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Reviews: Star Trek 544

On these pages, admitting that you are a Trekkie is not a mark of shame; it's more like admitting that you are a carbon-based life form, which is true of almost all of us. I watch every movie. I've seen every episode of every series. And as my wife will tell you, I scream "F*** you Rick Berman!' during the credits every time I see it. So when JJ Abrams got a crack at a reboot, I was hopeful. The short review is that I liked it. Keep reading; I'll keep the spoilers down to a minimum. (Continued below.)

The movie is a total reboot. And yes, it features time travel. While normally this is a giant red flag, in this case I don't think it's too bad. Especially when you want to make giant, universe-altering changes without pissing off the continuity nerds.

Star Trek starts off with a big action sequence that holds no surprises. You'll immediately notice a few dramatic stylistic changes in the camera work. This movie owes more to the pseudo-documentary style of Firefly or BSG than the traditional pristine look of the last few decades of Trek. Space is pretty silent (although it somehow gets noisier as the movie continues), and they even do the cool thing of making sure that everything in space doesn't share the same Z-axis. Minor, but I love it. The intro ends with an emotional note that resonates strongly; it could have been cheesy but it works. So, they reboot the universe. We get some Kirk/Spock back story, and some brief moments at the academy. Wacky events occur, leaving most of our familiar characters aboard the Enterprise. We witness each of them rise to their known rank and positions. It's all very wink-wink. Occasionally a bit overly cutesy, but ultimately fun. I found the scoring a little weak (Abrams uses the same composer for everything), but many of the sound effects echo the original sources. The effects are just great: I would expect nothing less than perfect, and I got it. I particularly liked the Vulcan architecture. Yes, the new bridge looks like an Apple Store, but the glass and white looks modern. It might not age that well, but it's cool. The costumes look forward and backward at the same time. We have mini-skirts on the bridge and familiar color coding. It all works. The Enterprise itself feels HUGE inside. Engineering isn't just a room with a console; it's massive. It has weight. I love it.

I'm not going to go into the story. It's convoluted, but frankly it's really not the key to this movie: this is a roller coaster movie with new actors playing parts we love.

So, let's talk about the most important thing: the characters. They basically nailed everyone. Uhura and Bones are used a lot in the early bits. Chekov and Sulu each have a few nice moments. Scotty shows up late in the game and steals almost every scene he is in. But as the movie goes on, it becomes almost entirely Kirk and Spock, which really is how it should be.

More so than anyone else, Kirk is an impression. But ya know what? I buy it. The Kirk we knew is older. This one is younger with bigger balls and swagger. This kid will chase the skirt instead of just knowing she will come to him. I could certainly see someone thinking they took Kirk too far, but I buy it. He has charisma and some great lines.

Quinto's Spock is great. I resisted the urge to make Sylar jokes (mostly). He's reserved, subtle, and when the need arises, emotional. It works. He's the best casting in the film. Since Nimoy gets to reprise old Spock, we're given the ability to stack the two Spocks up right against each other. And it's just great. I totally buy it.

Eric Bana is the big bad. He seems almost totally superfluous. He does just fine, but I just don't care either way. This movie is about our heroes. Bana's Nero could have been a robot or an entity or whatever. He's a plot device used to press the universe reboot button, and to give us a ticking clock.

Two of the "humorous" sequences go a bit far. You'll know them when you see them. It's like they were inserted to keep 12-year-olds giggling. I expect this in a Disney film, but I wish I didn't see them here. Another action sequence in the middle serves no purpose except letting us have a giant monster chase Kirk. Abrams probably wanted to toss some work to his Cloverfield monster-making buddy.

But here's the thing: Star Trek is entertaining. It has problems, of course. It won't make everyone happy. But by the time Scotty gets into the story, there are so many moments of unbridled joy that you can't help but feel giddy. I don't know if Abrams will stick around or if this cast will be back for more, but if they are, I know I'll be in the theater again. And you should be there too. Now. You're a carbon-based life form who reads Slashdot. You owe it to yourself.

