Just for giggles, the other night I re-watched J.J. Abrams’ reboot of Star Trek (2009). Yes, I saw it in the theater ten years ago with one of my sons, and what I pointed out was wrong with the movie then, is still wrong with it now.
Oh, it’s a fun romp. There’s great action, poignant moments, and some good (and not so good) acting, but let’s face it. This isn’t your Dad’s (or Granddad’s) Star Trek.
Of course Abrams, who was selected to relaunch the franchise, went on record that he always felt like (Star Trek was) a silly, campy thing. I remember appreciating it, but feeling like I didn’t get it. Roddenberry must have been spinning in his grave.
The franchise deserved a director who grew up loving Star Trek, but it got Abrams instead. Go figure.
Anyway, it’s a fun film. Events took place in the “Kelvin timeline.” The idea is that when Nero’s (Eric Bana) Romulan mining ship appeared in the past twenty-five years before it meant to, it changed everything in the Star Trek universe going forward. That’s supposed to explain why everyone and everything is different, but it doesn’t.
For instance, in the original series canon, Jim Kirk (played in the movie by Chris Pine) is supposed to have an older brother named George. George is nowhere to be found, but if history wasn’t changed until the day the younger Kirk was born, then his older brother should be there.
Apparently, Vulcan’s don’t mate through the Pon Farr anymore. In the original series episode Amok Time written by the late science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon (who I briefly met once at a convention decades ago), Vulcan males mate only once every seven years. At that time, they undergo a radical hormonal shift, ripping away their veneer of logical and reason. However in the Abrams movie, younger Spock (Zachary Quinto) is obviously romantically involved with Uhura (Zoe Saldana). Plus, he tries to beat Kirk to a pulp after the latter taunts him over the death of his mother (Amanda was played by Winona Ryder).
Fortunately, Leonard Nimoy’s portrayal as older Spock remained spot on, expressing emotion, but in a considered and thoughtful manner, not spewing it all over the screen like so much bile. No, I’m not criticizing Quinto’s acting. No doubt he played Spock exactly as the character was written and under Abrams’ direction. It was just another “I don’t get Star Trek” moment. Sturgeon made a deliberate effort to show Spock, his biology, and his culture as alien as possible so the audience wouldn’t just consider Spock as a human with pointy ears. It worked. Abrams undid all of that so Quinto’s Spock is just a human with pointy ears.
Supposedly Kirk was a fourth year cadet at Star Fleet Academy when he was put on academic suspension for cheating on the Kobiashi Maru test. McCoy (wonderfully portrayed by Karl Urban), managed to get him on board the Enterprise (a brand new ship in this version, but in the original canon, it already had years of service on it by the time Chris Pike [Bruce Greenwood] took command). Through shifts in command that made absolutely no sense, Kirk was given a field promotion to First Officer (in spite of the fact that there were plenty of other officers available) and then when young Spock totally lost it, became acting Captain. Nope, not even close to anything that would have made sense.
Nero leaves old Spock stranded on Delta Vega (in the original canon, an ore refining planet nowhere near Vulcan) so he could watch his home planet’s destruction from the surface. Problem. If you put a black hole at the center of Vulcan and it collapses in on itself due to the massive gravity well, and if you’re close enough to see it, you’re close enough to be pulled in, too. Yeah, physics.
I did adore Simon Pegg’s version of Scotty. It wasn’t even close to how James Doohan portrayed the character, but Pegg is just so much fun, I didn’t mind.
Saldana is a talented actress, but she’s no Nichelle Nichols, and I found her portrayal of Uhura to be little more than a cheerleader in a short skirt who browbeat Spock into changing her assignment to the Enterprise.
The late Anton Yelchin, actually being Russian, was the perfect Chekov, and his death was amazingly tragic. I’m glad the franchise didn’t replace him with another actor in the role.
Kirk. Gee. Whinny, juvenile, simpering. I know he’s supposed to be different because Daddy’s dead and he had a rough childhood, but it was like putting a 13-year-old boy in charge of one of the most powerful starships in the fleet. On top of that, he was given permanent command of the Enterprise at the end of the film. Really?
I have to admit that Greenwood’s version of Pike was my favorite character in the movie. If I had to choose anyone in that film to serve with on a starship it would have been him. He created a compassionate and compelling captain, which made Kirk seem even more ridiculous by comparison.
Why am I reviewing this film now?
I wasn’t going to, but when I was at the library yesterday, I found the DVD set for the first season of Star Trek: Discovery. Since the show is supposed to be set ten years before Kirk’s Enterprise and in the Kelvin timeline, I figured, why not? I’ve already watched the pilot episode, but I’ll save that review for later. I’m also going to review the entire season as a whole.
It’s my understanding that the second season changed a lot of things around, including bringing in Pike, Spock, and the Enterprise. That was probably to lure in older fans like me, but I probably won’t have access to it for another year or so, assuming it is also released to disc.
As far as the Abrams Star Trek, the first movie was a cool adventure with lots of nice tidbits, but as I mentioned, was loaded with plot holes. Also, just because you use words like “Enterprise,” “Kirk,” “Spock,” and “Vulcan” doesn’t make it Star Trek.