startrek

Review: Star Trek (2009)

startrek

In 1979, Star Trek: The Motion Picture featured the likes of David Gerrold and Bjo Trimble in small roles, transmitting a subconscious wire that, whatever the film’s faults, this was really an expensive telegram for the fans. Thirty years later, with similar commercial circumstances in place, Vulcan Council Member #1 is played by the notorious hack screenwriter Akiva Goldsman — the no-talent Oscar-winning scribe behind Joel Schumacher’s Batman movies, the man who had the effrontery to butcher both Lost in Space and Asimov, and who was recently reported to be sodomizing Dave King’s excellent novel, The Ha-Ha. If this representative casting doesn’t spell out the Sino-British style handover of the Star Trek franchise from the fans to the hucksters, then perhaps you may not understand that Hollywood has remained quite interested in systematically raping your childhood if it will fill its coffers.

Since comparative points are often the best place to start, let’s just say that J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek isn’t as bad as Star Trek V: The Final Frontier or Star Trek: Nemesis. I realize that’s a bit like telling you that having a dentist rip out your molars without anesthetic is better than getting repeatedly stabbed in the eyeballs. For the undiscriminating fanboy who will lap this movie up without complaint, the film is about as good as Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek: Insurrection. Which is to say that it isn’t up there with the sublime quartet of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and Star Trek: First Contact. It isn’t one of those movies you’re going to geek out about, although Eric Rosenfield and I spent more than an hour in a diner expressing our frustrations about the film’s total misunderstanding of basic science (And neither of us are scientists.) There was a point where the film almost had me, but J.J. Abrams betrayed that trust by having three guys in spacesuits enter into a planet’s atmosphere without burning up. This mesospehre-defying trio eventually land on a drill platform tethered to a space elevator that is floating several thousand feet above the planet’s surface. And even after the considerable wind factor has whisked away the token red shirt, the remaining crew members still manage to duke it out with Romulans while standing on the platform. Which is as improbable as Philippe Petit juggling fifty chainsaws while standing on the wire between the Twin Towers in 1974. The man certainly had skills, but the world has physics.

These fighters don’t contend with wind, even as the planet is in seismic upheaval. Indeed, they perform acrobatics while fighting on the platform. (For those who don’t mind spoilers, Eric has outlined some of the egregious specifics in his review.) When John Rambo leaping off a cliff without so much as a scratch on his body carries more plausibility than a Star Trek movie, you know that the latter has serious narrative issues. (And speaking of cliffs, the scientific discussions involving Kirk’s fingers in the trailer are worth revisiting. This post demolishes the physics and even has Neil deGrasse Tyson showing up in the comments.)

All this is a shame because the new cast, who I’ll get to later, is quite good. But the “every other rule” that used to be applied to the Star Trek movies is no longer valid. And that’s because J.J. Abrams and his team really don’t get Star Trek. I suspect that they don’t even like Star Trek. And let’s face it. Today’s most critically and commercially successful franchises are made by geeks like Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson, not cold and calculating businessmen like J.J. Abrams. If Star Wars: The Phantom Menace served as Lucas’s visceral betrayal to his fans, perhaps epitomized best with the unpardonable Jar Jar Binks, then J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek (a more aloof and uninformed vision than Rick Berman’s) is more of an intellectual betrayal. It has a few good ideas to shake up some of the creaky complacency that has set in, but it still staunches the bloodflow. The film is not outright bad. It’s good that the crew of the Enterprise is carrying on in some form. But what now is ultimately the point? The Star Trek of 1968 was utopian and futuristic. It projected a hokey but earnest progressive vision. And even in television reruns, you could somehow believe that this was a future that could happen. But the Star Trek of the last two decades has been constantly playing catch-up with present-day technologies. Despite the presence of geek outreach representative Simon Pegg in the role of Scotty, this Star Trek is all about the cold hard cash. (And to give you some small sense of the commercial sacrifice, Pegg has shaved off his goatee for this. Apparently, there’s no room for true geeks in this new commercial vision. Nor is there any room for the handicapped. In a move that will surely ire legions of handicapped Star Trek fans, at the end of the film, Captain Christopher Pike is stripped of his command and booted up to admiral because he now sits in a wheelchair. Pike isn’t burned or scarred or given two lights to flash his affirmatives and nays before a magistrate, but he remains quite lucid despite having chowed down a Centurion worm. Which leaves one to wonder why the Americans with Disabilities Act isn’t applicable to the rosy humanitarian goals of the future.)

The problem may lie in the conceptualization. It’s a little discussed chapter in the Star Trek franchise history, but shortly after Harve Bennett produced the dreadful Star Trek V, he had an even worse idea called The Academy Years, focusing on Kirk and Spock when they were young Starfleet cadets (believe it or not, John Cusack was in mind for the younger Kirk) and featuring William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy bookending the film in small roles. Top brass were initially wary of a film released around Star Trek‘s 25th anniversary that didn’t feature the regular cast. Bennett wrote more wraparound scenes for the veteran thespians. But the project was eventually scrapped, and Bennett was gone from Paramount not long after.

