Star Trek (review)

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Reboot to the Ass

Oh, J.J. Abrams! Dude! You sneak, you! Can I have your geek babies? Here you are, going around telling everyone you’re no Trekkie, and you’re a liar! You must be a Trekkie, because you have pulled a trick worthy of James Tiberius Kirk here. You — and yes, absolutely, your screenwriters, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, too — have pulled a Kobayashi Maru. You have taken a no-win situation — “Reboot the Star Trek movie franchise,” Paramount told you — and you cheated. You cheated. In the same way that Kirk cheated that can’t-win Starfleet test. Don’t tell me that wasn’t deliberate. Don’t tell me you didn’t do that so that when some Trekkies complain — and some will, though I cannot fathom it at all, except I know fans, and fans can sometimes be incomprehensible — you can say, “Eh, wait a minute, Kirk did the same damn thing, and you worship him for it.”

Because, look: Abrams (Lost creator and Cloverfield producer) found the perfect, and perfectly science-fictional way, to do a reboot that no one can honestly bitch about, the perfect way to have his geek and his “Bite me,” too. Everything that happens here, in the gorgeously, simply entitled Star Trek (no roman numerals, no qualifiers), happens in an alternate universe, an alternate timeline, an alternate reality. If ya still wants yer Shatner-esque Kirk and your obscenely miniskirted female-officer eye candy and yer Puerto Ricans-in-gold-lamé Klingons and all that, it’s still there, waiting to be capitalized on and played with by whoever wants to do so. None of that is negated by what happens here — everything here is merely occurring alongside.

And this next thing I’m going to say is no spoiler: it’s an aspect of the sheer, ingenious perfection of this movie. There is no reset button at the end. There is nothing that goes, “Yeah, we were only fooling, and everything is going back to normal.” For all the many times the Trek franchise, in all its many incarnations, has futzed around with time travel — and I say this as a devoted fan, but one with a low tolerance for bullshit — this is the most honorable, the most defensible usage of that narrative trick. Abrams’ Star Trek does not use it as a way to goof around with tossing difficult, complicated, life-changing things at his characters only to take it all back after he’s had his fun. This Trek has the courage of its convictions.

And if that sets up the narrative space for a whole new series of movies? Woo-hoo!

What happens is this: From the distant futuristic reaches of the post-Next Generation narrative we’re familiar with comes a Romulan ship, captained by Eric Bana (The Other Boleyn Girl, Lucky You) with Maori tattoos, to seek vengeance for a Bad Thing that happened in the future. It arrives in the past almost precisely at the moment of James T. Kirk’s birth on the Starship Kelvin, when his father, George (Chris Hemsworth), a lieutenant, is forced to take command of the ship in the ensuing Romulan attack. I’m astonished to say that I found myself in tears by the end of this sequence, griefstricken for characters I’d never met before and knew nothing about, except that — as Abrams presents this extraordinary opening gambit to us — it gives us dedicated, brave, authentic folk doing a job they believe in so deeply that you believe right along with them.

And then that extends to the rest of this utterly faultless movie: these are real people we meet here again for the first time. It nods to the past history of the Trekiverse without being slavish to it, and part of that is letting the characters unfurl in ways that make sense in this alt-reality, and part of that is letting the wonderful cast give the characters their own spin. It’s actually amazing, in fact, how Chris Pine (Bottle Shock, Smokin’ Aces) as Kirk, Zachary Quinto (Heroes) as Spock, and Zoe Saldana (Vantage Point, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl) as Uhuru — they feature the most prominently among the characters we already love — are both reminiscent of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and Nichelle Nichols and completely their own creations. It’s sort of bizarre, actually, how in a Schrödinger’s cat kind of way, you both do and don’t see the mannerisms and the characteristics we’re so familiar with in their performances. I don’t know how the actors did that, or how Abrams inspired that in them, but, my god, it thrills this girl-geek down deep. Quinto, for instance, makes “Live long and prosper” sound snarky and insulting, when the moment calls for it. Orci and Kurtzman (who jointly wrote Transformers and Mission: Impossible III), for example, create relationships among the characters that aren’t anything we’re expecting but feel completely real, and even more real because of their slow reveals. (You will go back and reinterpret an early exchange between two characters in light of what you learn later, and just the fact that the writers could surprise you like that will delight you.)

I’m not sure I can express how much absolutely everything about this movie sends me into spasms of geekish ecstasy. I mean, yes, Star Trek is among the triumvirate that includes Star Wars and Doctor Who in making me the utter dork I am today — can I tell you how hearing those Enterprise-ish computer beeps made my heart skip a beat or two? But it’s more than that: Just as a movie, Abrams’ Star Trek is a huge step forward for the genre. There may be only a selective nod to the reality that there can be no sound in the vacuum of space, but that reality is put to work to great effect here, and it points to the moment, which is coming soon, when an SF FX flick will finally acknowledge that explosions and laser blasts cannot actually be heard in space, even if we’re not quite there yet. (Yes, I know: Serenity. But I don’t want to think about how that movie failed to engage audiences while this one will soar.) There is no up and down in space here, and that’s how you do space battles in the 21st century: you acknowledge, you know, reality and physics and stuff. The aliens are real(ish): not just primates with funny foreheads but holy-crap real(ish) aliens. (Three words: ice planet wildlife.) You do stuff like have characters parachute from orbit onto a platform sitting on a space tether — okay, SF literature broached these things 20 years ago, but the movies are always 20 years behind the literature. And yet, Abrams treats these things like he discovered them, and he infects us with that sense of discovery: maybe we serious fans have read about this kind of stuff, but we’ve never seen it before. And wow, is it cool and exciting and awesome.

