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Tuesday, May 12: the inevitable review | The Bleat.

trek

Well, you knew this was coming. Okay?  No spoilers here, but I imply things. You’re warned. First impressions:

1. Of the two movies that feature a bald angry Romulan driving a spiky gargantuan spacecraft to destroy earth, it’s the best.

2. Engineering should not look like a waste-treatment plant. Engineering should look like Engineering, with a big throbbing warp core with lights that go up and down and catwalks all around it, because if there aren’t any catwalks there’s nothing from which people can be catapulated, screaming,  when the ship is attacked.

3. I had a pot of coffee before I went, and the fluids asserted their needs to be released during the Juvie-Kirk-Steals-A-Car sequence, and I was grateful for that. Kids stealing a Mustang in the 24th century while listening to 20th century rock is like someone stealing a Prius today and CRANKIN’ UP THE SCARLATTI.

4. Nimoy needs stronger Fixadent.

5. The fine Starfleet tradition of staffing their biggest, most modern ships with people who just graduated from school yesterday – or this morning, or not at all – appears to have started early on.

6. The script writers had the phrase “Kirk is choked” on a macro key.

7. The presence of the Orion women would seem a shameless bid to get Starfleet Academy in Playboy’s annual survey of Party Schools.

8. John Murtha’s descendants, at some point, obviously move to Iowa.

9. I’m sure there’s a reason the USS Kelvin’s shuttlecrafts have shower curtains for doors, but I’m unclear. Must be self-sealing transparent aluminum. Or IKEA.

And a few other points. Bottom line: Loved it. Loved it, loved it. O I loved it. Except for the moments not seen because I was out on the aforementioned errand, I loved it all. The opening was just a big shovel of chocolate for the fans - been a while since you saw something with NCC on the hull fire phasers and get hit with torpedos and generally blow the hell up, eh? Here. On the house. And it’s emotional, too – thus was Odysseus born!

When it switches to Kirk in a bar in Iowa getting pounded as a townie, I figured someone would step in and shout “stop, men! That’s James Kirk, incognito, top of his class at the academy, due to ship out tomorrow on the Farragut! “But no: he’s hanging around being Val Kilmer lite. And I thought: well, I do wonder if any other liberties will be taken.

A few.

Good. I’m not a purist; it would be a ridiculous thing to be. A purist would have to worry about things like starships with vector-graphics on their displays. A purist would have to live with things like Worf having an opinion about Cole Porter. I think DS9 is better than TNG, overall, the last season of Enterprise was as good as Trek got, and Voyager was often better than people remember in the latter years, even though the entire show squandered the opportunities of its premise. It did have one interesting two-parter about a man who prowls through timeon a giant spaceship  destroying planets, but that’s neither here nor there.

No, this wasn’t for purists. This was the effort of some talented people who got the original idea at the subatomic level, and said “It’s ours now. Here we go.” Let’s look at the characters.

Spock: different. He has seething pains instead of Nimoy’s glacial cool. It’s not the original Spock, but I’ve seen enough cold Vulcans. “Enterprise” did a nice job of shading their one-dimensional character – no really, stop laughing – and now your standard issue Tuvok-style Vulcan looks like a chess-club dork who’s really happy to suppress emotion because it means everyone has an equal shot at the chicks.

Sulu: I can imgine the actor thinking “What did Takei do? Right: the occasional sly smile. Well, I’m not going to do that. This is serious thing. I am Serious Sulu.” I liked him.

Chekov: Can we bring back Wesley Crusher and not make you hate him? Yes We Can!  A very endearing take on a character who was, let’s admit, a Beatle-Commie. Or maybe a Monkee-Commie. Chekov was always the guy who waved his hands at what he saw on the console and couldn’t figure it out, and that was the end of it, keptin; this Chevok looks at the readouts and figures it out, his mind racing ahead of itself. (Note to starship designers: for GOD’S SAKE, figure out a way to transfer transporter control to the bridge. TRUST ME. It will come up again.)

Uhuru: Oh my. Ditch Ms. Nichol’s velvety star-stenographer routine, dress her up fine – these boots were made for establishing a subspace channel, and that’s not all they’ll do - and give her a hint of romance that really turned canon upside down and said HA HA to the purists. Loved her.

Scotty: Let’s be frank.  Simon Pegg was playing Simon Pegg. He is not the master chameleon Doohan was. He changed the character completely; Scotty is no longer the man married to his engines who relaxes with technical manuals. He needs another movie to make the role his own.

