Monday, March 14, 2011

Review of Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Originally posted on MI6Forums on May 14 2009

"Well, Captain, your whole crew has been replaced by teen idols."

"Those *******."

"Spock, what do you think of all this?"

"Not for us?"

"No, Jim. Not for us."

"For NuTrek."

"I weep for NuTrek as I would for an aborted fetus"

STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE (The Director's Edition)
Cause I'm sorry but if you don't have the sickbay scene or the weep for V'Ger scene, you don't have the movie.

Since the last Trek movie I saw was AbramsTrek, this was an extreme spectrum shift to the other side. Sedate where Trek XI is hyperactive, talky where Trek XI is action-packed, dull where Trek XI is colourful, cerebral where Trek XI is retarded.

But despite that, there are a lot of similarities between the two movies. Both were attempts at bringing the classic 60s characters to the big screen after a long hiatus. Both are extremely reliant on visual effects. Both have very high quality visual effects. And both feel like they have the big scope of a movie.

That's one of the big things I like about TMP is that it feels like an adventure worth taking Trek to the movies for. It's big. TSFS/TVH/TFF lack that for me. This movie feels like a movie.

A lot of people dislike the lack of "feel-good" camaraderie in the crew in this movie -- but I like it. There's a real dramatic tension between crewmembers in Star Trek for the first time and it makes you unsure of everyone's motivations -- Decker and Kirk competing for command, and Spock no longer the Vulcan we remember.

I particularly like Spock's arc in the film -- returning from the Kolinahr cold but unfulfilled, we are don't know if he's fully loyal to the ship; and going from that to Spock realizing that where he belongs is with the Enterprise crew.

That's why this scene is so important to me. It's the emotional fulcrum of the piece.

The Spock spacewalk is a fantastic moment. These guys were really out to give 2001 a run for its money and in some places they succeed.

I also really like the opening with the Klingons, the design of V'Ger, the Illia probe and Decker subplots. And the transporter accident that kills Sonak -- that's a chilling moment you don't soon forget. All in all it's a strong picture.

So what are the weaknesses? Well it's a very passive film. Our heroes spend a lot of time looking at viewscreens and discussing things and very little time actually doing anything. Also while the uniforms look good on their own, they don't work well with the production design. I think the only problem I have with the uniforms is the slacks being the same colour as the tops -- I think that's what gives them the "pajama" feel. Except for the Epsilon IX uniforms -- they're terrible. A big problem is the lighting. This movie is terribly lit. Just awful. It's hard to believe it's the same bridge set as TWOK and it's so interesting how much of a difference lighting makes.

That being said, you know, and I know, and the film knows, that the TMP Enterprise model looks great.

However, I like the mystery of the movie a lot. What is V'Ger? What's Spock's motivations? What's Kirk's? Etc etc. I like that the movie encourages its audience to think and that we defeat the "villain" by helping it and solving its problem and communicating with it rather than blowing it up.

Despite all its problems this is Star Trek in fine form. A movie like this could never be made today.




Review of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Originally Posted on MI6Forums May 17 2009

"Sir, if I may?"

"Excuse me, can't you tell I'm in mourning for my franchise here?"

"Saavik was right -- you never have faced obsolescence."

"No -- I've put out albums, and been in Priceline ads, and parodied myself over and over. I know nothing."

"You knew enough to tell Saavik that how we deal with sh*t movies is just as important as how we deal with good ones. It's called dollar voting."

"Good point. Remind me not to buy the Blu-Ray. Is that all you came here to say?"

"That -- and I that I'm glad you're not Chris Pine."

"Damn straight."


Talk about a marked improvement. Character, drama, emotion, action, but also theme, depth, meaning -- it's all here and it's all entertaining.
This, folks, is how it's done.

Harve Bennett and Nick Meyer sweep in and save the franchise. Finally, Starfleet is a believable Navy, and even the old TMP sets are lit in a dramatically vibrant style. The cinematography is truly a sight for sore eyes.

This movie is masterful at doing less with more. Reduced to a paltry budget, the new team relies not on fancy visual effects but on a strong solid story with ties to the backstories of the Original Series.