But all of that geek stuff? It ain’t why Star Trek works. It works because its tale — of green cadets weathering their first encounter with the life-or-death job they signed up for — is a tale of people, not technology, a tale in which even the aliens are people (as they should be). Human nature here has not changed — as sometimes Trek, particularly The Next Generation, seemed to require to have happened for we upright apes in the span of a few hundred years. The bar fight sequence early on (yes, with Kirk at its center), for instance, becomes not so much an eye-rolling example of male testosterone at play but an acceptance of reality: peoples is peoples. It makes the words of Captain Pike, who recruits the at-odds young Kirk into Starfleet, seem less contradictory: Pike describes Starfleet as a “peacekeeping and humanitarian armada,” which seems, to me, like a contradiction: an “armada” devoted to gentle purposes? But here it becomes an indication, perhaps, that humanity is trying to change, and hasn’t quite figured out how to describe the effort yet. (And can I say? Among all the excellent casting, Bruce Greenwood [National Treasure: Book of Secrets, I’m Not There] as Pike is the one that made my fangirl toes curl and say, “Oh, yes.” Though Quinto’s Spock is a very close second.)

I have two nitpicks: one is tiny but surprising, considering the film’s relative dedication to scientific realism, and the other I fully expect to have rectified in Abrams’ second Trek flick. First: Why are they building starships at the bottom of a gravity well? Starships should be built in orbit, not on the Earth’s surface, from which you’d have to lift them into space. Second: I was expecting to see a lot more of Karl Urban (Pathfinder, The Bourne Supremacy) as Bones and Simon Pegg (How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, Run, Fat Boy, Run) as Scotty, but I trust that this will be the case in the next movie.

Other things make my geek gland salivate. The massive Iowan rift that the preteen Kirk sends his stolen classic sportscar into in an early sequence of the flick… It looks artificial (there’s no Grand Canyon in Iowa today, at least), and in fact it looks very much like the remnants of the Xindi attack that played out in the series Enterprise (which remains in the “real” history of both the alternative universe of this film and the primary universe of the original Trek timeline)… except in the story we saw in Enterprise, that rift started in Florida and headed south. Did the Xindi attack again in the interim, and will we learn more about that in a future film? I can’t wait to find out. And I can’t wait for the DVD on this one, because, man, some of it is clearly designed to be freeze-framed and savored over, like the signage at that Earth-surface shipyard, which Abrams pans over so quickly and so enticingly that you know he did it to tease us. And you have to know that that one bit, the one that makes you go, “Ooo, that first scratch on your new starship is always the worst!” is precisely the reaction Abrams was hoping to evoke from you, perhaps the last generation who will savor the joy of being the owner of new car.

Mostly, though, what makes me adore this movie is that — as much as I embrace the snark — Star Trek is earnest, and not snarky. Oh, it’s humorous, in places, but it treats the geek with the sincerity that only we, we Gen X geeks, can believe it deserves to be treated with. Sure, there’s wibbly-wobbly, timey-whimey-ness here that makes me think Abrams has been watching Doctor Who, and there’s bits like how Vulcan looks like Khazad-dûm that makes me sure that Abrams is fully aware of the all-encompassing geekiness that the best and most stirring blockbusters movies are all about these days, what with Xers in charge of making movies and our geek-brainwashed children the primary consumers of them.

But I think nongeeks may well enjoy Star Trek, too, because it’s got heart, and soul, and sweetness, and an optimism that hasn’t been this pure since, well, that first 1966 episode of the original TV series. It’s not so caught up in itself that it forgets that that’s the most important thing about Star Trek, and always has been.

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Newbs
Thu, May 07, 2009 5:31pm

I read the first paragraph, and now I’m even more excited for 1:30pm tomorrow, which is the first chance I’ll get to see the movie. I’ll read the rest of your review after.

Yay!!

Left_Wing_Fox
Left_Wing_Fox
Thu, May 07, 2009 5:41pm

Ok, you’ve made me excessively excited for this movie. :) I was expecing more bubbling geekgasm over SIMON PEGG as scotty *squee!* but… ok. It’s good. There will be more. Calm… breathe…

The interesting thing is, you’ve hit on my biggest fear as well. Time Travel and the muthafuckin’ Holodeck were the two biggest, worst crutches for Star Trek in my mind, after Voyager started. Going into a time war and alien holo-technology in Enterprise completely swore me off the series. It’s not that they can’t be done well, but they’ve been done so often and soo badly most of the time, that I’m just sick of them as plot elements within Star Trek. Hopefully, after this reboot, they’ll put those to bed as well.

bzero
Thu, May 07, 2009 6:38pm

w00t! Well, you’ve quelled my few fears about the new movie, and now even more I can’t wait to see it tomorrow, which my girlfriend Kelly, who dragged me to the Enterprise exhibit in Vegas before it closed (so, talking about Tru Fan here who will enjoy the flick as much as I).

Have a good weekend, MaryAnn!

Les Carr
Les Carr
Thu, May 07, 2009 7:13pm

I’ve just come back from watching the film. What an evening!

Part of my brain thinks that it wasn’t so much of a reboot as a rerun, what with the unconvincingly one-dimensional baddy lurking in a highly advanced but unaccountably dingy spaceship with a big red button (sorry, red matter) that turns on a black hole/wormhole/timetravel. But that part of my brain keeps getting slapped down by the part that is reveling in the new/old characters and the formation of new/familiar relationships.

Favourite thing? I absolutely adored what Simon Pegg has done with Scotty. What a guy!