What’s striking about this reboot is how close it resembles purported descriptions of Bennett’s The Academy Years. Like Bennett’s story, the young Jim Kirk is a reckless rebel smashing up vehicles in Iowa. (In Abrams’s film, he drives a motorcycle instead of Bennett’s speeder bike.) Like Bennett’s story, young Spock is told not to go to Starfleet, with Spock informing his fellow Vulcans that logic suggests that he go anyway. The people of Earth are, in this phase of the Federation’s existence, still bigoted. (What’s interesting about this reboot is that the “green-blooded” racism originates not from McCoy, but from Kirk. It is McCoy who perpetuates this verbal ignominy. The suggestion here that Kirk’s red state beliefs are somehow responsible for sullying Starfleet’s blue state virtues is a daring and subversive one, but one that the writers have neither the skills nor the intelligence to fully weave into their narrative) We may never know whether writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (who also “rebooted” the Transformers mythos in disastrous collusion with Michael Bay) were aware of Bennett’s script, or if Paramount felt compelled to draw upon some of the ideas for some source material. But while these two writers may know how to write a dumb yet engaging high-octane thriller, they don’t know elementary science and they sure as hell don’t know Star Trek.

In order to reboot the series, you have to comprehend a number of very important principles behind Star Trek. First, Star Trek has borrowed liberally from science. So much so that physicist Lawrence Krauss wrote a book called The Physics of Star Trek and entire websites exist attempting to provide scientific explanations for the concepts. People have devoted their careers to science because they have been inspired by Star Trek. The transporter beam and the slingshot time travel effect seen in “Assignment: Earth” and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home may not have any real-world counterparts. But the details are vague enough for us to believe in the premise. So when J.J. Abrams and his writers have a starship hovering next to a black hole, or someone observing a black hole on a nearby planet, and none of this adjacent space gets sucked into a considerable gravitational pull, this goes beyond lazy writing and into the realm of unbridled idiocy. It’s a big fuck you to the fans. (The science geeks aren’t the only ones left huddling in the cold. IT geeks will also bristle over one scene in which Chekhov must run several decks to a transporter room to beam aboard two people. Despite the Enterprise containing limitless displays of consistently shifting text and graphics, Abrams and his team apparently haven’t heard of VPN.)

And while I appreciated the Starfleet skirts returning and the general defiance of political correctness, one of Star Trek‘s appealing qualities has always been its multiculturalism. You’d think that, in an Obama presidency, we’d be given a Uhura who is more than a leggy linguist. But Uhura’s screen time involves fending off advances from Kirk and throwing herself at Spock. She’s a character composite of Nurse Chapel and the Nichelle Nichols incarnation. This is not a character who is permitted to think or offer solutions. Sure, she intercepts and translates a vital radio transmission. But it is Kirk who seizes this information and uses this to advance up the ranks of command without crediting Uhura. Again, if Kirk embodies the ugly capitalist who keeps utopia’s engine running, there’s some promise in the suggestion. But the writers simply don’t have the chops to think along these lines and make this interesting. Indeed, with Uhura so exploited, it’s evident that the writers barely grasp feminism’s second wave. (It’s worth noting that Kirk does sleep with an Orion, but she resembles nothing more than an attractive actress who has been painted green. There is nothing “exotic” about her, and the film offers no contemporary answer to the Vaseline-smeared lens or the strange soft lighting that greeted many of the women in the original series. So even if the film adopts the position that sexual conquest is alive and well, it lacks the courage to be forceful about it. And it becomes as cowardly as the G rating attached to Star Trek: The Motion Picture.)

J.J. Abrams’s film flits through three years in Starfleet Academy with all the contrivances of a by-the-numbers TV movie (complete with a few token “farmboys” that seem more applicable to Luke Skywalker than Jim Kirk), it’s worth pointing out that Kirk and Spock never required an origin story. They were never characters who, outside of homoerotic fan fiction, we were supposed to speculate about. With their cinematic incarnations, we had three seasons of the original series to inform our view. But what we have with Abrams’s Star Trek is a solid cast very familiar with the cultural canon, but a group of filmmakers who fundamentally misunderstand the truth behind the legend. Bennett’s The Academy Years was vetoed for the right reasons. We want to see the Star Trek crew in action, using their seasoned experience and skills to battle it out with Klingons. We want to see them contend with scenery-chewing villains like Khan Noonien Singh or General Chang. We want to see Shatner shout “KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNN!” Who is our nemesis in Star Trek? Eric Bana, who could not even pull off Bruce Banner (and caused the studio to act as if Ang Lee’s Incredible Hulk adaptation had never happened). Presumably, he was cast as the Romulan because he starred in a movie called Romulus, My Father. And why have a cheesy actor in the role of a Romulan commander? The Romulans were often commanded by women — most notably the commander in “The Enterprise Incident,” who tempted Spock with both lust and knowledge. But in a typically sexist move by Abrams, we don’t see a single woman on board the Romulan ship. It’s as if Abrams and company confused the Klingons with the Romulans. Indeed, in a prosthetic move that desperately attempts to one-up the ridged Klingon forehead introduced in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the Romulans have been given bald pates and silly tattooed faces. They look like something out of a bad cyberpunk movie from the 1990s.