McCoy: Urban was the only one channeling the original character, and I suspect some found that jarring.  When he sat down in the shuttlecraft, hungover, unshaven, rattling off the possible disasters, the resemblance was uncanny, as if DeForrest Kelley had done a quick pre-death mind-transfer. Remember. Also, imitate. I loved his performance , and it never took me out of the movie.

Kirk: I think I have the least to say about him, because he made the most of the opportunity to remold the character without changing it. If he didn’t seem Kirk-like to some, it’s a reminder of how much Shatner’s performance hinged  - on  - mannerisms, the abrupt! Gesture. There was one perfect moment when he nailed Shatner-as-Kirk, though: walking on to the bridge at the end of the movie. They must have loved that in the rushes, and it makes you wonder how much more he could have done. It was wise not to do more.

On a side note: for heaven’s sake, they should have given him the opportunity to note that his hacking of the Kobyashi Maru test was exactly the sort of skill-set a Starfleet captain needs. “Okay, I’ve taken the test twice. Did it once, got blown up. Did it again, tried the other obvious thing, got blown up. Noted. Are you saying a Starship captain should not consider using stolen all-Empire access codes to trick the enemy vessels into thinking nine false sensor readings aren’t incoming Federation ships? C’mon.”

The plot? Yes, there was one. Excellent Bad Guy – perhaps the first blue-collar nemesis in Trek. I think his motivation might have flagged after 10, 15 years, but don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his big, Kirk-kicking boots.

It wrapped up fast, which was welcome. I hate movies that drag the final cataclysm on and on, but when this was done, it was done. Then it was one final piece of chocolate for the fans – Pike, in a wheelchair! Yes!  – before curtain call. All the characters in place, everyone stepping into the shades of their predecessors, staring into a bright new future that you can be damned sure will have a sequel, possibly going up against Iron Man 3 or maybe an X-Men Origins tale, but, really, Cyclops? Who the hell cares about him? Jerk.

Then the voice over; then the theme, and it’s like they emptied an entire can of Reddi-Whip on the entire cake. You’re ten again, and you can’t possibly be happier.

Except I’m not ten; I’m a middle-aged man, for heaven’s sake. But when I was a child I saw the first episode of Star Trek ever broadcast, at my Grandfather’s farm house, in living color, and I’ve loved it ever since. It would be pathetic to say this meant something to me, but I’m sorry:  It would be a lie to say it didn’t.

One more thing, in true Comic-Book Guy fashion:

Best. Redshirt. Ever.

 

121 Responses to Tuesday, May 12: the inevitable review

  1. I hated the movie but I loved the characters. When they were interacting, I knew I was in the right theater. Too much skittery action and movement to fill up screen time for me not offering information. Vicarious swerving. When the characters were talking and being themselves, I was there. When the ‘plot’ was being played out, I was ready to leave, but I stayed. You give a good review centered on the characters. I think they deserve better than this script or treatment gave them. This won’t be a rental years from now. I’ve seen it once and that is enough. Total enjoyment: 20 minutes. I know I am in the minority.

  2. Kim says:

    Just got back from viewing #2 – even better the second time around, and this time I wasn’t the only Trekker with tissues! : D

  3. Teri says:

    grg-I did. I wept at the opening scene. They had me at the first scene. I watched the movie, went and got a cuppa, then bought another ticket and saw it again. I’ve never done that before in my life. So, Mr. Lileks-I hope you feel comforted by the knowledge that-in whatever funny farm we all end up in, you won’t be alone.

  4. Rich Cox says:

    So lets put it this way. A good foundation, and being an odd number episode, will mean even better things to come?

    Origin movies have created a pretty good franchise. It is what you do with it in the follow-up that matters.

  5. SomeGuy says:

    I didn’t read all the comments, so my apologies if this has already been mentioned. While it is dumb that Kirk listens to 20th century music, it may have been an inside joke, given the song that he was listening to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlOTRxt-dIw&feature=player_embedded

  6. Ross says:

    “I’m hoping Budweiser will have been driven out of business by real beer by the 23rd century.”
    Amen. That swill is a stain on the original brewer’s name.
    Just once, couldn’t somebody have equated delinquent cool with something other than rap? I am _so_ tired of that pseudo-music invading every soundtrack.

  7. Dave (in MA) says:

    It’s so cute when Trekkies call themselves Trekkers.

  8. Diane says:

    90210 and One Tree Hill meet SNL parodies. Okay if that’s all you got from Gene Rodenberry’s creation, but otherwise a complete travesty. Not a purist, but not surprised when hearing J.J. Abrams doesn’t even like any previous Star Trek series or movies and hasn’t really watched them. It shows. Two plus hours of painful boredom and disappointment. Unfortunately Abrams will be doing a sequel.