Go see! Tell all your friends to go see too!

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Thu, May 07, 2009 7:20pm

Oh, you, Les Carr, with your five-hour advance on us East Coast Americans (never mind the West Coasters, who are still post lunchtime as I write this).

I’m seeing the flick again on Saturday afternoon (East Coast time) and I can’t wait.

Ralph
Ralph
Thu, May 07, 2009 7:41pm

Also just returned from an unaccountably quiet viewing in London.

I hadn’t picked up on Vulcan/Khazad-dûm until your review but DEAR LORD if the future ship isn’t a Babylon 5 Shadow vessel, complete with screaming engines, I’ll surrender my geek card to the authorities.

I very much second your wish to see more of “the rest of the crew” as well – Urban plays McCoy with exactly enough ham to be both a tribute and, simultaneously, a believable portrait of a younger edition of the original.

I loved it. In a way it’s closer to my memories of watching reruns of the original series as a child than the reality of that series. It let my adult self revel in the adventure, without the meta-interruptions of 1960s camp.

boborci
boborci
Thu, May 07, 2009 8:28pm

Yes. We cheated, just like Kirk. You seem to be the first to catch on!

JasonJ
JasonJ
Thu, May 07, 2009 8:37pm

Can’t wait to see it. Sylar as Spock, I about shit when I first saw that. It’s like Quinto was formed in a test tube just for this role.

On a side note, I hate to say it, but Quinto’s Sylar is pretty much the only reason I watch Heros any more. Just when it looks like he’s softening, skulls get slit open. I have high hopes for more Sylar ass-kickery next season…

SaintAndy
SaintAndy
Thu, May 07, 2009 8:57pm

Great ..now I’m even more psyched than before, after reading your review …is it me, or do you tend to write considerably longer reviews for the films you really like?

Problem is, I’m not even that much of a trekkie, but I got really excited about this film just from hearing JJ Abrams was directing, and seeing the trailers (must have watched trailer 2 about 5 times a day ..it’s turned into a compulsion) …

I’ll just have to find something to do until the super geeky super awesome Star Trek hits cinemas in my crappy corner of the world.

Chris
Chris
Thu, May 07, 2009 10:19pm

For once I agree with Mary Ann. This film plays a great trick on Trekkies and basically says shut the hell up and enjoy ride with the rest of the crowd. These are still the characters you love, just in a new experience. Daniel Faraday would not approve of Mr. Abrham’s logic though :). Also I fully agree one of the most moving moments in a scifi movie, let alone a blockbuster film, is the opening scene that unfolds. Michael Giacchino’s score over these events really are perfectly played to tug at your emotional chords. Pine is a star. Quinto is outshined by Nemoy but still holds his own. We need more Pegg!

Mo
Mo
Thu, May 07, 2009 10:51pm

Just got back from it. It was so much better than I had dared hope. I’m kind of glad that I didn’t get a chance to read your review first though, MaryAnn. A big part of the fun for me was trying to figure out where the giant reset button was going to be and then realizing…

Random thought: is it just me or did that big red floating ball look strangely familiar? Almost makes me wonder if the Lost numbers are buried in it anywhere.

Yes. We cheated, just like Kirk. You seem to be the first to catch on!

Your very own gordian knot. It scares me a little how well it all works.

Though it must be a little bit maddening for them, knowing that they’re trapped in a parallel/alternate reality and that things could be better in the other one, and yet they can never be there or go back to it. And now the mind pretzeling is starting to hurt so I’ll stop.

Kathy A
Kathy A
Thu, May 07, 2009 11:19pm

Just got back from seeing it on the IMAX screen (which I really don’t recommend–too much stuff going on and it’s right in your face. More distance is needed from the screen).

Oh, my, was that fun!!!

I’m not a purist (although I did see quite a few eps of TOS growing up, I didn’t get really hooked on the tv shows until TNG, but I did love most of the TOS films), so I didn’t care if that wasn’t Shatner and Kelley on screen. The action scenes were exciting, that opening prologue was as touching as MaryAnn said it was, and the characters are all wonderfully developed, with great relationship-building moments scattered throughout.

Urban plays McCoy with exactly enough ham to be both a tribute and, simultaneously, a believable portrait of a younger edition of the original.

Yes!! Urban just nails Deforest Kelley’s delivery but still makes the character his and he’s terrific in the part (loved the first time we see him, and what he says about why he’s enlisting).

Simon Pegg desperately needs more screen time in the next film. He almost stole the entire film in his limited time! I’ve been a big fan and just rewatched him in Spaced last week, yet I still completely bought him as Scotty.

I’ll probably go see it again next week, maybe even on Sunday.

Dianne A
Dianne A
Fri, May 08, 2009 1:39am

I agree with you about how your heart skipped a beat or two on hearing the Enterprise computer beeps – it really was a geek filled supreme moment for me.

I was hoping that J J wouldn’t do a Star Wars bar-type scene with all different aliens together, and he didn’t! It was done with such a light touch, congrats on that alone.

Loved, loved the movie, will have to see it again and I will be relaxed with what has ended up on the screne. The crowd in my midday weekday session where easily all over 60 (except us), some older. Certainly Star Trek is cross-generational.

Ben
Ben
Fri, May 08, 2009 2:33am

Great review, and a good movie. As a New Zealander I just have to say though that those are in no way Maori tattoos on Nero’s face. They certainly fall in the the “tribal” category, but they aren’t Maori.

Victor Plenty
Victor Plenty
Fri, May 08, 2009 2:52am

Dear Hollywood: Yes! More of this, please.