And to give us characters fresh out of the academy, permitting them to run the Enterprise through contrived circumstances just days out of the gate, is somewhat entertaining but unacceptable. We get an explanation for the “Bones” nickname, but wasn’t this a mystery better left unknown? We get cliched dialogue like “I knew I should have killed you had the chance,” but this lacks Star Trek II‘s melodramatic poetry (“I’ve done far worse than kill you, Admiral. I’ve hurt you. And I wish to go on hurting you. I shall leave you as you left me. As you left her. Marooned for all eternity in the center of a dead planet. Buried alive.”). (Come to think of it, should there be a reimagined Star Trek II, perhaps Nicholas Meyer might be coaxed to write it.) Even the stardates here have been replaced by crude anno domini.

All Abrams has here to sustain his tentpole picture are desperate references to previous films. An ice planet evoking the Klingon prison planet in Star Trek VI. A slimeless Centurion worm that rips off Star Trek II‘s slimy Ceti eel. The three Vulcan computers used to rehabilitate Spock’s intelligence at the beginning of Star Trek IV. The lone Spock investigative mission in Star Trek: The Motion Picture recycled late in the film. This is a film that offers a phaser with a sliding click, but that simultaneously gives us the fundamentally stupid idea of red matter. This is a film that has the courage to make Spock unapologetically emotional, but that has the fine Karl Urban simply doing an accurate DeForest Kelly impression (complete with a prefatory “My God, man!”). Chris Pine has the ego and the masculine swagger to sell Kirk. And I can even imagine him putting his own spin on the immortal line, “I am Kirok!” But even Pine is given a Shatneresque “Bones” boom when he takes the bridge near the end of the film. John Cho is Harold as Sulu, and it’s just possible that the excitable Anton Yelchin may be his Kumar. But even Zachary Quinto, who was better as Spock than I anticipated, is doomed, like the rest of the cast, to mimic the cast that came before.

Had Abrams taken the chances that Ron Moore did with his Battlestar Galactica reimagining, this might have been a franchise worth getting excited over. But Abrams’s failure to shake up the Star Trek universe while remaining fundamentally true to the franchise’s underlying appeal is a sign that some mausoleums are best left sealed and that reinvention is another way of saying that you’re out of fresh ideas.

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33 Comments

  1. “the film’s total misunderstanding of basic science (And neither of us are scientists.) ”

    Maybe not but you come off like real computer science geeks. Head over to onion.com, it was made for you.

    LOL, Who cares about the science, its about being a roller coaster ride, not some geek fest.

    I could barely get through the review, it was so bloated and longwinded. Really, if your going to blog bets to get a degree in english lit first, then attempt to write.

  2. Yes, who cares about a cultural phenomenon that has inarguably altered history? That produced the first interracial kiss on television? That inspired millions? The Onion video, which I’ve seen, was not made for us. I’m not against popcorn movies (I praised FIGHTING on these pages not long ago) and I’m certainly not some hard-core Star Trek fan (I’ve seen perhaps a handful of episodes each of ENTERPRISE and VOYAGER, which were both execrable), but I find your anti-intellectual attitude most illogical. Or to paraphrase another franchise, I find your lack of faith disturbing.

    The film, as of this writing, has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Clearly most people have enjoyed it and would prefer to completely check their heads in at the door. But why can’t a movie be enjoyable and even quasi-intelligent? Pauline Kael called STAR TREK II “wonderful dumb fun.” But I don’t think that even she could have anticipated how far the franchise would have fallen with this qualifier.

  3. Wow! Thank you for excellent review. This is the first review that actually explores how the movie fails to live up to Roddenberry’s goals, project forward with 21st Century feminism, or problems with basic technology and science!

    I was pretty shocked when I saw a trailer with Kirk, Sulu, and the Red Shirt diving into the planet’s atmosphere. It’s VERY basic science to understand that the heat of entry would be burn up someone in a spacesuit unless that suit had some kind of forcefield. The trailer doesn’t show that.

    As for the commenter who doesn’t understand that science of Trek has always been something that intrigued and annoyed fans, then that person just doesn’t understand why science fiction fans exist. We want to project ourselves into these different worlds. We want to understand how the science might work to create something similar.

    The ubiquitous cell phone is an example of Trek-like technology made available.

    Based on initial reports, I had high hopes that Uhura would be treated with more respect. Here it sounds like she is even less respected than in the original picture. As for Kirk making racist comments about Spock’s green blood, that sounds horrible and antithetical to Kirk’s traditional beliefs.

    Part of the glory of Trek is that humans evolve past racism, etc. Why injected it into the movie? How does that make Kirk heroic?

    (One thing that always bothered me about ST:TNG was how bridge equipment always overloaded and people were killed because of electrical explosions. It’s as if the Federations’ engineers never heard of circuit breakers! Of course, since most of the displays were flatscreen touch-enabled, there would be very little need for electricity.)

  4. “Yes, who cares about a cultural phenomenon that has inarguably altered history? That produced the first interracial kiss on television?”

    Except for the fact that Kirk and Uhura were being forced to kiss by the telekinetic aliens.

  5. Peter: Obviously, you’re unaware of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roddenerry vs. the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Television.

  6. Has anyone ever actually read Harve Bennet’s screenplay? In his riveting, unauthorized biography of Gene Roddenberry, Joel Engel writes that Roddenberry disliked Bennet’s screenplay and cleverly used the Trek fan network to spread the rumour that Bennett’s script was like an amalgam of Star Trek and Police Academy. The fans then pressured Paramount to dump Bennett’s script.