It's clear the writers had seen TOS -- some of the most classic TWOK lines are actually throwbacks to oft-repeated themes and dialogues in TOS, from Vulcans never lying, to there always being possibilities, to Khan's superior everything.

James Horner's fantastic score makes this truly, truly a space opera of Wagnerian scale. Shatner and Nimoy give performances of their careers, and even De Kelley and Jimmy Doohan get great stuff to do. (Scotty's not even fat yet!)

Kirstie Alley is the one and only Saavik. She made that character worth paying attention to. She is sorely missed in III, IV, and VI.

The film moves at a breakneck pace -- you're swept along an adventure that is truly like a swashbuckling epic and we only get time to rest finally in the Genesis Cave, where we pause and reflect in two of William Shatner's best scenes as Kirk. The themes are all there -- and yet, we have not abandoned the core of Star Trek, best exemplified in the scene in Kirk's quarters with McCoy and Spock arguing over the merits of the Genesis experiment.

TWOK is a full twenty minutes shorter than TMP, and where the previous film was slow and plodding, this movie is a mad dash capped with a great deal to say about the human condition -- life, death, maturity, vengeance, mortality, age. In the end, it's a tragedy, and the death of Spock is so tactfully and beautifully handled that you almost wish they didn't bring him back. Almost Wink. Truly, his death serves the film -- it is not there for shock value or as a cheap pull on the audience.

If I had to nitpick about this movie, it'd be that Kirk and Khan never meet face to face -- but then again, that's just a connection to the nautical feel Meyer was trying to emulate. And with Khan's genetically engineered strength and Kirk's age, it'd be a quick fight. Also, it harkens to classic episodes like "Balance of Terror".

Oh! My other nitpick is that while I LOOVE the Monster Maroon uniforms, and they are a vast improvement over BLAND TMP, they always bug me in the back of my head because they just don't feel design-wise like Starfleet uniforms - they look nothing like anything that came before and after. But they're still the best thought out uniforms in Trek.

This movie is Trek's FRWL -- every new entry wants to be it, and they all fail, most notably Nemesis and NuTrek.

Truly, this is a superior motion picture.



Next Up -- Nimoy Directs Doc Brown as a Klingon B*st*rd!

Review of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Originally posted on MI6Forums May 20 2009

"How could you do this, Kirk? Spock trusted you -- with everything that was not of the body."

"Erm -- wat?"

"You let him appear in NuTrek!"

"F*cker owed me twelve dollars."


Leonard Nimoy's directorial debut is uneven, to be sure. The script has wonderful dialogue and fantastic character moments -- but it's a largely predestrian A to B affair dependant on a lot of leaps of faith on the part of the audience. The model work by ILM produces some of the most beautiful shots I've ever seen in the field of visual effects -- but any set not reused from previous Trek movies looks like a cheaply thrown together mess. Nimoy masterfully directs subtle character interactions, and handles anything involving Vulcans with a well-expected fine touch -- but his action direction is dull and fails to excite. So its a mixed bag, to say the least.

But do these factors detract from enjoying the film? Not really. Star Trek III is a fun film to watch -- and despite the deaths of David and the Enterprise, one still gets a feeling of rebirth from it all... as the end title says, the adventure continues and we feel we've moved to a point where from here we can go on to tell any story we want. One thing's for certain -- it's a great ending.

In large part the movie has good performances -- Merritt Butrick makes me wish we'd gotten another movie out of David before his inevitable demise, and Christopher Lloyd is a good low-level villain as Kruge. He doesn't match Khan, but he knows well enough not to try. Robert Hooks creates a memorable character in Fleet Admiral Morrow and I wish that part could've been reprised. The original TOS cast are great in this flick. Shatner especially really carries this movie forward the whole way, and it's interesting seeing him without Nimoy to play off of. Mark Lenard reprises his role of Sarek with subtlety, authority, and grace. Gosh, did Ben Cross suck.

Unfortunately, these good performances really make the one dud in the cast stand-out: Robin Curtis as Saavik. She's trying her damnedest, but she's no Kirstie Alley. Saavik goes from being an interesting character who we enjoy seeing grow and learn, to a dull wooden wall, fit only to give exposition. Too bad.