(First time in years that buying tickets on the opening weekend has left me entirely free of guilt.)

Dear MaryAnn: Thanks for a review that so perfectly expresses why I love this movie. Now I can just give my friends the link to this page, rather than cudgel my brain for some elusive adjective that might communicate what I want them to understand.

anyjoe2000
anyjoe2000
Fri, May 08, 2009 4:56am

Great review, I saw the movie tonight and loved it. Your comparison to the obayashi Maru was spot on. And it was done with the cleverness of a con artist. By the time I was aware of what was going on I was ok with it. Those sneaky Ba$%!@ds!

I was a little nervous when I heard Lenard Nemoy had such a large part, not because I don’t love his Spock, quite the opposite. It was more because all the next generation episode, including the movie, that included TOS characters were my least favorite. I loved seeing them but the plots of those shows looked so manufactured to explain their presents that it detracted from the shows. They just were not very well done but this worked just fine.
I am curious where they will go from here. Will they just go on in this time line or attempt to repair it in a future Movie. The loss of that planet after all is no small matter.
Its interesting, having followed all the BS about Shatner not being a part of this and how anything more than a cameo would not work well for the plot due to the fact that he died. Well is he? Dead I mean. Who can say for sure now. Should they attempt to correct the timeline I could see him showing up if they keep a short leash on him.

I would have liked to see a nod to Archer in here, if for nothing else it was really the only thing other than TOS that they could give a nod to as it is the only part of the story that predates this.

Paul
Paul
Fri, May 08, 2009 5:05am

Great review. I love it when the Flick Filosopher geeks out. :-P

Just one note about your object about starships being built on the ground. Actually, it makes much MORE sense to build it on the ground. Why? Much less dangerous. Workers don’t have to wear spacesuits, they don’t have to deal with trying to move with accuracy and precision in microgravity. Doesn’t matter how advanced the spacesuits are – space is a lot more dangerous environment than good old Earth.

The gravity well argument, frankly, doesn’t make any sense. It’s a holdover from the “canon” of the other Star Trek timeline. Think about it. You have a starship that weighs millions of tons with a propulsion system that can instantly accelerate it from a standing start to the speed of light and beyond. The power required to lift that starship from the ground into Earth orbit is MICROSCOPIC compared to what it takes to fly it through space like starships can.

So complaining about Earth’s gravity well is like questioning whether a semi could start trucking because a fly landed on the hood. In that sense, I suspect original canon created a piece of illogic to cover for the fact that the TOS didn’t have enough budget to show starships landing on the surface of planets. :-P

Ralph
Ralph
Fri, May 08, 2009 8:31am

I would have liked to see a nod to Archer in here, if for nothing else it was really the only thing other than TOS that they could give a nod to as it is the only part of the story that predates this.

Ahh – there WAS a nod – which drew a chuckle from me.

The reason Scotty was exiled to the remote planet was because he tried to demonstrate his advanced theories on teleportation by testing it out on “Admiral Archer’s favourite beagle”!

David
David
Fri, May 08, 2009 9:24am

Yes, yes, yes! I tried to explain some of this to my brother (he’s a Trekkie who’s very grumpy about this movie) before reading your review; after reading it, I just sent him the link. I hate paying $9 for a movie, but I’ll be doing it again for this one.

David C
David C
Fri, May 08, 2009 9:50am

MaryAnn, this is a citation from the Geek Police: it’s Uhur*a*, not Uhuru.

We’re gonna let you off with a warning this time.

Andrew
Andrew
Fri, May 08, 2009 10:45am

Regarding the gravity well — Abrams addressed that in an interview that I read and can never find again, which makes me sad, but he did answer it. Paul’s pretty close:

You have a starship that weighs millions of tons with a propulsion system that can instantly accelerate it from a standing start to the speed of light and beyond. The power required to lift that starship from the ground into Earth orbit is MICROSCOPIC compared to what it takes to fly it through space like starships can.

Exactly that reason, with one additional one. The Enterprise has artificial gravity; its entire interior is going to be put under 1G constantly. Shouldn’t it be built in those conditions, too?

JoshB
JoshB
Fri, May 08, 2009 11:00am

I was always under the impression that starships had two completely different propulsion systems: the impulse drive, for ordinary tooling around in low orbit, and the warp drive, only used for interstellar faster-than-light travel.

I assume they would use the impulse drive to break away from Earth’s gravity, which, while possible (see ST:IV where the bird of prey lifts off from ground level into space with humpback whales in tow), seems unnecessarily wasteful.

nolunchmoney
nolunchmoney
Fri, May 08, 2009 11:28am

I like to imagine what it must have been like to sitaround the writers table for this one. “Trek-Nation” was beating the bring-back-Shatner drum during most of the movie’s preproduction, and it occured to me pretty early on the reason why it was an impossible situation: Kirk resurrected in any way that doesnt seem like a cheat or a reset button forces the film to be about exactly that, rather than telling a new and compelling story.

The alternate time-line serves a couple of purposes then:

1. You get to release the shackles of slavish continuity for continuity’s sake when it comes to the minutae (Chekhov present from the beginning, referencing what would be a 60 year old Porthos in the original timeline)

2. Now you have a wide open door out of the Nexus for our favorite hotel pitchman…early prediction is they can’t resist the call of the Shat.

My nitpick is if shooting a chain is all that it takes to disable the drill and save the planet, why does it take Kirk flying SPock’s ship to do it..they dont have any guns on earth?