  7. Thank you. Rotten Tomatoes has this joke of a film at 98% I’m so glad that you took the time to write this review. It confirms all the BS I suspected from this so called “reboot”. I knew it was going to be a pile of shit when I saw the first full trailer. Hollywood is out of ideas.

  8. Hey look guys, four things…
    One, unless I missed something when I was watching the movie tonight, it wasn’t Kirk who made “specist” comments towards Spock, it was Bones.
    Two, so what if Uhura wasn’t female-commander-rising-the-ranks extraordinaire…first of all, there was a previous series to hold somewhat true to, and, although this movie may be a product of it’s time, remember that the original show was, for all it’s mind-blowing progressive ideas, still often written as an allegory for the cold war – probably for one of those ‘sellout’ reasons like connecting to the audience – Do you remember that it aired on NBC?
    Third, as far as science goes, yeah the “spacejump” scene was laughable – but it’s Hollywood – how much of the original show seems retarded in retrospect – for instance – the transporter/Heisenberg compensator – imagined because there wasn’t money or time for the shuttle props before the first show, or – of all the planets humanity encounters in it’s travels, if there’s intelligent life, it’s often portrayed in human-likeness, and almost always in primate form…seriously, convergent evolution everywhere? And, of course, there’s always the issue that we have no theoretical idea how to warp space-time, much less if it’s possible.
    Finally, I think that you missed the point of the “reboot”…though it’s not philosophical like TNG or anything like whatever the hell TOS was supposed to be, it is more real, gritty, human – it’s warlike. Starfleet of old didn’t want to get its hands messy with this fighting stuff – where were the people running around, screaming sh!t, freaking out? It was so calm, surgical, and ordered.
    Of course, if you believe that war is something to be overcome by knowledge or education, consider that our closest evolutionary cousins, chimpanzees, participate in it. Star Trek has, previously at least, tried to discount this fact. It’s the aliens that are bad, not us – we come in peace. Now we’re fighting for our lives; it IS time for war, and we’re gonna fight like we mean it.
    There’s something else about this movie. It is sexy and fast-paced in a way that no other version of Star Trek has ever been, it really is a sci-fi action flick. All that the average person needs to relate to it is a basic understanding of very general science, which is fine, unless you are a physicist or feel a need to be intellectually superior to others. What the movie is is a pretty good story, IMHO.

    But don’t let me stop you from flaming away – they corrupted you childhood or something, those capitalist bastards!!!

    PS: You guys ARE spot on about the whole VPN thing.

  9. To Bill from Accounting: It is Kirk who first says “Who is that pointy-eared bastard?” McCoy is standing right there. From then on, McCoy continues to express his prejudice, bur Kirk does not. Now Rafe may have a problem with this. But I thought this was interesting subtext (in light of the fact that Kirk also appropriates information from Uhura to rise up the command ladder). It suggests that no matter how noble the United Federation of Planets is, there remains this underlying ugliness. Had J.J. Abrams and company stuck with this instead of their sloppy science, the film would have been more interesting to me. As it stands, it’s silly space fluff. Mindless corporate entertainment that seems to have hoodwinked a number of sensible people (although thankfully not Roger Ebert or Anthony Lane).

    As for the cold war allegory, come on. That’s as specious as suggesting that George Lucas ALWAYS had Joseph Campbell in mind when coming up with the Star Wars movies. You just know that the comparisons came after the fact and George played along to raise the “intellectual” profile of his Coca-Cola franchise.

    Gritty? Real? Well, if that was the case, why couldn’t they get the goddam science right? Surely if you want grittiness, you’ve got to keep things real, yes? And that means coming up with a story in which you don’t have a villain with dumb and preposterous motivations (blowing up planets to get revenge, as opposed to messing with the time continuum to ensure that Romulus isn’t wiped out by a supernova).

    But fuck Star Trek. Doctor Who is so much better anyhow, both in classic and reimagined forms.

  10. “There was a point where the film almost had me, but J.J. Abrams betrayed that trust by having three guys in spacesuits enter into a planet’s atmosphere without burning up.” On August 16, 1960, Kittinger made his most famous free-fall. In this flight, he made it up to an altitude of 102,800 feet, breaking a previous record made by David Simons during Project Man High. He stayed at this altitude for about 12 minutes, which must have been very unpleasant – not only was it as cold as 94 minus Fahrenheit, but he had a severe pain in his right hand from a malfunctioning pressurized glove. Then, he jumped. He fell for almost five minutes before reaching a safe altitude to open his main parachutes and float down to the ground. In this time, he went as fast as 614 MPH – not quite breaking the sound barrier, as some claimed he had, but still achieving the fastest speed by man through the atmosphere. A human actually accomplished the same feat because they were in the sub atmoshere and not above it…At least get some of your history straight before you speak on behalf of Trek fans. I may agree with some of the singularity comments, but they did close up as if the red matter was juicing it. Once it depleated the black holes closed themselves. I do believe I saw a crapload of cosmic dust and matter on it’s event horizon as well which would demonstrate it was indeed sucking in space around it.

  11. JFH: At least take the time to read my review before criticizing it. By the phrse “mesophere-defying trio,” this should tell you that the three crew members enter into the atmosphere somewhere between 50 and 80 kilometers above the planet’s surface. Which is about right, given what we see in the film. At the bare minimum, that would take us to around 164,041 feet — or 60,000 feet above Joseph Kittinger. And considerably colder, as you rightly point out. (And, in fact, Eric and I discussed stratospheric sky diving at length after the movie, attempting to give Abrams and his creationists some benefit of the doubt.)