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Reviews: Star Trek

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  • Good, but (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FredFredrickson (1177871) * on Friday May 08, 2009 @02:17PM (#27879455) Homepage Journal
    This movie was definitely the best (least cheezy) movie made from the star trek franchise. That being said, I have a few qualms:

    1. The villain was lame. He was a nobody with stupid motivation. Could it happen? I suppose... but come on! Such small fish. (Forgive me, I'm just looking for a deeper plot.. not just a crappy summer action flick.

    2. I prefer TNG over TOS for a few reasons: Kirk is clearly an action-based fly by the seat of his pants type guy. Makes for a great action movie like this. But please please please don't forget we're watching Star Trek for the philosophical questions that arise as well in the star trek universe. I loved Picard because he was the opposite. He drank hot tea on a regular basis. He thought about things, and thusly, I thought about things. Remember: We're not watching star wars, we're watching star trek here...

    3.There was a moment when young spock had kirk by the neck. I seriously expected him to slice open kirk's head with his finger.

    All in all, I loved this movie, and anxiously await the next in this version of the franchise, but please please please don't forget the parts of star treck that make it so awesome (and not star wars), and balance it well with action!
  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday May 08, 2009 @02:38PM (#27879819) Journal

    Kirk would break the rules if they needed to be broken and was willing to admit when humanity was the less advanced, the less civilized. Granted, a lot of this was in later material but still.

    Picard on the other hand was always right and the rules were everything. Also intresting to note, Spock/Vulcans were in many ways the superior race in TOS. This was comepletly lost in TNG. All human with only a half human and a human robot thrown in. Lesser racial mix with it being very clear that all the TNG crew was from north america or europe.

    No, TNG was TOS-light.

  • I stopped reading (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MouseR (3264) on Friday May 08, 2009 @02:45PM (#27879967) Homepage

    right at the Time Travel part.

    Coupled with the previews, It just smells lame.

    Let me guess. They blew up the ship at the end.

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday May 08, 2009 @03:08PM (#27880313) Journal

    Just who is its audience?

    Remember the mini? Talking about a car here. It was a very cheap model, tiny but because of its price and low operating costs it had a market. Then it was re-invented and the result was a very small, expensive car, expensive to maintain.

    Basically, the designers of the new car ignored the audience that bought the original for its cheap price and instead aimed for another audience that over time either bought the mini to vamp it up or as a status symbol. It worked, to a degree. The new mini is NOT the same hit the original was. Same happened with the CV2 or ugly duckling.

    Re-invent your product for a new audience and you risk alienating the old.

    Star Trek has been re-invented so many times the last and the first series have nothing in common. No true TOS fan can love TNG. TNG can be accepted as its own series with its own values, but it ain't trek. The entire atmosphere is different. TOS is humanity exploring a universe as yet unknown in which they are far from the most powerful race even on board their own ship. They rarely if ever return home. TNG the federation is a near absolute power and humanity is sold as being beyond all its past troubles. It is now the care taker of the universe and decides what is right or wrong. No doubt for picard, no grey areas, no bending the rules. When danger happens he has enough power to be able to hold a converence about the issue. It is the United Nations rather then a frontier man.

    The rest of the series, well. TOS has the first interracial kiss on american tv. What exactly was Enterprises claim to fame? An intro that neatly skipped other countries contribution to space exploration and proof that it is cold in space.

    But each series has it fans, even each movie.

    But this review seems to think that the special effects being perfect, the acting, the music matters to a TOS fan. They don't. We didn't like TOS because of its amazing special effects, or because Shatner is such a wonderful actor or its amazingly varied music or whatever, we became fans because it showed us a future that was more then just anger, despair and fear.

    Perhaps later series never really stood a chance either. By the time TNG came around the world had changed. It was very much a show of its age. The US near all powerfull and invulnerable, able to decide what treaties to follow and what not.

