19 May 2009

Thoughts On: Star Trek


People calling the new Star Trek movie a Star Wars rip-off are off the mark. It's a Bruckheimer movie.

Nothing exactly WRONG with a Bruckheimer-type film, but they usually draw more flak than this.

A lot of people have made bones about the scene where "New" Jim Kirk rides his motorcycle up to the Enterprise and looks up into his destiny. They say it's a knock-off of the "Twin Sunsets" moment from Star Wars. Not hardly. It's more Top Gun. (Although the lack of sweeping John Williams music may be part of the problem.) This new Star Trek moves too fast for its own good. It can't pull off properly mythic moment, a la "Twin Sunsets". The way it lurches from action scene to action scene is hardly Lucas-eque (the Lucas model relies on very measured beats).

Star Trek's action scenes pile over each other with Armageddon-style abandon. The comedy bits are very much those from The Rock, or Transformers, etc., etc. Not necessarily a horrible thing; I'm just identifying this new Star Trek's pedigree.

To be sure, this new Star Trek isn't very Star Trek-y. It's good fun, but the most Trek-y thing about it are its plot holes. Big, stupid plot holes are a staple of Star Trek, even really good Star Trek. But there's no talk of interstellar missions. There're plenty of aliens, but no alien cultures. Phasers go off like laser pistols now. There're no moral dilemmas and zero social commentary. Not that any of that ruined the picture for me.

I always rolled my eyes when original cast members and critics and fans hauled out that old trope: "People look Star Trek because it presents a hopeful future." (I guess the ray guns and fist fights and space battles and alien lingerie were entirely incidental). Still, I'm surprised I haven't seek more Trekker/Trekkie uproar about the film. The fan-base must be shell-shocked from too many episodes in too many series about why the sentient gas cloud wont let the ship go.

Silly, sentient gas clouds.

I had a good time, but I got  tired of Star Trek about the halfway mark. The actors were all fine, but the movie's priorities were ENTIRELY pacing-based. Normally I'm a nut for strong pacing, but this was "roller-coaster-ish." (I understand some people think that's a GOOD THING.)

The main villain is left completely unexamined. Probably wise, in the same way a McDonalds customer wisely does not examine his quarter pounder.

Following Kirk and Spock as kids and cadets was interesting, but ultimately didn't tell us anything new. We get that this is a different, angrier, fatherless Kirk, but that didn't have to be so laboured over. After it's slam bang opening, the movie could've started with Spock a moody commander and Kirk a troubled junior officer and all the same ingredients would still be there.

Plus there would've been time for more crew interaction, which was sadly missing. There were crew MOMENTS, but, with the exception of Uhura giving Spock "Everything-But (Ponfar)", they were individual moments, not interactive.

The most Star Wars-y moment? Once again, a destroyed planet with billions dead is about as upsetting as a sprained ankle.

Go, shaky cam, go! Who needs orientated action scenes?

The guy doing Bones didn't blow my doors off with his impersonation. Don't know what everybody's talking about there. He's still good, though.

What was with the weird sets? The Enterprise engine room looks like a steam pipe factory in Kiev.

It would be easy-peasy to make an actual Star Trek movie out of this: After your bad guy shows up and has his unfortunate encounter with Kirk's dad's ship, and realizes he's twenty years too early to catch Spock, J.J., he goes into hiding (we don't see where, just like in YOUR version). Then, once he blows up (SPOILER) and has achieved all his goals, he DOESN'T go after Earth (which is stupid and arbitrary and predictable, very Snidely Whiplash). He goes back to his hiding place. The Enterprise follows and discovers that, over the last twenty five years, the bad guy and his crew, being essentially a lost and lonely crew of workmen, have settled peacefully on a planet with a pre-warp population. Kirk and Spock have to confront him, even though the bad guy's gone back to being a man of peace and once again built a family. That ending would have a moral dilemma, and pathos. It would allow for character development and feel more Star Trek-y. Mind you, it's precisely the type of story line the last group of Paramount dweebs use to turn into sewage on a bi-annual basis.

Or, J.J., you could do what you did. Which isn't horrible. But, c'mon, it's pretty Bruckheimer-y.