  12. If you want to debate all the science involved then fine. But did you take into consideration the planet of Vulcan itself? There is no way that it would be exact same as it would be on earth. The gravitational pull would be different and due to that planet being pretty much a desert/rock planet then maybe there are differences within their atmosphere that made it possible. Also the science is well into the future far beyond our so the materials of the suits can be different also to handle that re-entry. Also maybe when the shuttle launched he dipped into lower into the atmosphere than what it thought. I was a movie and although Star Trek did push the science envelope as much as possible it is a movie. I say enjoy it for what it was. It was a good movie and put a new spin on things. Star Trek has always dealt with the possibilities of alternate universe. Just as in the Old series when they fought themselves and the Federation was a conquering enslaving populations instead of assisting them. With the Star Trek philosophy it’s just that all things can be made possible with understanding and acceptance. So watch the movie and enjoy it for what it is.

  13. Look, don’t be so austere. The movie was good. Not excellent, but enough to very good. I understand of what you mean, I know you expected (and I expected too, the dramatic element, the epic element, the myth, and something to make the story great just like the Star Wars story). Yes, you are right, but let us say that the efford was enough good. The effects were ok. The physics were not according the natural laws, I agree with you, they could replace the red matter with something else (say dark energy) and destroy Vulcan an other way. I agree with you that the idea of dropping 3 men down to the atmosphere without being burned was not succesful. The drill was like a space elevator. The characters? Look, previous Star Trek stories had also some weaknesses (say Kirk was flirting women often…), Ohura had to be more cool. Mc Coy was not in a heavy role. The idea of the Centaurian snail was propably borrowed from an other scifi movie, I have seen it but I don’t remember over now…). Well, as a conclusion it was a good efford as I said, but not excellent. The good thing is that there is future for Star Trek over there, for someone to build an epic, a great, a dramatic moviw among with humor, and good physics on the next future. Star Trek is here to stay, and we have to support this idea. As for the Star Trek deep space 9, Pickard was an excellent captain, and I prefer him much more than Kirk. Pickard was serious, while Kirk was not as responsible as him.

  14. Thank you so much for this review – I’m sick of people being flamed for disliking this movie. It’s great to read a different (and very well-informed) opinion.

    Hilariously enough, I wrote my own mini-review that also contained the phrase “systematically raping” – great minds 😛

    My greatest problem with this movie was Uhura’s role – thank God there’s someone who has the guts to say that it’s just not ok. I’m not sure how any self respecting person who believes that women are actually people could enjoy her scenes in this movie. I cringe just thinking of them.

  15. Funny how plot contrivances are overlooked if you like the subject matter. The movie was fun, but I don’t think it is as great as most reviewers are making out to be.

    There is nothing here (in the movie) that screams “this is why we needed a reboot”, like with the Batman reboot. Two people save the day, just like they’ve been doing for quite some time now.

    You could replace the characters with unknown cadets and it would hold the same weight thematically.

  16. As someone who hasn’t seen this movie yet but is pretty well familiar with the original series,I find the whole “They got the science wrong” argument to be a bit much.

    The science wasn’t always 100% accurate on old school Star Trek-for example,explain to me how just about every planet the crew beamed down to had breathable air(I don’t ever recall anyone wearing oxygen tanks or even high tech nose clip filters),not to mention the vast majority of alien life forms spoke and understood English instantly? I’m not excusing sloppy story telling,but let’s be real here,guys.

    As for Uhura,as Bill from Accounting pointed out,there is a template set for all of the characters from the jump and it would just as out of character for her to become a Xena Warrior Princess type as it would be for Scotty to talk with a Greek accent.

    Also,these are younger versions of the characters,which means that they haven’t reached the level of emotional maturity and/or affected by their past life and death experiences together when they were first introduced to viewers.

    I may feel different after seeing the movie,but in my opinion,some of these criticisms are based on inherent prejudices towards anything deemed too “Hollywood”(which has been cranking out the remakes at speed of light lately)instead of what’s actually on screen.

  17. Well personally I just watched this movie and I think it SUCKS! J.J. has gone too far now there’s two Spock’s, and his mom dies, and his dad feels grief over it. Jim Kirk is an only child, born in space not in Iowa. Uhura is Spock’s lover. Christopher Pike Never goes to the planet of illusions. Vulcan is destroyed, and everyone seems to know what a Romulan looks like. Did he ever pick up a book or even watch a show about STAR TREK before he did this movie. I mean yes its got a lot of action the fight seen are greet but he doesn’t know the first thing about what STAR TREK is. Star Trek is about people and there struggle to be better. He’s made it into” WOW I hope I can kill them first” Not to mention that he changed things about the ships to just stupid designs. First the turbo lifts are behind the bridge for a reason. If people get hurt or some thing gets damaged say oh I don’t know in a space battle, medical personal and engineering crews can get to were they can help out WITHOUT CROSSING IN FRONT OF ANYONE WHO HAPPENS TO BE FIGHTING THE ENEMY SHIP It would get kind of crazy if every time some came on the bridge the captain has to say OH COULD YOU PLEASE STOP FIRING YOUR RAY GUNS AT US THIS MAN IS BLOCKING SOMEONES VEIW
    Second not everyone sits at the same level as everyone else on the bridge because unlike oh say on a submarine everyone has to be able to see the view screen OH IM SORRY BUT COULD YOU MOVE YOUR HEAD could cost lives in the wrong situation. And the Vulcan ship and the Romulan ship look stupid since when did we or anyone else start using propellers’ in space. And according to Spock he came there from 128 years in the future well according to my calculations that puts him about ten years after Voyager got home so WHAT IN THE HELL IS RED MATTER

  18. terrible movie. special effects are always going to look good but the film has too many faults. childish at best. i don’t know how i sat there watching it for so long. i wasn’t impressed at all with it.

