Friday, July 10, 2009

Movie Review - Star Trek

So maybe I am a Trekie at heart. I don't know. I haven't watched any Star Trek in years, Enterprise wasn't very Star Trek-like to me. Voyager was a bore. I liked some of DS9. The movies have gotten worse and worse over the years. So when I heard about the 'reboot' by J.J. Abrams I was dubious. Still, something in me wanted it to be good, so I kept myself ignorant about it.
But the reviews came out. 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (that is pretty darn good). Claims that fans and non-fans alike would love it. So last night, a month into its run I went to see it.
The Good:
I thought the cast was good. They were able to do the original cast pretty well. Particularly the uncanny Spock and McCoy picks.
I've never been impressed with visual effects, so that didn't impress me, but the use of 'original series' looking ships and shuttles. They looked both realistic and canonical, I particularly liked the USS Kelvin.
Aliens. Good introduction of non-humans in various positions, although more as scenery than characters.
The Bad
Time-Travel.-Alternate Reality There has never been a good time travel movie (Back to Future was pretty good). I hated this story. It made little or no sense, like most time travel stories. So, something happened to Romulas, and Spock offered to help. He was too late, but decided to do it anyway. (Why?) Then the black hole he made took him and Nero back in time. When did Nero decide he needed to get vengeance? Nero's and Spock's stories don't sync up. The rationales for the characters, the plans, and the solutions were all lame. The Romulans can time travel, but rather than go back in time and save their families, they choose to go back and punish Spock? Who is Nero? Why not use an actual character from any of the myriad Star Trek stories? Maybe something that Spock or Kirk actually did in their past? It just didn't seem to be taking advantage of the rich resources available.
I understand the idea of creating a reboot in an alternate reality, which is fine, but this one is way lamer than the original .
Kids in Space. Okay young and sexy actors were needed to replace the aged originals. I get that. But the idea that these kids Chekov is 17? and the rest are fresh out of the academy and already the senior officers on Flagship of the Federation? I know they need to be the Enterprise crew, but how about explaining that. In Wrath of Khan a perfectly serviceable explanation for a cadet crew was given, why not do that in this movie?
Scene driven plot: Lots of movies fall victim to this. I can imagine a story board presentation at some briefing where a scene is demo'd, then the plot is twisted to make that necessary (surfing Legolas in LOTR?) The skydiving scene made for good commercials (I guess) but it made almost no sense at all in the movie.
Why did the "drill" need to hang from a long chain over the planet? Why did they need to get onto it in person? Why not just shoot the darn thing with phasers or a photon torpedoes? The element of surprise couldn't have been any better with people since the Romulans knew they were there.
What is up with the Romulan ship? Crazy inefficient weird ship with a layout unsuitable to any use at all. And leaving the vulcan ship with it's door open and keys in the ignition? Again, there could have been explanations for it, but none were given.
Changes to the Canon: I can appreciate wanting to make a break from the canon, and potential ire of trekkies around the world. But the changes seemed odd to me. Why not have Pike suffer the damage he had in the show? Why make the ships so much bigger than they were in the show? Why kill Kirk's dad and Spock's mom? I see how it fit in the story, but such things were not necessary to the plot. Why destroy Vulcan?
Failed Characterizations: I think the guy playing Kirk was probably fine, but he missed the opportunity to really capture Kirk's personality. Kirk was the optimist, the character was not. Shatner was able to be both confident and self-depreciating at the same time, this guy less so. Kirk's past, in the show, was not clear, but it seemed likely that he had some experience to draw on, the new one not so much. He also wasn't as funny as Shatner. The Uhura/Spock thing was interesting. But why not take advantage of the really interesting arc in the show of Spock dealing with his emotions and logic. They tried to set up the conflict between logic and emotion, but they didn't really do it. Spock was freely emotional throughout the movie.
Overkill Syndrome: This is not unique to this movie, or this Trek film. But the idea that you need dozens of ships destroyed, whole planets, whole races destroyed. That is not necessary. Star Trek TOS and to a lesser degree TNG was very localized. A small story with a good plot. The idea that you need a BIG threat to justify the movie is false. The best Trek movie by far, Wrath of Kahn was ultimate a battle wits between two people, and the threat was personal, not galactic.

In general, I've got pretty low expectations of movies in general, and Star Trek movies in particular. This movie seemed to suffer for the general Star Trek movie problem (focusing too much on visual effects, not enough of character). I didn't much care for this Kirk, why not make him a sympathetic character? He is supposed to be a genius in this movie, but apart from the Kobiashi Maru scene (which seemed like an 80s nerd movie) he didn't really demonstrate any genius, or even prowess of any sort. Nero never made any sense. Who is this person, a miner? A really mean miner? That's the villain? If this were the beginning of a new TV series, I'd say. Alright! Give it some shake down time, and this could be great. But as a stand alone movie, ugh.