Star Trek
May 8, 2009

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Just got back from seeing the new Star Trek movie, and I enjoyed it. Which surprised me, since I’d stopped watching the series a long time ago (both films and TV). This is really a Star Trek for this generation, providing much more depth to most of the characters while still acknowledging their classic roots. All the favorite elements — Vulcan neck pinch, “Dammit, I’m a doctor, not a physicist”, Kirk’s skirt-chasing, plenty more classic phrases — are here, but there’s more, too. Including a few too many scenes of a ship getting attacked, something blowing up, and bodies flying through the air for my taste.

Things I Liked

The movie looks like it cost a lot and it’s all on the screen. Visually impressive.

The use of silence to remind viewers space is soundless, as well as for dramatic effect.


Spock is to Kirk as Batman is to Superman. This is Spock’s movie — Zachary Quinto gives him the most shading and diversity, and much of the plot revolves around him. This shouldn’t be surprising, since Leonard Nimoy is also in the film (and significantly so, a wonderful addition I really appreciated). Quinto’s portrayal is excellent, too, capturing the essentials of the original character while bringing his own spin to it. His storyline provides almost all of the depth of the film.

Anton Yelchin as Chekov. I already liked him from Charlie Bartlett, but he does a great job as the math prodigy (and putting echoes of the much-despised Wesley into the character was clever!). The actor is also Russian by birth, a nice touch in casting, which makes the accent more palatable.

Simon Pegg as Engineer Montgomery Scott. He provides some needed humor and “normal people” behavior late in the film.

Simon Pegg as Scotty, Karl Urban as Bones, and John Cho as Sulu

Simon Pegg as Scotty, Karl Urban as Bones, and John Cho as Sulu

Karl Urban as McCoy. His cantankerous nature fit well and balanced the other, younger, starry-eyed characters.

In general, all of the cast were well-done, especially Bruce Greenwood as Captain Pike, who played leader and teacher while still seeming active and powerful. I was overall meh, though, about Christopher Pine’s Kirk. He wasn’t quite as “lovable in spite of being a jerk” as he should have been.

Things I didn’t like so much

The Romulan threat. Another “so evil” ranting bad guy who lives in a muck pit. What, bad guys can’t like light?

Time travel and Spock as deus ex machina. The transporter becomes even more of one. It’s treated as a super plot device, which is something that will need to be addressed if this becomes a series again.

What was the point of the young Kirk scene? The best I could come up with was that it provided something before he turns up at the bar, so it shows he was troubled, not just a lush. My second guess: someone really liked the sports car.

Star Trek cast

A bit too much typical SBU action movie (S**t Blows Up) at times. I know it’s competing with Wolverine, Terminator, etc. this summer, but I preferred the more impressive, more unusual space effects.

Worst of all for me was the treatment of women. I should have known, once the academy students showed up with the females still wearing short skirts. But even with a more modern Uhura, the four women (only) with significant speaking roles (most minor) are all primarily defined by their relationships to men: wife, mother, girlfriend. But I guess with so much focus on Kirk-Spock bonding, that shouldn’t surprise me.

Overall, on the summer movie scale (“did it provide an enjoyable escape for a few hours?”), it was quite successful. I hope to see more in the series to come.

30 Responses  
Tor Hershman writes:  

I picked-up a Star Trek vid, @ WalMart for $5, and I noticed that in the outtakes not a single deleted scene had ANY sparks/pyro work in it.

Will writes:  

Under “Things I didn’t like so much” you should have mentioned the shaky, Batman Begins like fight scenes.

Not that it was enough to ruin the movie or even lower my overall opinion. I thought it was epic level awesome. To quote my friend and co-viewer “I have a huge nerd-boner”


Jay DV writes:  

The young/kid Kirk scene is used as a counterpoint to the Young Spock scene, simple as that. It highlights Kirk’s open-faced rebellious nature which is a contrast to Spock, unless you want to see it as a way to illustrate similarities between the characters.

I wad surprised at your lukewarm reaction to Pine’s performance. I thought it was a very effective and balanced portrayal of a young Kirk, not a young Shatner. I’ve been an on-and-off fan of Star Trek for 20 years and my reaction to Pine was pleasantly surprised. The Star Trek newbie friends I saw the film with also liked Pine, as did most film critiques from what I hear. Well, different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Quinto is a very good Spock, but I kept seeing Sylar in the back of my mind. Maybe it’s because I like that character so much.

Jay DV writes:  

I wanted to mention in my previous comment that there was lens flare galore in this movie. It became more noticeable as the film rolled on. I mean, does there need to be a blinding lens flare during a close-up? I would like to see the character’s face. “in space, no one can see you because of lens flare”.