  19. It is reviews and mindsets like this that have caused the ST franchise to die a slow agonizing death for the past 15 years. No disrespect to science in the least, but Steve Mason on Slashfilm.com has it 100% right when he says that the franchise up to this point has been pretty much strangled to death by insular nerdiness. So much focus has been put on getting the science and the twisted arcane canon 100% exactly right, that next to no one has spent any time trying to craft an actual story that anyone wants to watch. While I rarely subscribe to the notion that popularity = right, I think it is telling that a director who is self admittedly not a Star Trek fan, and did not make the movie for Trek fans, had what it took to look past the hypertechnobabble garbage that has infested the series and make a Trek movie that has had the best opening of any Trek film to date (not counting in inflation on this, but I suspect that even if I do, it will still be among the highest opening Trek’s ever).

    If you want to enjoy this movie, you have to keep a couple of things in mind:

    1) This is house cleaning of a sort. Trek has been a continuity mess, and has been for the past 20 years. Is there a list of all the paradoxes upon paradoxes that have been created during the entire ST run, from the 60’s onward? There are so many conflicting plot threads, concepts, and stories in the ST universe, that no matter what anyone did regarding making a new movie, somebody was going to be pissed, and ST: Nemesis made it quite clear that things could not continue the way they were in the ST franchise. So to those of you going “this isn’t your father’s Star Trek,” you’re right: dad’s ST was on it’s last twisted contradictory leg and needed to be shot deader than Old Yeller.

    2) Complaining about the science. You know, I hate hearing and reading about people complaining about the science in a movie, because it’s less a valid complaint and more an exercise in ego: “oh look how smart I am, I caught these minutae that the audience and the filmmaking staff didn’t.” When watching a movie like this, it’s an exercise in suspension of disbelief. When you see things happen on the screen, at some point, you have to realize that it’s an analog for a concept that the author/creator wants you to understand. The article you linked to “demolishing” the physics of one scene in the movie was one example on this ridiculous blind hubris. The article goes into these equations describing the physics of Kirk, the car, and the ground, and why he shouldn’t have been able to do what he did, and how strong he would have to be in order to do that, all the while missing the point that, for the love of Pete, that was not the point of the scene. The point of the scene was to show how delinquent young Kirk was. When or how he jumped out of the car is mostly irrelevant. This is similar to movies where you see one or two guys go and punch out people so hard they go flying through windows and into furniture and such. You can sit there and wonder “gee, how did that happen,” or you can just get the point, which is that guys X and Y are supposed to be badass.

    2a) The other ridiculous thing about “complaining about the science,” is that you can do it with any movie, as science marches on, and unless you are dealing with a genius level filmmaker, you can always find stuff in Sci Fi films that do not work. Same for Sci Fi stories. To say that THIS Star Trek has bad science, and say that that is a major failing of this film, is to ignore Trek’s history. Trek has ALWAYS had bad science. Trek has always had good science too, however in a fictional world such as Trek’s, the two can exist side by side together. Every time the away team beams down to another planet, biologists and doctors everywhere should be tearing their hair out in fury: it takes incredible manpower and effort to find cures for diseases now, and every time the crew goes to a new planet, they open themselves up to a new ecosystem full of diseases, as well as exposing the native culture and ecosystem to their diseases. I find this kind of thing to be far more distressing than the whole “atomsphere parachuting” bit, which I can wave away with nonesucheium, force fields, or the fact that they didn’t dive all the way into the atmosphere, and it’s been going on since the 60’s. That includes ST I, II, IV, VI (I don’t know how that got on your list), and FC (also bad in it’s own way), that you seem to hold as “good” examples of Trek movies. Let’s not even get started on issues with biped aliens, translations, invisible lasers in space, teleporters as weapons, etc etc, all in the old Trek’s.

