Monday, May 11, 2009

Star Trek: The Movie Review, Spoiler-free

I just went and saw the new Star Trek movie, and wow, what a ride. Here's my spoiler-free review. The casting was supurb, with the possible exception of Spock's parents, who were both played by actors with too long a history for me to see anyone else. That and neither bears nearly as much resemblance to the originals as the rest of the cast. As for the rest, most of them didn't have to say a word to be instantly recognizable. Special kudos to the new Sulu. George Takei always had a little too much of a wuss factor for my tastes. This one kicked ass. As for the new Uhura, she more than fulfills the Trek tradition of gorgeous women. The new Chekov's accent went a bit far, but it did make for some good humorous moments.

The movie makes the best use of time travel I can recall (more on that later). In fact, it might be the first absolutely necessary use in cinematic history, solving the biggest problem that could face a prequel with so much history behind it. Do NOT think you can watch this film and even remotely know what's going to happen merely because you can recite original series lines from memory. A few of the key characters are in the same places, but there's a new history to be made, so expect many variations.

The film rewards longtime fans with many classic lines and scenarios, delivered expertly. What would a Trek movie be without at least one "fascinating" from Spock, a few "I'm a doctor, not a [you name the specialist]" quips from McCoy, and a "I'm given her all she's got Captain" from Scotty? Kirk even shows his penchant for green women (really any women). Don't wait for "Beam me up Scotty" though. Didn't happen in the original, interestingly enough, and I suspect it was left out here as a nugget for us.

The pace is fast and furious, but without being incoherent and stupid. They give us just enough history to fill out the characters', um, characters, and then right to the good stuff. Our villain actually has more than one dimension (something sorely lacking in films lately), an easily understandable motive, and a good scumbag rating. You'll really hate this guy.

There are a few logic problems, like opening a hatch in a huge elevated pipeline of water and having only a small portion spill out and stop, as opposed to the waterfall we expected. Generally speaking though, the film scored very high on the realism scale.
But if I may, there are a few things I've seen enough of in Sci-fi movies for one lifetime. So please, from a fan who can quote dialogue from memory, and gets chills from those opening notes, in the next Star Trek movie, I beg you, let there be none of the following:

Time travel. I understand why it was necessary this one time. But generally, it makes for logically incoherent plots, and is just plain lazy writing. There can be no urgency for the time traveler, since if he fails to attain his goal, he could always simply travel back in time before his first attempt and try again. It's the sci-fi version of wishing for infinite wishes. It would also enable anyone with that power to get pretty much any information they need, rendering all interrogation scenes moot. Time travel drove me away from the Voyager series, which seemed to have it in at least half the first episodes. You're already in the 23rd century for crying out loud, in a galaxy far more populated with interesting diverse humanoid species than we've got any business expecting ours to be. If you can't write an interesting plot without traveling in time, it's time for a career change.

Anyone saying "I've never seen anything like it". It was OK the first few hundred times, but enough already. Can we get a little more descriptive please?

Ditto for "if we do that, it'll be too late".

Someone falling a considerable height or sliding at great speed stopping himself with finger strength that would make Spiderman jealous. Again, are writers so lazy they can't create drama without something so jarringly impossible, in whatever century?

Really cool creatures like, say, a carnivorous snow crab the size of a brontosaur, who are destroyed or defeated with simple, uninteresting, unrealistic weapons, like a single lighted stick. Please. That's the best you could think of?

Yet even with all that, the new Trek rocked. 9 out of 10. Go check it out, and do it in the theatre. Home systems just won't do.


Ian said...

The movie reminded me of how unimaginative the writing could be in just get the sense that, had it been a TNG episode, they'd have fixed the time continuum at the end of the movie. I agree that the way they stopped their fall and the way that creature was driven off bothered me. And the volume of water seemed much, much too small.

There was something about the Iowa cornfields with the dim outline of the space port that really impressed me. And while they weren't consistent, I was happy that space was silent, at least some of the time.

As for Chekov, the actor actually is Russian-born; I liked how heavy the accent was, how he struggled a little with pronunciations.

(Good review, btw)

davemize said...

I also loved the movie. Didn't have any problem at all with the history re-writing, since Trek has been begging for a fresh start for some time.

I didn't like the resolution for the ice-crab-thingy. I also didn't like the introduction of "transwarp teleportation"... where was the groundwork for that one? I don't remember any mention of that even being thought of in previous efforts (I might have missed it), so it really seemed to come from out of the blue.

Still, a minor point... the movie was just great.

memphisto said...

Yeah, doesn't transwarp teleport make spaceships obsolete?

And why do the innerds of every spaceship look like a water treatment plant or metal refinery?

Couple of other quibbles:

Why levitate spacecraft over the Iowa plains when you could, I dunno, build them in orbit? It's a cool shot but doesn't make much sense.

Magical technology like "red matter" that creates quantum black holes. Set the doubletalk generators to kill.

Why does everybody know more about transporter technology than the transporter crew? Checkov (Checkov, for pity's sake) has to leave the helm to show the transporter experts how it's done. OTOH, Sulu can't remember to take off the parking break!

Gravity sucks, inverse square law be dammed. And the final escape is a silly as TOS Kirk driving computers insane with bad syllogisms every three months or TNG's godlike judgemental alien menace of the week.

The new costumes are kinda ugly. The new Enterprise is kinda ugly. The new bridge is kinda ugly. I know they had to put their artistic stamp on the look of the movie, I just don’t agree with some of the aesthetic choices.

But, yah, I liked it too.