Adam Fields (weblog)

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Thoughts on the new Star Trek

Filed under: — adam @ 9:58 am

First, I loved it. I think it was the best movie I’ve seen in a long time. It treated the source material with respect, but established its own direction. The casting was basically flawless, and each of the major characters settled into their respective roles as gracefully as putting on a new pair of shoes from the same brand in the same size you were wearing before. The IMAX version is huge, but sit back more than you think you need to. We ended up being a little too close and it was sometimes hard to focus on the fast action scenes.

Spoilers ahead.

I loved the new bridge, and I was completely wowed at the omnipresent reflections and lens flares going on in the foreground. It really added the sense of being there and catching light bouncing off of some shiny panel, of which there are now many. Similarly, I loved the scope of the new engineering. Finally… it looks big.

All of the performances were grand and Zachary Quinto was impressive as a young Spock, but I think Karl Urban gets a special callout for really nailing the crotchety Bones. (And he was shafted a special commendation for saving the entire universe by sneaking Kirk on the Enterprise in the first place.)

I thought the time travel execution was very successful, and I very much liked that they didn’t take the standard “everything gets resolved at the end of the episode” tack and left things messy instead. The seamless shift into what otherwise would have been a reboot or a lifeless prequel… completely works for me. This is a different universe, most notably in the way that six billion Vulcans are now missing. As the Vulcans are the main ambassadors of the Federation for first contact, this has drastic implications on the influence and power of the Federation. But, as a mitigating factor, Spock is back from the future with 130 years of accumulated knowledge. Vulcans have essentially photographic memories and the ability to share thoughts widely without having to explain them, and Spock apparently doesn’t seem shy about applying this where necessary to rebalance things. And it’s not just technological knowledge – he’s one of the most well-versed people ever in galactic politics. He knows where all of the hidden enemies and backstabbing and power grabs are going to come from, he knows which alliances are likely to form, and he knows which resources people are going to be fighting about. This is a unique position – he can prepare the Federation in advance to deal with all of these threats before they fully manifest. As time goes on and the timelines diverge, his knowledge will become less useful, but should still provide the Federation with a significant advantage in the short run, enough to make up for the lack of influcence of most of the Vulcans (and they’ll still have the thousands who survived to carry on at least some of the legacy).

Going forward, this is a very different universe, and I very much look forward to seeing how it unfolds. I hope they consider returning to a serial format, though not necessarily TV. There’s way too much rich material to mine here now to only tease us with a single movie every few years, and I think it would be a waste of this potential to fully focus on the action stories which the movies tend to favor (which is not to say that they’re not a ton of fun). But for the first time in a long time, I need to go see it in the theater again.

11 Responses to “Thoughts on the new Star Trek”

  1. nathaniel Says:

    Interesting. I thought the cast was great — especially, as you say Quinto and Urban — and sets, costumes, etc, but I didn’t really like the prequel nature of it at all. I thought it was a little corny and tedious to watch all this backstory whereby all the crew assume their rightful positions on the bridge and then the movie is over. All of this time-travel-reboot business was just a little too overly thought out, cumbersome, and unnecessary. I think they’re set up to make great Star Trek movies with this cast now, but I think they could have just skipped the long reboot and just made a damn Star Trek movie instead.

  2. adam Says:

    I don’t think so – if they had just jumped in with this cast, it would have really lacked any continuity with the old series and felt like a real reboot instead of a gradual natural shift. I think that would have really triggered the functional equivalent of the fans’ immune system, where imposters are treated as foreign bodies and resisted.

  3. dan Says:

    i have to agree with adam,

    if they didn’t use the methods for this changeover, i would have completely hated the movie. but the timeline change implications are just perfect and made the movie plausible in the scifi world known as star trek. simply i just would have hated if they messed with the cast and didn’t change the flow of time. Kirk couldn’t have been who he was in this version in the original timeline.

    but you know – everything you need to know you can learn from watching star trek .. lol. I’m hoping that they do in fact move into a long term project with this. Star Trek really has inspired many technological advances and I hope that this new breed continues to make this happen. LLAP (yea i’m an original series trekie)

  4. Ken Says:

    I liked it but didn’t get everything I had hoped for. I also saw it in IMAX in the last row. One annoying thing is that it wasn’t REALLY IMAX; they didn’t use the whole screen. It was basically just really big format digital. This was obvious when they do the IMAX intro that uses the whole screen and then you start the movie and it’s much smaller.

    Can I also just say I HATE jerky cam? I know it’s something Abrams is into, but I can’t stand it and in IMAX it’s that much worse. (I know this cuts against my previous comment – but whatever.) It doesn’t make me feel more a part of the action; it makes me feel more disconnected. I want to SEE what’s going on, see all the great props and special effects.