    I’m not going to say that this was a perfect Trek by any means, but I think that the majority of your complaints are irrelevant. No the science isn’t perfect, but the hallmark of good SciFi (and good Fiction period) is that a situation doesn’t _require_ a certain piece of technology to make the plot move, because the story is strong enough that it could happen anywhere under the right conditions. The Dune series is considered one of the greatest scifi epics ever, and most of that series is spent out in deserts, in palaces, run down shanty hovels, and hallucinations. There is a great deal of science in the series, and some of it is bad (IE the whole Butlerian Jihad thing…with the increases in processing power we have now, and given how the future could turn out I would think that Frank Herbert would have to admit that either there is a spiritual side to humanity that cannot be explained by science that makes us inherently superior to computers, or the whole superhuman specialization tack was one big mistake), but the story is such that it doesn’t require the science, and what questionable science there is isn’t enough to kill the point the author was trying to make. If you walk into this movie expecting to find reasons why it sucks, you will find them. I can think of many more that you did not name here: why isn’t there a terrestial air force, why aren’t there planetary defenses, how did the Enterprise with a crew and passenger capacity of a thousand manage to save 10K Vulcans seconds before Vulcan imploded, why was the Enterprise built on the ground, why didn’t anyone else from the future come back to pursue Nero like they always do in other Treks? That really isn’t the point of the movie. The point of the movie is to see a really big ship get into gun battles with another really big ship while stock characters run around, confront CGI aliens and weapons, do things requiring special effects, flirt with scantily clad alien and human women, and kick ass, take names, and chew bubble gum, all the while throwing a positive message or three in. Which is really what the old ST was about all along, but the core fanbase that has been strangling it to death doesn’t seem to want to admit that.

  20. Saw it yesterday. Piece of shit. The whole thing was pretty irritating, but what got me most was that a planet full of the universe’s most intelligent beings was destroyed by a drill from space that no one had the sense to, you know — cut. And I was thinking, alright, okay, maybe there were space shields or something on this space drill. But Spock saves Earth by stealing a ship from the evil mining vessel and then cutting the drill in half with lasers. All that fucking pain could have been saved by one email to Earth: “Earth: to whom it may concern. Cut space drill in half with lasers. Cheers. –Kirk.” If a giant squid made of pure evil ever orbits Earth and starts fucking us from space, I hope Obama’s got “Plan Dentata” ready, is all I’m saying.

  21. Talk about not being able to see the forest for the trees…

    This was a GOOD MOVIE, plain and simple. It was exciting and fun to watch. This Aspergers grumbling about how the pretend black hole was rotating clockwise instead of counterclockwise or whatever is fucking imbecilic.

    It’s a science fiction adventure movie. Do you think the original TV show was slavishly pedantic about only adhering to proven scientific fact?

    Do you think that Saint Roddenberry sat up late at night crunching the equations that powered the pretend gravity on the pretend spaceship? Hell fucking no. It’s a make-believe adventure show.

  22. One thing to note is that, while the television series made extensive use of science consultants, to the point of having them as credited crew members, only Star Trek the Motion Picture has a credited science consultant, Issac Asimov.

    I contend that at this point the television series and the movies be considered separate things, with the televised product being science fiction and the movies being action/adventure dressed in science fiction drag but lacking the proper equipment.

  23. @albtraum

    Even as you type away on your computer, make calls on your cell phone and heat your food in the microwave, you fail to understand the role of science fiction in our post-industrial civilization.

    It’s far from just “a make-believe adventure show”.

  24. Sorry to disagree, Marlin old chum, but “Star Trek” is and was just a make-believe adventure show.

    Yes, it happened to be one that took place in the pretend future. This meant that some “futuristic” props and concepts were used in some of the episodes.

    Some of these props and concepts were realistic ideas about possible future inventions. Some were not. But they were ALL designed primarily to fit the needs of a make-believe adventure show.

    When they talk about reversing the field polarity of the ion cloud in order to generate a tachyon pulse… that’s not science. That’s story-driven bullshit with a light frosting of science-y jargon.

    Look at it this way – If somebody invents a fucking smoke monster in 50 years, am I going to have to put up with your grandchildren somberly lecturing me on how “Lost” was a deadly serious scientific work, and that any mention of its “entertainment” value is a slap in the face to the hardworking scientists who spent so many years carefully crafting it? Ugh. It’s an adventure show. Get over it.

  25. I’ve been reading some of the letters and just to comment I’ve herd about the paradoxes and continuity problems in STAR TREK for years I’m sorry I just don’t see them I feel that any thing that’s been said in STAR TREK T.N.G or any other show from that time frame that doesn’t sound quite right would be like you or I talking about the Civil War we know what we know from what we piece together within our own mind by what we’ve read and herd if we get something wrong it not antennal we just didn’t interpret things quite right But if someone makes a movie about that war and shows Abe Lincoln dying as a result of someone firing a canon at the White House that’s not interpretation THATS GETTING IT WRONG and J.J. GOT IT WRONG I know some will say that its just a show and some movies but its also a dream of one man named RODDENBERRY and I fell if he or his wife were alive right now this movie would never have reached theaters and would have faded it to the same abyss the first Fantastic Four movie fell into and I’m not talking about the one with Jessica Alba in it

  26. I loved the movie (period)

    What’s best is that I will be able to share it with my kids, as my parents once shared the television series with my siblings and I- there is nothing wrong with G-rated.

    Since when has Hollywood made perfect sense? I’d rather a fun movie with a few slips than one over-loaded with super graphics and no storyline.

    But that’s just my opinion.

  27. It is amazing to me how many self purported smart people can miss the message of a film. Others here address the science issues (why the heck does someone get bent out of shape regarding jumping into the atmosphere of a planet we know nothing about, using future tech we know nothing about, have no trouble with the transporter on the show, claiming the original show stayed true to science. Seriously). So I am going to write about something more important – character, mythology and message.

    People are deriding this movie as being devoid of ideas. I find this preposterous when you consider the story. This movie is not about Kirk’s life, although obviously, because it is an “in the beginning” story, it has to cover his life. And this is certainly not a rewriting of Star Wars, which is simplistic in comparison to the issues presented in this film.

