saw it coming because in the trailer some planet implodes. And there is only so much time to show so many planets. Gonna be Vulcan. Very sad. Um, but why do they need the drill though? Because they’re miners and that’s how miners roll? Um, or does this somehow contain the black holes eventually? Because, uh, black holes don’t just go away, you know.

Spock’s mama dying was also sad, but probably best since it was Winona Ryder.

Then Kirk takes control of the ship by outing Spock, which is nice of him. But Uhura loves him anyway. The Uhura-Spock romance by the way—too little preamble and thus a bit awkward. Also, is Uhura patient enough to wait around every seven years for you know what?

The Enterprise saves the day. But, say, if one drop of Red Matter creates a black hole big enough to engulf a supernova (that  threatens a galaxy!), then what does a whole big vial of it do? Um, it just conveniently self-implodes. La!

Overall, despite what Abrams was hawking for months, this felt like a film for Trekkies. (Maybe since he’s not a Trekkie he didn’t realize it, but I doubt that.) It reminded me actually of James Cawley’s Star Trek: Phase II web series, but with a LOT more money behind it. In that sense, it didn’t feel like the real Trek to me, just a respectful imitation. Maybe that will change in time. (I doubt it.) Also, it made me feel bad that the original Trek crew was never taken this seriously. What Shatner and the rest could’ve done with better writers and a real budget! But perhaps the truth is the TOS crew was never seen as more than a glorified TV show. Is this really an epic movie? Nah. But it is a really pricey TV movie.

A lot of the plot holes and contrivances I can live with. It is a very fun movie, after all. It is the new Star Trek, because you can’t get any new old Trek anymore. But, make no mistake, it is Star Trek LiteTM, perfect for the age we live in now, with no social significance beyond a rebirth of a popular commercial franchise. It’s like they launched a new version of Habitat for Humanity, but without all that silly house-building.

My rating: 8 out of 11. [Later amended to 6 out 11, when I really thought about it. Then 5/11 when I thought about it some more.—CM]

One last thing, can someone please comb Chris Pine’s hair?

Roger Ebert’s Sweater Vest De-Linter



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