Baron Dave Romm (barondave) wrote,
Baron Dave Romm
barondave

Star Trek: A Snarky review with SPOILERS

On the Shockwave Radio Theater scale of 9 to 23, with 23 top, I give the new, cordite-smelling Star Trek about an 18. A lot of it didn't work for me. though the good outweighs the bad. The rebooting requires not merely a suspension of disbelief but a suspension of nostalgia. I can live with that. Snarky spoiler-filled review under the cut.

I found the JJ Abrams Star Trek to be incredibly stupid, with a lot of fun stuff. The fun stuff outweighs the stupid stuff, but not by that much. The plot doesn't make sense: I hate stories driven by psychos who have incredibly more power and smarts than the heroes. They're not just evil and unpredictable, but their actions don't have to be logical. That works for Criminal Minds, sometimes, but not Star Trek. Much of the plot is driven by wild coincidences, a lack of thinking things through or just bad writing: How did Kirk wind up meeting Spock Prime? Why can't the Federation send a Terminator Mark 1701 (or whatever) back in time to stop Nemo before he kills Kirk's father? For that matter, why didn't Nemo simply go back in time to warn Romulus/Spock of the coming problem and prevent the planet from being destroyed? Was Abrams inspired by Gene Roddenberry or Donald Rumsfeld?

The original Star Trek very much a cold war epic. Ostensibly Wagon Train To The Stars, much of the conflict was recognizably the US vs. the Soviet Union. Equally powerful antagonists (or equally impotent in the face of the unknown) make their way in a hostile/undiscovered universe. Kirk & co. must not only survive, but make friends. In the mid-1960s right after the assassination of JFK and in the midst of the cold war, Star Trek reflected much of the politics of the time and was aimed for an audience who was living through those times. William Shatner played Kirk as an homage to JFK, a warrior turned statesman, a man of action who had to pause to pick the right words to make peace when all around him people clamored for war.

Attempting an update doesn't bother me. Times have changed. The original series is still available, and 40 years is a long time to be a legend. TOS was post Cuban Missile Crisis and the new one is post 9/11. The Aughts reimagining is 24 Lite. Fine as far as it goes, but still requires internal consistency.

It will probably work. We live in a world where batshit insane partisan hacks make more money than people who work for a living. Idiots would rather watch someone be Punk'd than listen to an intellectual discussion that lasted more than five minutes. Being "elite" is bad; being a "victim" is good. Our heros are flawed. No more Camelot, it's Dirty Harry time again. The old Kirk followed the rules, bending them without breaking them, to go boldly. The new Kirk gets beat up, is allergic to medicine and doesn't always get the girl. If the old Kirk was modelled after JFK: A war hero and reluctant politician; the new Kirk is loosely based on James Dean: A rebel with a cause. The only thing the two have in common is that they cheat on tests.

Again, merely updating a series doesn't bother me. Doing so poorly does bother me. If you're going to update a well-known set of characters, you need to make them more mythic than the originals. The best part of The Last Action Hero is Schwartzenegger's "Hamlet Is Back": "To be or not to be... not to be." BOOM. Abrams isn't that clever. Instead of well-trained, battle-tested military personnel exploring the unknown, we have a bunch of hotshots who are more lucky than smart, more brash than disciplined, more driven by personal demons than loyal to Earth. The new, car-stealing idiot Kirk rejects the usual route for a rising star in Starfleet. Pike lays out "in four years youll graduate and in eight you'll be captain", and Kirk brashly insists he'll do it in three. He does, but it feels artificial. He doesn't have experience and he didn't study to know the capabilities of the Enterprise. The new crew feels like Muppet Babies: Bones is younger, Scotty is wild and doesn't know the ship. (What, the flagship isn't like a PC where the young hotshots can do things the experienced pros can't?) Checkov wasn't introduced until season 2 but starts off with the rest. Everyone else gets field promotions to Captain or First Officer while Uhura still a Lt. Doesn't seem fair.

And rebooting the entire background means you don't have a tradition to build on, and you don't have the well-developed background for the characters. Aren't you sad that Pike doesn't find his True Love on the "Menagerie" planet but still has to be in a wheelchair? Will Spock Prime alert Starfleet to the extinction of whales and completely eliminate the need for ST IV? And what about Naomi?

What about the "Mirror, Mirror" universe? The Organian peace is still to be negotiated. Will the Borg make an appearance? In the timeline of the new alternate universe, Enterprise still exists in the past. Will Frakes make the next movie? *shudder* Somehow, I doubt JJ Abrams thinks that far ahead.

The design of Nero's ship was stupid: No guard rails. Sheesh. Spaceships whooshed through airless space. Energy weapons richochet with a ping. Experienced captains blithely warp into a trap. No one talks on their cell phone. The crew hasn't been assembled; they're aboard the Enterprise largely by accident. Maybe I missed the explanation, but why was Spock Prime in the new universe at all?

Much of the weaknesses are drawn out afterwards, when the explosions stop and you have time to think. While watching the movie, the action washes over you. Everyone's a red shirt and billions of people dying are part of the... fun.

The action never lets up. We see lots of death and destruction (though no blood, except from Kirk being beaten up) and bodies flying out into airless space. Oh Starfleet! Familiar lines crop up for the youngsters who only know the soundbites. Lots of humor, much of it frat boy jokes. Leonard Nimoy shows up to provide what little transition there is between the old and new Trek. (Personally, I find this hysterically funny: Nimoy spent years trying to get out of Spock's shadow, going so far as to write an autobiography, I Am Not Spock. Now, he embraces his three seasons of playing a Vulcan, and is the last of the originals to be a major part of the series.) Majel Barrett gets her due. Alien races abound, and Frank Oz seems to have taken over the future.

We finally have a futuristic technology that has invented the circuit breaker. Sexual mores are looser; nice to see miniskirts back. No one mentions money or religion or anything controversial... except the destruction of entire planets and the creation of an alternate history.

Star Trek is action/adventure and nothing more. To be fair, it's only one movie. In theory, if this one does well then others will happen. I have mixed feelings about future Treks in this universe. On one hand, I'm not a big Abrams fan and I find his rebooting far less interesting than the original. On the other hand, I like action/adventure and can get caught up in mindless violence tempered with witty repartee.

The original Star Trek -- all of them, up to now -- wasn't about geeks, they were for geeks. The new one has accepted geeks and nerds as equals in a world of frat boys, jocks, smart sexy women and other aliens. Science fiction fandom has won again. As a geezer geek, I look over a world I helped create and smile. And then put in a DVD to watch an HD version of an old movie with commentary and deleted scenes. I love living in the future.
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