Great fun, and great job as always Mary Ann.

bronxbee
bronxbee
Fri, May 08, 2009 11:52am

“…if the future ship isn’t a Babylon 5 Shadow vessel, complete with screaming engines, I’ll surrender my geek card to the authorities.”

i said almost *exactly* that same thing to maryann at the preview!

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Fri, May 08, 2009 12:01pm

Great review, and a good movie. As a New Zealander I just have to say though that those are in no way Maori tattoos on Nero’s face. They certainly fall in the the “tribal” category, but they aren’t Maori.

Oh, Ben, I *know* that! Nero isn’t really Eric Bana, either: he’s a character Eric Bana plays.

I fixed the Uhura typo. Thanks for pointing it out.

Yes. We cheated, just like Kirk. You seem to be the first to catch on!

Woo-hoo! A pat on the head from one of the writers!

You have a starship that weighs millions of tons with a propulsion system that can instantly accelerate it from a standing start to the speed of light and beyond.

Yeah, but they ain’t gonna rev up the warp drive on the surface of a planet!

The Enterprise has artificial gravity; its entire interior is going to be put under 1G constantly. Shouldn’t it be built in those conditions, too?

I’m no physicist, but assuming artificial gravity could be a real thing, I don’t see how subjecting the people and objects inside the ship to 1G, drawing them down to one plane of the ship, is at all the same thing as have the entire ship subject to 1G from the outside. With artificial gravity, the ship itself is not being pulled in one direction — for that to be happening, the artificial gravity would have to be generated somewhere *outside* the ship.

I am curious where they will go from here. Will they just go on in this time line or attempt to repair it in a future Movie. The loss of that planet after all is no small matter.

Oh, they *must* go on in this timeline! It doesn’t need to be repaired! The loss of a major planet is indeed no small matter, but that’s what will make this timeline interesting: it’ll be *different* from what we’ve seen before. And shouldn’t that be the whole point of a reboot? We don’t wanna see the same stuff we’ve seen before — we wanna see new stuff.

Ben
Ben
Fri, May 08, 2009 12:09pm

Hi MaryAnn. Sorry I didn’t mean to suggest you thought that the Romulans had Maori tattoos… only that the tattoo they have looks nothing like a Maori tattoo so it was strange to see it described as such. Its a post-modern looking tribal tattoo design on the face, but bares very little resemblance to the shapes and patterns typically used in Maori face tattoos.

Anal tattoo comments aside, I was also proud of the local boy’s turn at Bones. It was good work.

Nolunchmoney, I had that niggle too (about the no guns on Earth or Vulcan for that matter). I mean they do mention in the film that the chain probably has defences or some such (before the jump) but it didn’t really appear to be the case.

Jurgan
Jurgan
Fri, May 08, 2009 12:10pm

Tempting, Maryann, very tempting. That is, you’re tempting me to turn in my Trek-haters card and go see this movie.

Actually, I don’t really hate Trek. I grew with Star Wars, though, and at the time I assumed that the fandoms were a zero-sum game- if you loved one, you had to hate the other. So I said I hated Star Trek sight unseen. Now, I realize the legendary Trek-Wars are mostly a joke (aside from a few of those fans), so I regard the series with indifference. But it sounds like this movie, while being for the geeks, would also appeal to someone with no knowledge of or commitment to the franchise. So, again, tempting…

Andrew
Andrew
Fri, May 08, 2009 2:57pm

I’m no physicist, but assuming artificial gravity could be a real thing, I don’t see how subjecting the people and objects inside the ship to 1G, drawing them down to one plane of the ship, is at all the same thing as have the entire ship subject to 1G from the outside. With artificial gravity, the ship itself is not being pulled in one direction — for that to be happening, the artificial gravity would have to be generated somewhere *outside* the ship.

No, but everything inside the ship is. Inside the ship, everyone and everything are constantly being pulled “down” at 1G. That means the tables and the chairs, sure… it also means the plating between the decks, the floors, the walls. Bit of a bad screwup if half of the ship collapses the first time you turn it on because somebody forgot a support beam, isn’t it? Build the whole ship in the gravity conditions it’ll be simulating, you don’t run that risk.

Paul
Paul
Fri, May 08, 2009 3:27pm

Bit of a bad screwup if half of the ship collapses the first time you turn it on because somebody forgot a support beam, isn’t it? Build the whole ship in the gravity conditions it’ll be simulating, you don’t run that risk.

This is an EXCELLENT point, and one I hadn’t thought of. When you build any structure in space, you can’t really test what the structural integrity will be in a 1G environment until you flip on the artificial gravity.

You could easily build a floor, a wall, a ladder, tubes and internal plumbing with the supports misaligned, and while they would be structurally fine in microgravity, they could collapse once the ship’s interior artificial gravity is turned on.

Even if something didn’t collapse immediately under a 1G load, you couldn’t certain that an interior structure was weaker than spec and that it wouldn’t collapse later under the constant pressure of gravity later.

The only way to be certain is to build the entire ship in a 1G environment so the construction process tests that it is inherently sound as it’s being built.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Fri, May 08, 2009 4:24pm

You could still the build the ship in space with the anti-grav turned on. The ship does not need to be built to withstand the atmospheric pressures of the surface of the Earth. But that’s what you’re doing when you’re building on the surface. And you’re subjecting the ship to atmospheric stresses when you lift it off the surface.

Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe if they’ve harnessed antimatter, power/fuel are nonissues, and shields can be used to protect a not-built-to-atmospheric-specs ship when it lifts off.