    This movie is about Spock, and through Spock, just as it did on the original show, Star Trek deals with racism. It doesn’t shy away from the discussion. It faces it head on in illustrating what he has to endure, his coping mechanisms (we aren’t supposed to like Spock at the academy and we don’t), and how he changes — beginning to understand who he is through loss and the finding of another life for himself.

    This story, first addressed on the show (his father’s disapproval, his mother’s love, the racist attitudes he had to face) has been elevated to an epic level in this film with the devastating loss of “mother”, a planet, and 6 billion lives in each universe. Ultimately the hero is accepted by his father and understands his parents.

    “I am thankful for you”.

    But by his own people, acceptance is unlikely and as for the Federation, easy acceptance is doubtful as we see racism expressed by McCoy.

    But there is no easy way out of racism. You don’t see it resolved in this movie any more than it is resolved in real life. However, the topic is opened and examined in its effects on a child and how the child matures into a hero.

    This is story about us. Maybe that’s why it plays better in the USA than it does internationally. The USA is ethnically & culturally diverse in a way that other nations are not. We have a past we cannot escape. Some of us can relate to the half breed genius, rejected by both sides of his heritage. Even though we are white and privileged, we live race every day. We can see this story.

    I very surprised how few reviewers have understood the subtext. Not just here, but in reviews praising the movie, they miss its elemental message.

    The scene I keep seeing in my mind, over and over, is when Spock says “live long and prosper” to the Council at the Vulcan Science Academy. The camera stays on his face for just a moment, and the actor shows little change in affect, but you can TELL. I found this to be very powerful and moving. This is the move summed up in one frame.

    To the commenter who said the two leads could have been filled by any characters, you’re right — if you have absolutely NO conception of what you’re watching. Unless someone can show me another Spock out there in movie land, I call you clueless.

    Not only is this a blockbuster summer movie, the film comes close to achieving greatness. But it’s going to take analysis in order for this to be understood. I think that fact alone proves how great it is. When the subtext, character change, and key message elements are so tightly woven to plot that it becomes integrated and needs to be discussed to be understood, then the film is one for the ages.

    I think this is an incredibly important movie. Everyone should see this film. It’s the most culturally significant movie you’re going to see this year… or next.

  28. Well as I have been reading some of the letters and blogs, and as any of you that have seen my letters on so many web sights know I did not like this film. As I’ve been called I have to admit there is some proof to the fact that I’m an old die hard STICK IN THE MUD fan of Star Trek. The biggest problem I’ve got with the film is that it completely goes against Star Trek canon. As some people agree with me, some do not. So I think we both can come up with a solution that will appease both new fans of this film and us die hard STICK IN THE MUDS. We die hards cant do it alone so we need you new fans help and the best part about it is any of you that don’t know anything about Star Trek shouldn’t notice a thing anyway.
    I purpose introducing characters that are not considered canon but are still known to us old STICK IN THE MUDS. As well as some we didn’t get to know real well and for those of you that don’t know what I mean here some names to help you out.

    ROBERT APRIL he was suppose to be the Enterprises first Captain before Pike and was the only character ever played by Gene Rodenberry himself

    AREX he was a navigator in the animated Star Trek and had six limbs. With new C.G.I. he could be created vary easily

    WILL DECKER he was killed in the first movie but was suppose to be in the second T.V. show witch never happened.

    ILIA also killed in the first movie

    M’RESS also from the animated Star Trek she was of a cat like race easy to create now

    I feel a letter writing campaign would help with this and then maybe you new fan and us old STICK IN THE MUDS can both enjoy the ride the next film takes us on

  29. Just saw this film on DVD. A shiny, polished, hollow turd covered in glitter. No real ideas, no character development – Kirk is physical, Spock is the brain, etc. Full of ludicrous things, like Kirk climbing up a vertical ice wall with his bare hands. Mostly just a series of empty action sequences tied together with a wisp of a story, parts of which make no sense. Why does the always precise Spock miscalculate when the Romulan sun will go nova, and why doesn’t the federation send him on a fast starship with the red matter? Etc.

  30. Very intense, folks.

    My opinion of it all is that this movie has its flaws in terms of a science movie or a Trek fan movie, but as pure entertainment, it works great. It feels more like this movie’s target audience was people who only had a passing acquaintance with the series, plus some stuff thrown in for the old fans. It works to pull in those who were never big fans before. Most of the people I know who have seen it, myself included, were never really Star Trek fans. In fact, my entire exposure to Trek consisted of putting in earplugs when my roommate watched episodes at 2 in the morning, and yet, having watched the movie and enjoyed it, I’m now going back to the original series to find more to enjoy. If the point of a reboot is to kick start an old series into new life, it certainly seems to have worked here.

    Plus, I’ve always found (in my very limited experience) Trek fans to be one of many groups that are very … if you don’t enjoy the parts they enjoy, you aren’t watching it right, and if you like that things they don’t, well, those parts were never any good and therefore your taste is lousy too. Whereas the new movie finds people who would never admit to liking scifi, or trek, or this or that, telling other people how much they liked it. What’s so bad about that?

    Oh, and since I’m probably going to get some sort of reply about age being a factor (which I’m sure is a huge one) I’ll just let you know I’m 22.

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