    It leaves TOS as a unique series, not because of its qualities but of the note it struck in those who watched it. They who complain about Shatners acting ability or rubber suited monsters just don't get it. They see a wobbly ashtray when they don't smoke, we see a gift from our child and the love that is in it.

  • Re:Good, but (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Smidge207 (1278042) on Friday May 08, 2009 @03:09PM (#27880323) Journal

    This movie was definitely the best (least cheezy) movie made from the star trek franchise. That being said, I have a few qualms

    Bah, turn in your geek card. Now. Yes, the story is a bit convoluted, but I think a lot of that is necessary for the reboot they wanted to accomplish. There is a lot of story telling in there, but it's sprinkled around and not played up in most parts. If you're looking carefully, you see it in several spots.

    Maybe I was just not distracted because I haven't seen a lot of the other shows that these actors played in, thus I was not experiencing the "Agent Smith" phenomenon.

    I thought Spock was well done, very much in line with what I remember of Spock from TOS, Vulcan with enough Human in him to drive him in ways other Vulcans could never grasp. Kirk was very much a young bulldog just coming into his prime, full of testosterone and bravado, but with enough brains to see what no one else seemed to be able to.

    This doesn't tear apart the foundations of Star Trek so much as it sweeps aside most everything built on those foundations: Honor, fear in the face of death, duty in the face of insurmountable odds, there is no such thing as a "no win" solution--those are still there. Even when beings die by the planet-load (Hopefully that's not too much of a spoiler), all is not lost and with perseverance, the good guys can still win and the universe can still be saved.

    =Smidge=

  • by MoldySpore (1280634) on Friday May 08, 2009 @03:09PM (#27880335)

    So, you are saying this is BETTER or WORSE than Nemesis? Because honestly, if it is even a LITTLE bit better, then this is a win for the franchise and fans everywhere because that turd they called Nemesis was an embarrassment to TNG and everything Star Trek should be.

    Regardless of how this is viewed by the huge, ridiculous, hardcore star trek robo-nerds, this is a welcome reboot to keep Trek alive. Don't kid yourselves: if this movie tanks, then Trek is dead forever. So you better pray this does VERY well and makes 100's of millions so Paramount doesn't declare it dead forever.

    Honestly though, I'd love for a new series to come out that follows the normal progression of other ST series (I.E. Jump ahead X number of years in the canon timeline and go from there...Enterprise J they showed in the time travel scene in Enterprise's 3rd season anyone?). Other than that, they can do all the blockbuster action flicks they want, as long as they make $ and are worth my $10 to actually go and see in the theater. And from what I can gather, that is exactly what this film is.

    I am a huge Trek fan, and sure I would have loved to see another TNG-cast film that follows Roddenberry's dream exactly. But that just isn;t what the franchise needed. It did not need another niche film that only appealed to about the 3 million HARDCORE Star Trek fans. They needed something moms and dads and people who don't normally care could get behind. And that is this film.

  • My own review... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by danhuby (759002) on Friday May 08, 2009 @03:23PM (#27880555) Homepage

    Here's my own review, for what it's worth:

    Within about 10 minutes I knew that Star Trek was back, and that this film is exactly what the franchise needs: some life breathing in to it - and who better to provide a new direction than J. J. Abrams, the co-creator of the hit series Lost.

    This is not a complete reboot or re-imagining but a prequel set just before the original series from the 1960s. It features a new cast taking up the original roles of Kirk, Spock and the crew.

    As the film opens we're placed in the middle of a space battle and straight away stylistic differences are apparent. The feel is much more gritty and realistic. When a hole is ripped in the ship, as well as the usual exterior shot this time we're shown the crew member's view as they are violently blown out of the ship, followed by the cold silence and emptiness of space. Camera work is sometimes of the cinéma vérité style often used today (e.g. with the reimagined Battlestar Galactica) which adds to the realism but can be a little headache inducing on the big screen.