  9. curegirl0421 says:

    I loved it, start to finish. And yes, best redshirt ever… my daughter, uninitiated, didn’t understand why I winced at Away-Team Member #3 in all his ruby glory. I knew he was toast.

    I can’t wait for a sequel! I have never said that ever, not even with Iron Man.

  10. Teri says:

    Almost as funny as Mr. Lileks review-but not quite of course-is the review by The Onion. Check it out if you haven’t seen it.
    Gosh it feels good to laugh-doesn’t it guys? I mean, I feel that since November-I just haven’t. Everything is so freaking serious. WHY are they picking on Cheerios now? Is nothing sacred??
    OK-I need to go back to the movies.

  11. DryOwlTacos says:

    Best. Trek. Ever! May the franchise live long, and prospering seems inevitable.

  12. [...] there are reviews from James Lileks and Stephen Green, which I agree with completely, and Will Collier points out the reason why J.J. [...]

  13. Jason says:

    The hole in Iowa is a limestone rock quarry. You know, much of concrete is made out of is limestone. It has to come from somewhere. The only thing is, they would need some pretty massive wells to keep the groundwater from filling in the hole. Or maybe they just installed a super slurry wall around the site, I guess it might be possible with 23rd century technology.

  14. “5. The fine Starfleet tradition of staffing their biggest, most modern ships with people who just graduated from school yesterday – or this morning, or not at all – appears to have started early on.”

    Yeah but…(frantically waving hand in air)…you gotta remember that the Federation were at war with the Klingons at this point (in this reality too), so the cadets were all that were available to man those recently built or recently retrofitted ships. The Federation were simply grabbing every warm body they could, no matter that they were mere students.

    My ultimate all-time favorite character from this movie? McCoy. Oh my yes. Uncanny is the word.

    And yeah, that was the Best. Redshirt. Ever. “Oh hey, look! It’s Ensign Toast!”

  15. Gunslinger says:

    Isn’t the big trench in Iowa the result of the attack from the aliens in the third season of “Enterprise”? That would be yet another nod to the tv canon.

  16. Lileks says:

    That. Would. Be. AWESOME.

  17. M Gubbins says:

    Great review, James! Just saw the movie tonight, and was sighing in satisfaction at that sweeping shot of the Enterprise…

    Just a note on Scarlatti: point taken. But isn’t it more like a kid today stealing a horse and humming the theme from “The Magnificent Seven”? It’s not so much the time passed that matters, as much as what he associates with car-stealin’. (I do hope they have a few new tunes by the 23rd c. though.)

    I very much enjoyed thinking of the Romulan intrusion into the plot as representatives of all the junk that was poured into the Star Trek universe by people who didn’t care much for the spirit of the show. That at least explains why they shoot rather than run at the end… revenge!

  18. Fred says:

    “This isn’t your father’s Capt. Kirk. Literally from the moment of his birth, his life has been different than the Shatner version’s. He’s the same guy, but with a different upbringing that was really only hinted at in the car-chase scene.”

    I wonder if the changes induced by the time traveling will be used in the butterfly flapping its wings in the rainforest sense to explain why the Federation knows so much about Romulans when in the original series it wasn’t until late in the game that the common ancestry of the Romulans and Vulcans was known…

    Definitely the doors are open for everything we’ve ever known to be true to no longer be true…

  19. USS Montcalm says:

    I was prepared to hate, but came away loving it. McCoy, my favorite in the old series, was my favorite again here.
    I realized that this movie emphasized why I enjoyed the original series and could never really stand TNG. These were humans, with human feelings, and friendships and hatreds. TNG characters were all soulless goodie-two-shoes. The robot (“Mr.” Data) was the most interesting, for gosh sake. You know the only thing played over the TNG Enterprise on-board radio is NPR, with occasional breaks for diversity and sensitivity training. Can you imagine a TNG prequel? A little bald, prissy Picard skipping down the boulevard? Picard trying to talk up a girl (any girl) in a bar? Would anyone pay to see it? Ick!
    Thank God no one said “Make it so.”

  20. richardmac says:

    Yet another lone voice in the crowd – Agree with Diane. This movie could’ve been way better. Kirk, who never lost a fight in the original five year mission, gets his ass kicked in every fight in the entire movie just about. Spock, um, can’t mention without spoiling, but it was BS. HUGE holes in the plot. Kirk’s promotion was totally fake, the plot itself sucked and was totally fake. It’s as if it was written by a group of 12 year olds. The acting was very good, the opening was very good. Destroying the time line was worthy of Rick Berman, and I mean that in a bad way. Star Trek’s quality died with Gene. Major disappointment.

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