I think we need to get a real physicist and a real engineer on this…

nyjm
nyjm
Fri, May 08, 2009 4:36pm

Congrats, MAJ, you’ve drawn me from “Ew… I dunno, I don’t like anything Abrams has done… and besides, it looks NOTHING like the Star Trek I love” to “Ah hah. Sounds worth a matinee.” Paramount should give you a commission. :-)

Newbs
Fri, May 08, 2009 5:09pm

Just saw the movie, and I am so excited about it. I’ll definitely go see it once more next week.

**spoilers below**

My favorite thing was what MaryAnn mentioned above: no reset button. At the end, I thought for sure they were gonna get sucked through that black hole and end up with a way to save the planet that was destroyed. And they didn’t do it! Maybe things are going right for Sci Fi again… I really don’t think this movie would exist without the last 5 years of Galactica. So, thanks Ron Moore, and thanks J.J.

Now, let’s fix Star Wars!

Anne
Anne
Fri, May 08, 2009 5:16pm

SPOILERS!! [warning added by maj]

Oh, they *must* go on in this timeline! It doesn’t need to be repaired! The loss of a major planet is indeed no small matter, but that’s what will make this timeline interesting: it’ll be *different* from what we’ve seen before.

This is what has been on my mind all day. Their planet is gone, and they are now an endangered race. This could drastically change how the Federation and Starfleet develop in this new universe, since the Vulcans were a major force for peace. Will they continue to be, or will their main focus now be on preservation? There is definitely a story there, and I hope it gets told.

I am beyond thrilled with all the possibilities that this new reboot has created and am crossing my fingers that the potential is developed fully.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Fri, May 08, 2009 5:31pm

I really don’t think this movie would exist without the last 5 years of Galactica. So, thanks Ron Moore, and thanks J.J.

True. I’ve had *Enterprise* on in the background all day on the Sci Fi Channel, and it occurred to me just a few minutes ago that this show really could have been awesome (instead of wishy washy and pretty vanilla, for the most part) if it had come along after *BSG,* and the writers and producers could have been influenced by how dark and daring *BSG* was.

Kathy A
Kathy A
Fri, May 08, 2009 7:35pm

Slate’s review has an audio spoiler-filled discussion in which one of the reviewers points out the debt that Abrams owes to Joss Whedon and Serenity, and posits that that film might be equally influential on future SF films.

PaulW
PaulW
Fri, May 08, 2009 11:37pm

SPOILERS, of a sort, so close your eyes and scroll down about 9 paragraphs.

I *liked* the movie, maybe it’s gonna take more screenings before I can come to terms with it…

I am one of those geeks who takes the mythos a little too seriously, so I am a nitpicker at heart, to wit:

I was little miffed that the Enterprise ship interior looked more like an open-air refinery with all those pipes running about. I kept thinking, is this the Enterprise or is this the Red Dwarf? It didn’t have the feel of a naval wessel with interior hallways and such, which we only seem to get on the command deck…

There were a few other things that kinda rubbed me the wrong way, but they would be massive SPOILERs at this point so maybe in another week or two I might bring them up later.

It’s not Khan level. More closer to Undiscovered Country level. And it should have had Klingons instead of Romulans dammit… :/

Victor Plenty
Victor Plenty
Sat, May 09, 2009 12:00am

Naval wessels come in many designs, even here on Earth. Take the example of many 18th and early 19th century sailing warships, in which “clearing for action” meant hastily and thoroughly dismantling all the living quarters – not only the crew’s, but even the captain’s – to make room for working the cannons.

Why should “interior hallways” be our primary image of something that “feels like” a naval spacecraft? Much of what we’ve seen on screen in earlier science fiction looks like that mainly because generic interior hallways with scattered high-tech wall panels make for cheap and easily built set designs.

I’m comfortable with a starship interior that looks like it’s crammed full of the advanced machinery and technology required for spaceflight, rather than merely looking like the corporate offices of a very expensive graphic design firm.

Russ
Russ
Sat, May 09, 2009 12:29am

Having seen all the Trek TV shows (and also this film),I’d have to concur with Roger Ebert’s negative (but very sensible) review, where unlike other US critics who’ve overpraised it, he cites the weakness and mediocrity of the film’s script and logic. Paramount badly need this movie to do well overseas (where Star Trek has always had a much weaker fan base than in North America), so it’ll be interesting seeing how it fares in it’s 2nd – 4th weeks.

The movie is entertaining, but since it was dumbed down for dumb ass teenagers, it failed to deliver on what Star Trek has always been when it’s at its best: a smart, socially analytical franchise.
There was and is nothing smart about this movie, something JJ Abrams and his hack writing colleagues have always struggled with. They can do entertaining, but fail at delivering something intelligent.

Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Sat, May 09, 2009 1:51am

It was a good film and I enjoyed it. But it had some plot holes big enough to fly a starship through.

Potential Spoilers below:

1. If Nero has the “red matter” that can collapse the supernova-ing star before it destroys Romulus… and he’s thrown back in time 130 years. So why doesn’t he just collapse the star 130 years early, so Romulus is safe?

2. Why is Kirk promoted to first officer by Pike? Especially right before he goes on an away mission.

3. Instead of skydiving to stop the mining laser, why not just use the shuttle’s weapons systems? If it didn’t have weapon systems, why not lean out the door and fire on it?

4. Why are cadets assigned to starships in an emergency? Aren’t there enough officers to command the starships in orbit?

5. Why maroon Kirk on an ice-world instead of just throwing him in the brig?

6. If Scotty has been crewing the Federation station on the ice planet that is within spitting distance of Vulcan, why doesn’t he make any mention of what is occurring on Vulcan?

All that being said, I enjoyed the movie. It wasn’t the best Star Trek movie, but it was far from being the worst.

Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Sat, May 09, 2009 1:56am

Russ

While I did enjoy the movie for it’s entertainment value, I agree with your main points.

Keith
Keith
Sat, May 09, 2009 4:55am

I left the theater with mixed feelings about the film. Technically (acting, visuals, pacing, drama, comedy, etc) the movie was well done. I especially liked the scene where they are free falling to the drilling platform and all you first hear is their breathing, but as they enter the upper atmosphere, the wind sounds build, awesome! Emotionally, I was conflicted.

Born the same year that Star Trek originally aired, I have grown up with Star Trek. I’ve seen most everything Trek put out (with the exception of parts of DS9). However, I consider myself more of a fan of science fiction in general than a Trekker. The loss of Vulcan (and the billions its inhabitants) was felt like a blow to the gut.

The biggest problem I have with this movie is with it trying to stand in two universes at once. They want to create a separate new interpretation of Star Trek; I’d be fine with that. They want to go back and explore the early years of the familiar characters, equally acceptable. Picking and choosing what to accept and reject, especially at the cost of so much of the previous canon, not so much.

With so much temporal shenanigans in the Star Trek universe no wonder a Temporal Prime Directive was created. They want to tie in with the original universe, then why didn’t the Time Police (as evidenced in both Enterprise and Voyager) put a stop to Nero’s plan? What’s to stop Starfleet, especially a determined group surviving Vulcans, from trying to formulate a time travel plan to save their planet? Seems like weak writing to me. This could also set a precedent for sci-fi. Instead of retcon to change past continuity, now they can just throw some time travel solution at the problem and, voila, neocontinuity!

There are only two plot issues I want to touch on. The Spock/Uhura incident is fine by me given the butterfly effects of Nero’s meddling and the emotional response (Vulcan or no) in wake of such a calamity. The other is the inconsistent handling of the red matter. One drop of it will destroy a planet in minutes, but a few hundred times that amount takes the same amount of time to suck in one large spaceship, but not another a few miles/kilometers away (and not the instant they ejected the warp core, either)? Speaking of which, how could a warp bubble even be formed under such intense gravimetric stress? Oh, crap, there goes my brain thinking again. How annoying!

I had fun watching the movie, but the way so much great Star Trek history was simply recorded over (lost like tears in rain ;) through such a self-serving way, ultimately drained much of the joy from the rest of the movie. The ironic thing is reading criticism of detailed fan responses like this from people who would debate even more intensely subjects that are dear to their heart (especially money, politics and religion). It all comes down to what we are emotionally attached.

Victor Plenty
Victor Plenty
Sat, May 09, 2009 5:37am

MASSIVE SPOILER WARNING: skip my responses to these debating points if you haven’t seen the movie yet.

1. If Nero has the “red matter” that can collapse the supernova-ing star before it destroys Romulus… and he’s thrown back in time 130 years. So why doesn’t he just collapse the star 130 years early, so Romulus is safe?

The writers covered this in several subtle ways, requiring close attention.

First, Nero has gone insane, and wants to cause pain. Everything else he does and says is rationalizing this desire.

If you don’t like this psychological explanation, you could just take his own explanation at face value. He believes Romulus will never be safe in any universe that includes the Federation.

He says he is preventing genocide. He seems to believe the Federation deliberately caused the supernova that destroyed Romulus. He is much like conspiracy theorists who think the U.S. government deliberately causes every misfortune from the 9/11 attacks to the swine flu. (And that is such a can of worms, I’m glad the filmmakers stopped with subtle hints at this resemblance).

2. Why is Kirk promoted to first officer by Pike? Especially right before he goes on an away mission.

At that point, Pike is making snap decisions with very little time to spare. Kirk had, just moments before, showed evidence of his own decisive nature, rapidly correlating several sources of information to make a prediction that was immediately confirmed.

Pike knows if he doesn’t make it back, his ship is facing a situation nearly as dire as the “no-win” scenario from the earlier training simulation that Kirk defeated. He clearly decides Kirk’s creativity and determination may supply the best chance for success against those odds.

But first the away mission has to succeed, or there will be no chance for anything else to be done. Pike has also personally witnessed evidence of Kirk’s ability to take a lot of physical punishment without losing his determination. (That’s one reason this script IS smart – the bar fight scene, like almost every other scene, accomplishes multiple levels of character and plot development.)

3. Instead of skydiving to stop the mining laser, why not just use the shuttle’s weapons systems? If it didn’t have weapon systems, why not lean out the door and fire on it?

Nobody knew it was a simple mining laser at that point, except the Romulans. For all Pike knew, it was an advanced weapon with its own automated defenses, which the shuttle would fail to damage. Taking such visible action against it, while on the way to negotiate a cease-fire, would definitely anger the enemy and likely provoke the destruction of the Enterprise.

Pike’s course of action had to balance unknown risk factors, and the script counts on the viewer’s intelligence to understand this.

Later, after Spock Prime’s mind meld, Kirk knew more about the mining laser, and had reason to hope the advanced weapons on Spock Prime’s ship could disable it.

4. Why are cadets assigned to starships in an emergency? Aren’t there enough officers to command the starships in orbit?

Three years earlier, when Pike recruits Kirk in the bar fight scene, it’s broadly hinted that Starfleet has a shortage of personnel. Again, the writers count on the viewer’s intelligence to connect the dots.

5. Why maroon Kirk on an ice-world instead of just throwing him in the brig?

Partly because Spock was already emotionally compromised at this point, as Spock Prime later explains.