    The sets and props from the original series would look out of place today so things have been updated visually. It's a fairly believable and realistic looking future based on the technology of today - so in place of the dials and buttons of the sixties series we have flat black touch screens; The Enterprise interior, instead of being multi-colour and angular is now clean and white with simple curved lines.

    As this is set before the original series it's nice to see that the characters are not their usual calm, professional and mature selves and are unrefined, undeveloped and rough around the edges. Kirk is like an immature teenager and angry at the world. Spock has not yet fully given up his emotions. Sulu is having trouble getting to grips with the ship's controls.

    Zachary Quinto is superb as Spock... as many have said, it's as if he was born to play the part.

    I'd heard good things about Simon Pegg's portrayal as Scotty but in truth his screen time is minimal and limited to the odd one or two mildly amusing one liners, not too dissimilar to the Scotty of the original series and films. His odd ewok-like alien sidekick was completely pointless, no doubt an attempt to add comic relief and appeal to younger viewers as with Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars, and the humour grates just as much.

    There are no complaints with the casting for the rest of the crew. McCoy, Uhura, Sulu and Chekov were all completely believable and worthy to take the places as the younger versions of the original crew.

    Story wise, the back story regarding characters is great. For me this would almost be enough, but there is also a non-too-original plot involving yet another super-villain hell bent on destroying the earth. (Why is it they always go for the earth anyway - doesn't that seem a bit earth-centric? Wasn't it established pretty early on that the federation already existed long before the earth joined? Anyway... moving on...).

    The plot reminded me a lot of the last Star Trek film - Nemesis - which also involved a rogue Romulan (OK, technically a Reman) who tried to destroy Earth. Given the overwhelmingly negative response to that film it would have been wise to come up with a completely different plot, but fortunately it doesn't spoil things too much.

    The plot also doesn't make a lot of sense. The villain - Nero - travels back in time to avenge the destruction of his home planet after the older Spock fails to save it. If he's travelled back in time though, why not attempt to avoid the future destruction of his home planet instead of going after Spock? And why go after someone who was only trying to help? You could put all this down to him being a maniac I suppose, but it just doesn't seem that credible, even for a Star Trek film involving time travel and warp drives and all the rest.

    One thing that surprised me was that it stuck to canon at all. Some differences can be explained by rift in the timeline (time t

  • by iluvcapra (782887) on Friday May 08, 2009 @03:55PM (#27880991)

    It is a sad day for Roddenberry's vision of the future.

    It's important to understand the business context all of this is happening in.

    When I came to LA in 1996, about 50% of the Paramount lot was dedicated to the production of Star Trek episodes (of various series) and films. Paramount was basically dependent on the revenues on the showings and reruns and reissues of the various Star Trek franchises -- to the point that they were commissioning expensive digital remasterings of the original episodes, let alone remixes and redoes of all the visual effects for the special editions.

    TNG has never had the superb rerun performance that TOS did, and it's by far the best series of the new batch, and now that we're more than a decade past the end of TNG, it's become clear that the industry isn't going to be able to make money on any reruns of any kind, because of the Internet. This as much as anything else made Par finally stick a fork in the series. It wasn't so much that the shows were bad or underviewed, though that was a problem, it's that the syndication and reruns looking forward were looking like they wouldn't be there like they were for TOS, which was the Golden Goose that got Par through the 70s in one piece (when Robert Evans greenlit very chancy and expensive shows like Chinatown and Godfather II, he was spending money that, to a large extent, was being raised from TV stations re-airing TOS).

    Fast-forward to today. Paramount limps along, with a heavily curtailed release schedule. It has torn down several stages in order to build a new post-production complex that many people seriously believe will never go into operation, because Par may not live to see the completion. Par's executives that tended to cultivate the niche-e-ness of the ST franchise are gone, as is the money from the various syndications that allowed Par to keep the brand distinct and nitch-y, and the new people are focused heavily on trying to get a film that runs well overseas. Star Trek has never been terribly successful overseas, it's very American in tone and content, and though it may have been inspiring to Trekkies living behind the Iron Curtain in 1983, it has never been a big revenue getter.