This film mainly has two weaknesses for me: 1) it's a very linear, straightforward plot. We need Spock alive again, and this movie accomplishes that, but little else. 2) The Klingon enemy should've been more pronounced: Bennett and Nimoy were trying to make Genesis a nuclear allegory with the Klingons representing the Soviets again -- but instead we get a bunch of ugly, crass, punks. I think Trek III is really the beginning of the punk Klingon thing that really damaged that species for a long time. It's the beginning of the modern Klingon.

Despite that, there are some touches to the Klingons that I do like -- references to the Federation Neutral Zone and calling the Enterprise a Federation Battle Cruiser among them.

Despite revolving around Spock, this film belongs to Kirk. It's really his vehicle and Shatner's got great moments all throughout the film. However, one of the things I really like in this movie is that each member of the core crew gets a moment to shine (with the exception of Chekov, who got a lot of time in the previous picture). The stealing of the Enterprise is like a Mission: Impossible episode, which makes sense since Nimoy was on that show for two years. Hell, Uhura and Sulu get more in this movie than they did in the last two combined!

The best element of the film is Kirk's sacrifices for Spock, how far he goes for his friend. Bong has spoken about this eloquently and at some length and I will not presume to do better here. It's weaknesses are rushed plotting and a strange pace that makes the film feel very segmented and episodic (We recover from TWOK - We steal the Enterprise - We fight some Klingons - We go to Vulcan).

The movie is short on intelligent ideas or themes -- but is so strongly based in character and so necessarily based in plot that I forgive it. Saavik's scene where she scolds David on his arrogance suffices for me.

This movie really captures the spirit of TOS, and just like in TWOK you can really tell Harve Bennett watched TOS and took notes. I love the ending with everyone on Vulcan and the TOS theme playing -- beautiful.

It's a fun adventure that lets us recover from the wounds of Star Trek II and move forward to new journeys. Its faults can be excused as it was a directorial debut, rushed script, and largely plot driven in its necessities.

6/10 -- Why only 6/10 after a very positive review? I can't help but say that's what the movie feels like for me. It's light and disposable fun. Gets Spock back for us. But that's really all.


Review of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Originally posted on MI6Forums May 28 2009

"Admiral Kirk, Captain Spock. The charges against you are, among others,"

- "Agreeing to appear in Star Trek XI,"

- "And directing Star Trek V."

"How do you plead?"

"Are you sure now is not the time for a colourful metaphor?"



Everyone and their mother likes this movie. So what can I say about it? I can say that it's always bothered me that the Bird-of-Prey bridge is entirely different from what we saw in Star Trek III. But then, the Star Trek III set sucked anyway. I can say that the score from Leonard Rosenman sounds like every generic 80s comedy. But then, this is an 80s comedy. I could say that the whole probe thing is a repeat of Star Trek I's plot. But then, the probe in this case is merely an excuse for a fun adventure, not the focus in and of itself.

So can I really think of a legitimate complaint for this movie?


The team of Harve Bennett, Leonard Nimoy and Nick Meyer really did a great job here creating a movie that's entertaining, light-hearted, intelligent, funny, and has a strong message behind it. It's no wonder why this was the Star Trek with the most crossover appeal. Once again, Nimoy used his Mission Impossible experience to give everyone in the cast something fun to do -- I think this is the last Star Trek movie to give a genuine role to the entire cast until Star Trek XI.

One of my favourite elements of this movie is the resolution of Spock's character arc -- having gone through Kolinahr and V'ger and death and rebirth, Spock finally reconciles and comes to terms with both halves of his heritage. His final scene with Sarek is just fantastic.

But despite Spock getting a good arc, and Nimoy being the director, this film really belongs to Kirk. William Shatner has always had a great sense of humour and he does a fine job of carrying this picture.

What more can I say? From the great ILM effects job for the whales, to the wise decision to keep Eddie Murphy out of the picture, Star Trek IV is just plain enjoyable -- and years ahead of its time with its environmentalist theme. With no shots fired in anger, little to no violence, and the problem solved by communication instead of destruction, TVH also demonstrates some of the best qualities of Star Trek.

It's fun, but it's intelligent fun, and it has a meaning.