Partly because Kirk had already shown a capacity to quickly persuade other crew members to see things his way. Kirk in the brig would still be a risk to Spock’s command. Getting him off the ship entirely was the only way to prevent him from interfering with Spock’s decisions.

The ice world was close by, and had a Federation outpost, which Spock presumably counted on to rescue Kirk before his pod’s supplies ran out.

6. If Scotty has been crewing the Federation station on the ice planet that is within spitting distance of Vulcan, why doesn’t he make any mention of what is occurring on Vulcan?

Obviously Scotty didn’t know what was happening on Vulcan. He was in exile, and not keeping up with current events. He thought Kirk and Spock Prime were there in response to a message he had sent long before.

Rather than waste time to bring Scotty up to speed on things that can’t be changed, Spock Prime focuses on prodding him to implement the transporter equation that will get him and Kirk back into the battle against the Romulans.

In sum, none of your plot holes are actually plot holes. In fact they provide evidence that, far from being “dumbed down,” the script is much smarter than certain hasty critics are giving it credit for.

Victor Plenty
Victor Plenty
Sat, May 09, 2009 5:44am

Keith, nothing has been lost. Nothing has been recorded over. You’re not making any sense.

All the previous great Star Trek history is still readily available for the price of a Netflix subscription.

Now it’s available to new audiences, who might never have taken any interest in it without the strenuous efforts these new filmmakers have put into reviving the Star Trek universe.

Saladinho
Saladinho
Sat, May 09, 2009 12:01pm

I see your point Keith.

A few friends of mine who are massive Star Trek fans feel the same way. There’s a sense that the film is basically saying: “Everything you remember, that doesn’t count now. There’s a new sheriff in town. He’s bigger, faster, and louder. You don’t like it. Stay home!”

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Sat, May 09, 2009 12:26pm

Three years earlier, when Pike recruits Kirk in the bar fight scene, it’s broadly hinted that Starfleet has a shortage of personnel. Again, the writers count on the viewer’s intelligence to connect the dots.

There’s also a mention, as the students are heading off on their mission, that much of Starfleet is embroiled in some other urgent situation in another section of Federation space.

I, however, like to think of this as the *Space Camp* scenario. :->

Keith
Keith
Sat, May 09, 2009 1:00pm

I forgot to mention, I also loved the Vulcan way Spock tells the Council to “Live long and bite me” after their back-handed criticism of his mother.

Keith, nothing has been lost. Nothing has been recorded over. You’re not making any sense.

All the previous great Star Trek history is still readily available for the price of a Netflix subscription.

The “nothing has been recorded over” is from, as the Doctor would say, “a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint.” From Spock Prime’s view point everything he knows has changed, including the destruction of his whole planet and most of his race, which still existed in the original timeline. Those who can’t emerse themselve into a story (first person point of view) probably can’t understand this. Victor’s comment is third person.

Sure it is just a story, and I can watch the original material any time I like, but if I accept the new story as part of the Star Trek Universe, then I know it all changes (on the whim of a madman no less). This depends on how much you care about continuity, history and what came before. If all you care about is the next shiny new thing, then fine. Just remember, those who do not remember history… From what I’ve read, there are people, especially those who are no fan of Rick Berman’s decisions, who will rejoice in this. New is good, just not (IMHO) at the expense of the old.

Victor Plenty
Victor Plenty
Sat, May 09, 2009 3:53pm

Keith, it all still happens, even in the story universe. Perhaps the word “multiverse” is more appropriate here.

The creation of a new timeline does not have to mean the events in the other timeline are wiped out. The model of quantum universes says the two different series of events are both equally real, happening in parallel to each other.

For Spock Prime this idea is not less important, but actually more important than it is for us as outside viewers. Everything he remembers was real. The people in that history were real people, and through him, the equally real people in the new timeline can learn of that history and its lessons.

So when I say nothing has been lost, I am most emphatically NOT dismissing the story universe as “just a story.” The prior Star Trek history available on DVD still possesses just as much symbolic, mythic, culturally significant reality as ever. It may have even more such significance, now that the potential audience is so much broader.

That is why I am arguing so forcibly for this view. The future of Trek as a cultural influence is partly up to us to decide. As fans of the previous Trek incarnations, we can turn away from the new films and dismiss the new young fans as idiots, which can become a self-fulfilling prophecy… OR we can help link the core values both storylines share.

The Federation is still the Federation, still striving to live up to high ideals and difficult ethical values in an imperfect universe.

And if such a concept ever needed and deserved our support, that is still true, now more than ever.

PaulW
PaulW
Sat, May 09, 2009 3:56pm

I forgot to bring this up on my previous post, but here’s the deal. Friday was my birthday (yay me!) so seeing the movie was a present to meself, and it was a chance to go see the movie with my twin brother and his two sons.
Afterward, we went out for dinner and my nephews gave me a birthday present.
It was a red shirt.

I am NOT making this up.

Victor Plenty
Victor Plenty
Sat, May 09, 2009 5:16pm

Dude, a red shirt? Awesome!

Well, for us anyway. Kinda sucks for you, I guess.

Then again, Scotty and Uhura also wear the red uniforms, and they never get killed, at least not until this new movie. Oops, I’ve said too much.

Rykker
Rykker
Sat, May 09, 2009 7:39pm

I didn’t think I’d see a spoiler where I think I just did (I had no intention of reading the whole review before I have a chance to see the film Monday morning), and there were no spoiler warnings prior to this early comment…

BUTT —

Everything that happens here, in the gorgeously, simply entitled Star Trek (no roman numerals, no qualifiers), happens in an alternate universe, an alternate timeline, an alternate reality.

*sniff*
That smells like a spoiler…