Rewatch the film and count the seconds between each lens flare. It’d be a tremendously fun drinking game.

Johanna writes:  

Will, shaky camera work is a Star Trek tradition, only usually it was while everyone was on the bridge. :) But yeah, that bar scene was nearly incomprehensible.

Jay, I understand that we saw both kids, but what the young Kirk does is just idiotic and made me think less of the character, which is why I was questioning it.

I guess I don’t like Kirk much as a character. His egotism is off-putting to me, and instead of cheering when he’s proved right yet again, I’d rather see him taken down a peg.

The lens flare was, according to imdb, a purposeful choice of the crew because it captured the wonder of the future. I kept seeing it as a cinematic mistake, myself, and I found it distracting, as you did. Glad you brought it up.

Tor Hershman writes:  

Johanna, you are a pill.

How you’ve crowned yourself with the chops and depth to review a movie is a mystery. It’s one thing to read a comic, then recap it. But you should walk…no, RUN…from movie criticism, you don’t know what you’re talking about. I wonder if there are any other people out there who see through the transparent veil that is this site?

Hmmm, let me put it another way…run like you’re running from the monster in Cloverfield. (I don’t want to throw out a reference to a movie before 2005, because I don’t think you’d have heard of it).

Johanna writes:  

Aw, look, I upset a fan. Who obviously is conducting a hit-and-run, since the usual complaint about my discussing movies is that I spent too much time talking about the 30s and 40s films on TCM.

I’m actually kind of curious what you’re upset about, but you’d have to stop calling names long enough to make a substantial point.

Alan Coil writes:  

I saw it Friday and loved it. It may be the best Trek movie.

The two scenes that bothered me were the bar scene and the car scene. Cut footage that will be restored for the dvd may help those scenes. There is reportedly some Klingon footage that was cut, too.

Galaxy Quest » Comics Worth Reading writes:  

[…] very first thing on this new disc was a lengthy trailer for the new Star Trek movie, followed by an ad for the original series Season 1 on Blu-Ray for the first time (with new special […]

Perry Lane writes:  

It’s a great start to a new journey. I like that fact that it continues the “hope” that was central to the original Trek, and I hope it gives way to a new sci-fi that looks at the future in a less bleak way. Stories like Pyramids of Mars (http://www.pyramidsofmars.com) the free online digital graphic novel come to mind. Sure, it’s a big scale sci-fi story about an alien invasion with great graphics, but it’s also hopeful about the future and humanity. And that’s what we need. That’s what Gene Roddenberry was talking about.

Thom writes:  

I just liked that…to an extent, all the characters got moments to be impressive, without feeling crowded. The villains felt like an afterthought, but I was to involved with the heroes to care in the long run. This was just a fun summer spectacle.

And that may bother some Star Trek fans, but frankly, I never bought the heady claims of the show or movies. Of the three best films, two are not any deeper than revenge is a dangerous emotion to feed and one was save the whales. The weakest films tried to have overly deep messages.

And the supposed subtext of the various series were pretty shallow, in spite of fan hype. The franchise needed a kick in the bottom…and this film accomplished it.

And really, Tor, maybe you could explain what Johanna got so wrong? She made no claims of an in depth review…she addressed what she liked and did not like in a rather brief couple of paragraphs. If you are going to claim people got it all wrong-support your claims. Point out why you disagree, polite dissent is not a bad thing. Otherwise you are just being a pissy fan boy. Johanna is hardly afraid of dialog. Try it!

john writes:  

I enjoyed the movie, but have a rather large problem with one of the ‘continuity’ changes made: in ST:TOS the crew of the Enterprise earned their postings there over some period of time (cf Kirk as Ensign on the USS Farragut etc) but in this series, 5 of the 7 major characters are just out of academy training and by the end of the movie are now the senior bridge crew (and Kirk is Captain!)on Starfleet’s new flagship? – this is so incredibly unlikely that it reminds me yet again of how Star Trek disappeared up its own collective fundamental orifice the first time around: everybody concerned believing the hype…

Johanna writes:  

Great point, Perry — that sense of optimism is one of the reasons I wanted to see the film. I’m tired of bleak futures.

Johanna writes:  

True, John, although the crew’s relative youth could explain some of their more impulsive/unusual decisions in future installments. :)

Johanna writes:  

Wow! I’m just now watching Saturday Night Live, and while the appearance by Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto was total product placement, the surprise guest was terrific! Check it out.

st writes:  

is any1 else annoyed bcoz the vulcan homeworld was blown up & the star trek timeline wasnt fixed so then this is an alternate universe & therfore evrythin n the normal stryline n star trek series ie enterprise, star trek, next generation, deep space 9 n voyager as well as other movies did not happen for example no vulcan homeworld then no Tuvok n voyager & the federation is certainly not the same without Vulcan, good movie but there was jus no need to go with a time travel theme.