We grok.



Up Next -- William Shatner writes AND directs? How can this possibly go wrong?

Review of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Originally posted on MI6Forums Jun 3 2009

"Well, gentlemen. I wrote and directed my very own Star Trek movie. What did you think?"

"The film scored 21% on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the worst of the original series."

"Yeah, but it sure as hell beats NuTrek."

"Damn straight."


Not bad, Shatner. Not bad at all.

In a way it's a shame Shatner had to compromise his vision to all the suits at Paramount, though conversely I don't think a Trek film with the Judeo-Christian Devil as the villain would ever have worked.

At the end of the day the only major flaw of this movie is how cheaply it was done for, which I can't really blame on Shatner -- only Paramount. Other than that there's some weaknesses in the writing, for example without the epic escape from Hell originally planned (complete with army of rockmen) the climax of the movie falls spectacularly flat. And really, the climax of a movie must be strong as its the last impression the audience has. Also, as many have pointed out, the Scotty/Uhura relationship is really weird and comes out of nowhere. (Hrrrmm, that comment feels familiar...)

Also, a minor thing that always weirded me out about this movie is that it's ostensibly set six months after Star Trek II, and yet, through movies II-IV Uhura has black hair, and here she's gone grey. Yet in Star Trek VI, set ten years after Trek II, she has black hair again.

Yes, the movie is cheap, but Shatner's a good director given what little he had. And with the exception of the third act, the writing is strong too. This is the best Trek movie for demonstrating the Trinity. The character moments given to Kirk-Spock-Bones are superbly done.

Sybok is a great character, with a neat arc, and well played by Larry Luckinbill. I think a modern film dealing with a religious zealot leading a terrorist army would probably have a lot more weight than this did in 1988.

All in all I think this movie gets a bum rap. It's misunderstood. Yes, the effects are awful but that was Paramount's decision -- and besides, the effects for TOS weren't always great either. I like the storyline. I like the questions the movie asks, the statements it makes about religious fanatics like Sybok (the bit where he is shown to think of himself as God is excellent).

All in all it's a good movie -- it's just unfortunate in that it comes between the enormously popular Trek IV and the fantastically good Trek VI. That and that all the Trek movies feel like movies, and this feels like a TV movie -- like Return to Gilligan's Island or something. It just doesn't have the epic scope and scale of the other films -- which is sad because Shatner had intended it to be the most epic Trek of all.

The score is nice, too. Other than that damn TMP/TNG theme, I like the music. Some beats sound like Proto-First Contact, but the main "family" theme is nice.

There are little touches I like, for example how the Klingons consistently speak the language, as opposed to speaking English sometimes and Klingon other times.

But I'm glad Nick Meyer repainted that bridge.



Review of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Originally posted on MI6Forums Jun 6 2009

- "You volunteered!?"
- "There is an old Vulcan proverb -- only Moore could reboot BSG"

"They wrote Transformers!"

"Bill, the franchise is dying."


Full disclosure: This is my favourite Star Trek movie.

Does it most excellently showcase the most admirable qualities of the Trek franchise? No. I would argue movies I, III-V do that quite a bit. But it doesn't matter. I like Trek VI the best.

Maybe because I feel it's a movie that has everything. An engaging political conspiracy plot, a murder mystery, allegory, thematic content, character investigation, rousing battle scenes, an atmosphere that mixes dread with determination and immediacy with reflection and excitement with melancholy. It hits all these notes while never seeming schizophrenic and maintaining a rousing storyline that follows logically from A to B while never feeling rushed.

One of the things I love in this movie is the music. I know I'm a minority opinion on this, but I love Cliff Eidelman's score. It not only accentuates the dramatic action but also perfectly underscores the more low-key, character moments in the film. Three scenes really stand out for me -- the first scene between Spock and Valeris in his quarters, the scene where Kirk and McCoy beam aboard Kronos One, and the long helicopter shots of Kirk, McCoy and Martia trekking across the surface of Rura Penthe. It also expresses the brooding, mysterious quality of the film, that sense of the unknown and dangerous. The music manages to evoke a Trek feel, without feeling derivative of the other scores. Indeed, it has a rousingly unique feel to it.