    Enter JJ Abrams, someone who can wind a good yarn, never lets you see the inside of the magic box, and made Par a lot of money on Cloverfield. He's never really watched the series, but this is a plus because they're looking for a "fresh perspective".

    So you have a situation where a studio is almost frantic to exploit the Most Successful IP it ever had, and that IP happens to do bad overseas, so they get a generalist to turn the work into a generalist entertainment.

    The quality of the TV serieses, and Par's ability to turn that money into movies that reinforced the consumption and brand of the serieses, was critical to their business, and the side effect was that the content of the universe was distinct and unusual and somewhat uncommmercial, because the effect of catering to the ST fanbase was a force multiplier when it came time to collect money from TV stations showing the serieses. When rerun syndication failed, there was no money in keeping the brand a niche.

    IMHO. Either that or it's all Manny Coto's fault.

  • Re:Trekkie (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wytcld (179112) on Friday May 08, 2009 @04:18PM (#27881395) Homepage

    And King Lear is just a play; the Bible is just a book; the Taj Mahal is just a building; the Mona Lisa is just a painting ... everything is just what it is. Or is it?

    And identity, is that pieced together from parts, or is it some sort of holographic interference field where all of our experiences - even TV shows - meld together into one large, partless whole of which the ego or persona can only be at best a small and shallow representation?

    Surely they can answer these questions in the next Star Trek installment.

  • Re:Good, but (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CarpetShark (865376) on Friday May 08, 2009 @05:04PM (#27882057)

    Totally agreed on (2). That's why I loved TNG so much, and why I hated Enterprise so much. TNG with the grittiness/action of this would probably be great, but if they're "rebooting the series" to be just another action series about projecting current xenophobic animosity onto "safe" aliens, then I've no interest whatsoever.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 08, 2009 @05:33PM (#27882471)
    The above post was stolen from an IMDB comment [imdb.com]. Scroll down and you'll see that Smidge207's post is practically identical to the Star Trek comment except for the references to gay sex and homosexuality. Smidge207's "reviews" are always plagiarized and should be modded down. The other review that he posted in this thread was taken from a Rotten Tomatoes user.
  • by SnowDog74 (745848) on Friday May 08, 2009 @07:15PM (#27883463)

    Much has been made about the lens flares but it is possible for indoor scenes that the lens flares were natural. If there were numerous lighting sources (and consider the bridge is, in fact, very brightly lit) just above the rim of the lens, the Panavision 2.39:1 anamorphic optics naturally produce substantial flares that stretch horizontally.

    It's a stylistic choice, and not necessarily a good one... but in the case of space there would actually be a hell of a lot of glare. If we are meant to be observers with a camera, the resulting glare from numerous bodies either directly emitting light or albedo would result in substantial haze and flares. The intensity of celestial light not occluded by an atmosphere is so great that astronauts in spacewalk wear helmets thinly anodized with 24k gold to avoid sunburn and blindness.

  • by leviathan1137 (1550667) on Friday May 08, 2009 @07:36PM (#27883629)

    It's an OK movie. If it weren't "Star Trek", it would probably rank with The Chronicles of Riddick.

    Annoyances:

    • Way too much lens flare and depth of focus manipulation. Even indoor scenes have lens flare. Somebody spent too much time pushing the buttons on the editor.

    No joke. I saw it on a pretty decent screen with a DLP projector and I thought I had temporary blindness from the flashes of light on the bridge. You know it is bad when JJ himself admits it is too much. http://io9.com/5230278/jj-abrams-admits-star-trek-lens-flares-are-ridiculous [io9.com]

    Somebody likes plumbing too much. Most of the interior scenes have vast amounts of piping and tankage. It looks like some of the shipboard shots were filmed in a modern brewery.