    Quinto was pretty good, but I was a little underwhelmed by Pine. It might have been the writing but I thought the Kirk character was a bit stereotypical and didn’t really develop at all (while Quinto’s Spock developed a lot more).

    I would have also liked a litte more story that probably got cut out for the sake of keeping all the action: like what was going on with the owner of young Kirk’s stolen car? Was that his step-dad? By only having the car chase, it almost seemed pointless (although still a nice chase). A little backstory for the Spock-Uhura relation would have been nice too. Urban’s McCoy needed more screen time (and backstory) too, not to mention Scotty. Don’t get me wrong: it was a wild ride and I enjoyed it, but as a fan who’s seen all the shows (even the Bakula ones), I would have prefered sacrificing just a little of the action for a little more substance. But maybe that’s not the way to get new fans.

  5. Ken Says:

    Oh yeah, and I LIKE it when the time travel stories are all tied up in the end. It’s the only way to resolve the paradox. It feels like time is the master hand behind the way of the universe or something. As it stands now, Quinto-Spock will never try to save Romulus, which means Nero will never be out for revenge, which means he and Spock will never come back in time, which means Kirk’s dad will never die, etc., etc. But I guess they could just leave it a deformed time-line for the duration of the movies, and tie it all up in the last movie they decide to make with this group. (Incidentally, the time travel aspect does give an easy answer to all the complainers: Sure Checkov wasn’t introduced until the second season, but that was in the OTHER time line…, etc.)

  6. adam Says:

    I don’t see why the other timeline can’t still exist and we’re just not paying attention to it anymore.

  7. Ken Says:

    I guess that depends on whether you’re a many-worlder or not. If you believe that every time there’s a ‘choice,’ all options are chosen and the time lines branch out as a result, then the other time lines could still exist (in which Spock never tried to help Romulus). If you believe only in one actual world at a time, then when Spock tried to help Romulus and led to the events in the movie, the other time line ceased to exist. If circumstances then go so as to prevent Spock from trying to help Romulus and the events of the movie are never to have taken place, then the original time line is restored. This is suggested in the TNG episode (”Yesterday’s Enterprise”) where the Enterprise C jumps into the future, restoring Tasha Yar, but preventing (for a time) the Ent C from aiding the Klingon outpost that led to the peace treaty with the Klingons. When the C returns to the past the timeline is restored (except for the fact that Yar goes with them, leading to the Yar’s liason with a Romulan captor and the birth of her daughter, Sela, who later bedevils the Ent-D crew.

  8. nathaniel Says:

    I think if Star Trek fans are of the sort where they need a convoluted and rather corny exposition why the new movies dare to diverge from canon, then that is a problem with the fans and the franchise, and the best thing to do would be to leave them to hate it and make a better movie for the rest of us. For my own part, as (really) a Star Trek fan, I’d have been open to movies that continue the existing universe with a new cast (James Bond style), with or without any particular level of attention to continuity. I would also be open to anything along the continuum from that to a Battlestar Galactica style unapologetic reboot/reimagination (Kirk as a chick, obviously); what I didn’t appreciate was the movie going to such lengths to graft the reboot into the universe itself that this process of self justification itself becomes the main purpose of the movie, and makes it into a big corny series of coincidences that overshadow and coopt the plot.

    Relatedly, I thought the nods to history (Pike in a wheelchair, Wrath of Khan brain bug) were all the more fun appearing, as they did, in a new context, and spotting and enjoying these would have gone a long way to keep old fans on board, even absent the more pondering and self-conscious explicit reboot justification.

    That said I did enjoy it, and all the logistics being out of the way, am looking forward to the next movie being a proper Star Trek adventure.

    What did yall think about the action sequences? Things like Scotty shooting around the coolant tubes were the other part I found a bit jarring at least in tone.

  9. adam Says:

    I thought that Kirk running around with puffy hands was about the weakest part of the movie. Scotty in the tubes was okay, because my immediate reaction was “Why do they even have the spinny choppy room?”, which was, I think, as expected.

    Perhaps they could have made it work without the continuity games, but I liked the fairly novel approach, and I thought the pacing was good.

  10. Scott Says:

    What is actually good about the movie is that they have created a meaningless pocket universe.

    Now matter what happens in the next 130 years of Star Trek Beta, in 130 years. Many good things, no David Marcus …. etc…..

    The same star will supernova because that wont change but now Kirk/Spock will stop it and angry Nero wont exist and the pocket universe will be closed.

    BTW: WTF is JJ Abram’s issue with Red Balls. He ruin Alias with with one.
    Maybe one to many lava lamps as a kid.

  11. Andrea Says:

    I thought it was totally excellent, laughed out loud a lot, loved the puffy hands. The only thing that bugged me was seriously – if you have a ship full of stuff that can destroy entire planets, do you REALLY leave it totally unguarded?

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