The real strength of this movie, in my opinion, is the examinations it makes of the Kirk and Spock characters. After all this time, after all their adventures, these are the men they have become. Others have strongly criticize the portrayal of Kirk in this movie -- I embrace it. It feels real, it feels human. In my eyes its a perfectly natural attitude for Kirk to adopt after all these years, and everything that's happened to him. And, of course, it's beautifully played by William Shatner, who in my mind gives such a strong performance that it sells the idea to anyone who might doubt it. I'm torn as to whether this or Trek II is Shatner's best performance as Kirk, and at the end of the day I''d say that Trek II is more iconic Kirk, but Trek VI is the better, more nuanced performance.
As for Spock -- I feel that both the arc written for Spock and Nimoy's performance of the character really bring him to the strongest point he's been as a character -- a real culmination of the growth and development in that character since 1964. I love the scenes of anger that Nimoy gives Spock (an element I first saw surface in Trek V's line "Damn you, sir! You will try!"). I love his confrontation of Valeris in sickbay and the hurt, betrayed feeling his gives when he (let's face it) mind rapes her on the bridge. My favourite Spock scenes of all time are the two in his quarters in this movie, the first with Valeris ("Logic is the beginning of wisdom, Lieutenant, not the end,") and the second with Kirk. That second scene with Kirk perfectly encapsulates those two characters and their relationship as far as I'm concerned. "Is it possible that we two, you and I, have grown so old and inflexible that we have outlived our usefulness?" And I love Kirk's line, "You're a great one for logic. I'm a great one for rushing in where angels fear to tread. We're both extremists. Reality is somewhere in between."

One of the other highlights of the film is, of course, Chris Plummer as General Chang. Shatner and Plummer had been colleagues at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada, and had received the same training as actors -- and indeed it's a sight to see the two of them spar with one another, two men truly on the same level as each other. I love it, and I love the character of Chang. He gets some of the film's best lines, especially "Don't wait for the translation, answer me now!"

The Klingons are great in this picture. I love the sort've feudal, Elizabethan vibe we get from them. I know that Nimoy felt that in the finished film they weren't explored enough, but I think we got enough lectures on Klingon culture from Worf in TNG to make up for it. Indeed, I'm glad the Rura Penthe section was not as originally written. I like that Kirk realizes his flaws by himself in his own self-reflection, it suggests a strength of character in him -- rather than the audience getting some long, condescending scenes out of an after-school special where Kirk meets some Klingons and realizes that they're people too or some such rubbish.

This time watching the film I was really looking for what Tux was saying about it slowing down in the Rura Penthe section and feeling like a TV movie -- but I didn't get that at all. Indeed, I think Trek VI has a very unique story in the movie canon, a murder mystery/political thriller, and that's not a bad thing. Indeed, it gives the film a life and spirit much stronger than just another Trek II retread (*cough* Treks X and XI).

Some have argued, including Gene Roddenberry, that the movie is out of place in the Trek universe for portraying conspiracy within Starfleet and prejudice in the crew of the Enterprise, but I have two thoughts on this. One is that the Gene Roddenberry who disapproved of this movie is the same Roddenberry who created the boring characters and ludicrous restrictions of TNG. The other is that I feel that in showing these people work against prejudice, showing Kirk and Azetbur come together at the end of the movie, showing the Klingons and Federation signing that peace treaty after all the events we've seen, that in fact Star Trek VI really embodies the essence of the anti-prejudice message of Star Trek. I think it exemplifies Tux's theory of Star Trek that rather than show a bunch of perfect people who live in a utopia, show real people rising above themselves to work towards a utopia.

Some may state that this film lacks the exploratory sense of Star Trek, that idea of going into the unknown of space and learning something new, but again I disagree, in that we are in fact going out and exploring another culture, another world, a new future. Here the unknown we are confronting is that of the unknown world of peace. The idea of co-existing as friends with the Klingons. It's a very powerful idea and I think that Trek VI is a very powerful film.

I like, too, that this film gives us a look at the broader political scope of the Star Trek universe. In most of the Original Series to this point we only ever heard about these sort've events and elements, while the Enterprise was off at the edge of space confronting alien puppets and papier mache computer gods.