    Okay, I'm totally with you here. Is this ship steam powered? Do I need to go to YouTube and look up Steam Trek for inspiration?

    How did the Grand Canyon move to Iowa?

    Okay. I'll give this one to wild rain patterns in Iowa causing massive soil erosion. I can handle that.

    OK, the bad guys are attacking populated planets that are members of a military alliance by hovering in one place over the planet and lowering a drill? And nobody does anything about this? Even when they try it in populated areas? You'd think somebody might have something around that could fly and shoot, and with their planet being threatened, might use it.

    Yeah, I see this too. No planetary defenses? Not even a random Vulcan with some rocks to throw even? How about Kirk collecting together materials from a nearby planet to create gunpowder to shoot at them? But the story must go on, so I'll have to give that one to story.

    If you thought close-range ship to ship marksmanship in Star Wars was bad, here it's worse. Nobody can hit consistently at point-blank range. It's 1880s gunnery technology. But they can latch onto an individual falling to the planet and beam them up.

    Apparently, we need Chekov at tactical...

    Kirk's attitude wouldn't survive the first year at any known military academy. No matter who his father was.

    No joke again. Where was Mrs. Kirk? It's called your hand, hit your kid with it a little more, Winona Kirk. That kind of upset me like watching the recent "The Day The Earth Stood Still" and having to deal with that kid.

    Having escaped from a big ship under attack using a bunch of little shuttles, the crew would be POWs or dead. The shuttles can't fight and can't run.

    I'll attribute that to Nero being an idiot tactician.

    Time travel. Bad time travel. The deus ex machina of bad SF.

    I'll give this up just because they needed a good reason to mess up the timeline.

    Okay, I'll admit it, I'm a continuity nerd. I'm hardcore and get itchy when they start throwing the baby out with the bath water. But being as much of a continuity nerd as I am, I really enjoyed this movie. I'm not like all the other Trekkies who pick their favorite series out and bash others. I'm accepting of all, including Voyager and Enterprise, even for all their faults. I own them all and watch them all. I really will enjoy watching this two more times before it hits DVD and adding it to my collection.

    I do recommend this movie to anyone who hasn't seen it and wondering. If you are on the fence, go watch it and make your own decision for yourself. The story needed some work, but I'll accept the fact it was a bit more action centered in to grab people in. Hopefully the next installment will go deeper into story.

  • Nichelle Nichols would have been in the movie [scifipulse.net] in a cameo as Uhura's grandmother were it not for the writers' strike.

    -=Steve=-

  • Re:DARMOK! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LanMan04 (790429) on Friday May 08, 2009 @09:58PM (#27884563)

    That's the only episode of Trek of any stripe that made me....get a little dirt in my eye, or something...

  • by Weedhopper (168515) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @04:41AM (#27886685)

    No, it's not. What I am saying is an affirmation of what the two former naval officers have said in this thread, which is that command aptitude is not the same thing as command ability.

    The Colonel is the Army rank equivalent of a Navy Captain. A Colonel might typically command a brigade and depending on the force structure, this numbers between 2000-4000 men. The ability to command several thousand men in combat is not just about command aptitude, but about experience earned over time. There is no substitute.

    No one would take the idea of someone fresh out of college being instantly promoted to being the CEO of say, Apple or IBM seriously. What makes you think military command is any easier? It's not Ender's Game.

    Typically, even the most remarkable field promotion or breveted rank in extraordinary circumstances over multiple ranks certainly wouldn't be confirmed.

    One way or another, while I'm enjoying this geek's debate, it's a relatively minor point with me. I still enjoyed the movie despite this one itch because I know I'm in the minority. We're talking about a movie with space katanas and gratuitously long and convoluted water tubes that are just wide enough for man, strong enough for a woman... I mean, you know what I mean.

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