Suzene writes:  

Not especially; creating a new alternate reality doesn’t necessarily mean that the old one was destroyed (divergent timelines for the win, as they say), and I doubt that the production of stories for the other five series is going to come to a halt anyway. I do like the reassurance that the reboot isn’t going to be straight retread of the older material, but new stories grounded in the spirit of the original.

James Moar writes:  

st, I think the use of time travel to make the later series unhappen was quite deliberate. It frees this movie (and maybe more importantly any sequels) from the overly cozy effect of being a prequel to a future we know is going to happen. Instead, everything’s uncertain again.

Alan Coil writes:  


no, I’m annoyed because you didn’t post your message in Klingon.

Mark S. writes:  

It seemed to me that Kirk got his behind kicked a lot in this movie. I mean, every time we turned around, Kirk was getting thumped on. And thumped on badly.

I don’t know if Spock or Bones will let this Kirk get too big for his britches. They kept him tethered in the previous series.

That said, I liked Picard better as a captain. He was more of an Explorer than an Adventurer. And I think that’s part of what makes Kirk, Kirk. He is an Adventurer first and foremost.

Johanna writes:  

Oh, good point. I figured Kirk had the same superpower Bond does: the ability to take great amounts of punishment.

John writes:  

I think the Young Kirk scene was also to emphasize to the fans that his life was different growing up. (The fan knows that he couldn’t drive a stick shift in what we now may call the Prime universe – but in this universe stepdad must have liked classic cars.)

The Temporal Cold War from the television series Star Trek: Enterprise has already messed with the timeline, so arguably the changes wrought by Nero aren’t the only changes having an effect on the characters. Newcomers don’t know this, but don’t need to know this.

Johanna writes:  

The fan knows Kirk couldn’t drive stick? Was this a joke from the fourth movie or something? That strikes me as obscure knowledge. Yet funny.

Ryan writes:  

First Contact is still the best Star Trek movie, at least they fixed the timeline!!!!!

Ali T. Kokmen writes:  

“The fan knows Kirk couldn’t drive stick? Was this a joke from the fourth movie or something? That strikes me as obscure knowledge. Yet funny.”

Oh, I think we’re talking earlier than the fourth movie… ;-)

If I can indulge in a bit of nerddom (we’re all friends here, right?), I imagine the reference is to the ST:TOS episode “A Piece of the Action” where Kirk, visiting a planet based on 1930’s Chicago-gangster culture, has difficulty driving a period car. “I believe they had a device called a clutch,” Spock politely suggests, as Kirk grinds the gears.

And just to put the cherry on top of nerddom, I believe that episode was the first (and maybe only) instance of the Trek crew driving a land vehicle until, I dunno, the dune buggies in Star Trek: Nemesis, or some scene with a pick up truck in Voyager or something…

Johanna writes:  

That’s so neat, that you know that! I like hearing stories like this. Especially with Spock’s dialogue.

Chris G. writes:  

Would the stick shift on a sports car work the same way it would on a car from the 1930s?

I loved that this movie restored these characters’ youth. It was the first time we got to see the sorts of fisticuffs and absurd action (the platform fight, the Romulan catwalks) that were a hallmark of the original series. And the score was a blast — I think this was the first movie to treat the original series’ music as something to be embraced rather than given a brief nod.

Johanna writes:  

But we didn’t hear the theme song’s lyrics! THAT would have been truly retro.

Mark S. writes:  

No, Johanna. That would have been truly disturbing!

vid writes:  

This movie was entertaining with decent action and a well paced story. However, that story had some rather obvious plot holes or contrivances.

How random was Kirk and old Spock’s meeting? Nero then the other Romulan are about to kill Kirk but the cliche distraction and unnecessary waiting occur to give Kirk the opportunity to escape death. Worst of all too much reliance on the transporter which seemed to be not only grossly overused but in increasingly powerful manners which seemed to come by too easy.

The best part about this movie were the main TOS crew. Their portrayals seemed familiar yet fresh although Uhura is given little to do other than being the love interest (not the only movie guilty of making the lone female’s sole purpose to be in a relationship with a man).

McCoy was the best followed by Scotty. Kirk, Spock, Sulu & Chekov were adequate.

Nero on the other hand was one of the most generic villains ever.


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