So I saw Star Trek a week ago and I guess I’m ready to write about the experience. On the Reviewer’s Scale of Re-Imaginings and Re-Boots, Star Trek falls somewhere between Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Peter Jackson’s King Kong. It doesn’t ruin fond memories of my childhood, but it doesn’t quite make me wish I was a kid again so I could be terrified by a whole new breed of bugs. I left the movie without feeling ripped off, but still slightly annoyed that some people will go so far in some aspects of film-making and skimp so badly on others of equal importance.
The movie looks fantastic. The sets and ships and cgi looks pretty damn great. Everything looks cool, but not always Star Trek-y. The production felt very much like someone had been watching a lot of Enterprise and other Trek series, and then remembered some cool stuff from Battlestar Galactica (new series). For example, the phasers look very similar to the original series, but behave like a lot of the weapons in Enterprise, retaining a sort of functional mechanization to the prop itself. There are tons of aliens seamlessly, and heedlessly, thrown into the backgrounds and foregrounds of crowd scenes.
The plot is not bad, by Star Trek standards. That caveat is important because a viewer needs to remember that Trek does certain things in its Trek way and these things can be totally dumb in any other setting but Trek always makes it seem ok. Like time travel. Or God-like beings living in the center of the galaxy. Or reincarnation through proto-matter. Or Nazis on other planets. Or any of the other goofy things that would never fly in Babylon 5 or Firefly or etc, etc, etc. So when I say the plot is not bad, I mean the sequence of events that together contribute to the telling of a story works and is entertaining.
The weak points were almost minor enough, but still silly. Every time you saw an experienced Captain, the guy left his ship in the hands of the nearest person. Every single one of them removed their own obstacle from Kirk’s path to the big chair.
The dialogue is a completely different story. Most of it comes straight out of the Big Fukkin Book of Action Movie Dialogue Book For Big Fukkin Summer Movies: Lock and load while saddlin’ up Edition with a New Foreword by Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer. The bright exceptions being Spock and McCoy. Karl Urban channeled Deforest Kelley pretty effectively, though it felt a little forced at times. Zachary Quinto did a damn fine Spock and seemed to be the best written character in the movie. Kirk’s lines were rather limp and his fight scenes were a travesty for the flying-leg-kicker. He used to win fights. I feel like shouldn’t hold that against the movie, but for a guy who was supposed to have “advanced hand to hand training,” he got his ass beat a lot.
The major point that I can imagine everyone griping over, which I feel would be too spoilery to reveal, is explained with the epitome of all Star Trek explanations in all series, ever and for all time: alternate realities. There is not a single series that didn’t deal with this aspect of time travel, so far as I know, and a movie using it, much less the director and writers using it, feels so utterly appropriate that I almost want to applaud Abrams and his people for this explanation/excuse. Except that I think applause in a movie theater is beyond stupid, unless you are attending a special screening with the stars or something. It gives them great license and freedom in sequels, but we all know the dangers of giving people too much freedom in sequels. Sam Raimi.