So indeed, I love this movie because it brings us everything. A Holmesian mystery, political intrigue, rich allegory and metaphor for a contemporary situation (something that Star Trek was built for), and the culmination of character arcs and journeys started twenty-five years earlier. Superbly written, directed, acted, film, and produced all around.

To The Undiscovered Country!

The future.



Whaddya know! I followed the even-numbers pattern.

Review of Star Trek (XI)

Originally Posted on MI6Forums May 8 2009


Dear lord. Um. I knew it was gonna be dumbed down -- but really? Really? Sweet Jesus.

Ohkay, I'll start with the positives? Right? Positives...

The score was good. I actually really liked the new theme.
On the other hand, the Beastie Boys was RETARDED and the "OMG THIS IS SERIOUS!" choir and villain music was completely hamfisted.

The movie looks great. I loved the costumes. This was the best Starfleet uniforms have ever looked. I loved the sound effects.
On the other hand, the set design is practically nonsensical. The bridge of the Enterprise, while clearly it's own deck on the outside, is also clearly on the same level as many other rooms in the interior. The engineering areas not only do not look like the same ship, they don't look like any ship. They don't even look functional. Nero's ship falls prey to questions like "why is it full of bottomless holes and why are there no railings on any of this dangerous walkways over the bottomless hole?"

Hrrmm --- this isn't going well...

Okay, the cinematography. Well -- this is the best looking Star Trek movie, ever. Paramount finally decided to put some money into things. But while the costumes and the bridge look great, I really wish I had more of a chance to see them because Abrams keeps pointing flashlights at me and swinging the camera around wildly so I never get a good look at where all the money is going.
Every time there was an action sequence I had to strain to figure out what was happening because the staging, cinematography, and editing was so haphazardly done.
It's a bad sign when the first shot of the movie is so completely disorienting that I have no idea what's going on for a good minute.

Kay, positives, right -- let's try again --

The cast. Okay. I'm gonna go down the IMDB list. Chris Pine was surprisingly good as Kirk. Not strong enough to lead the cast, mind you, but much better than I expected. He has all the swagger Kirk needs, without aping Shatner. Zachary Quinto on the other hand, let me down as Spock. He's got all the inner turmoil, but he comes off as a huge prick the entire movie. Leonard Nimoy's scenes are golden. He's given some of the worst lines in the movie, but he sells it because he's the only real actor in this cast. Anybody could've played Nero -- the role is barely there and hardly interesting. Bruce Greenwood is the strongest member of the new cast as Captain Pike -- he really grounded the film and made things seem at least somewhat plausible when he said them. Karl Urban was great as McCoy, just great, and I wish he could've been used more. Zoe Saldana had a quiet grace and confidence as Uhura that I liked. Simon Pegg was hilarious as Scotty, but severely underused. John Cho was great as Sulu. And Bong was absolutely right -- Anton Yelchin steals the show as Chekov and makes the most out of every line he's got. Good on him.
Probably the weakest members of the cast are Winona Ryder and Ben Cross as Spock's parents. Ryder never really gets me to care enough about Amanda so when the moment comes it has no impact. Ben Cross isn't so much terrible, as he's up against Mark Lenard -- so yeah, he's terrible.

So the movie looks great, the score's good, it's competently acted -- what's the problem? It's retarded. The story just had far too many contrivances for me to buy it. And also it basically takes the "sci" right out of "sci-fi" and replaces it with lens flare. (Previous statement open for pithy quotation)

Okay, okay. Screw this. I can't organize this properly so here's how it's gonna be -- stream of consciousness: from one end of the movie to another, my thoughts and nitpicks as we go. If you want a more coherent review, go read my other one in the other thread. Also -- spoilers ahead. Sorry, can't really do it otherwise. So don't say I didn't warn you.

So a bunch of other reviewers have single out the opening sequence as an emotional sucker-punch that immediately draws you into the film. I respectfully disagree. Two reasons this sequence did not work for me at all. One was that I'm being asked to care about characters who I know nothing about. Basically my only connection to George Kirk is that he's James Tiberius' father. So what? I don't care. I never get to know these characters, so I don't care when they all die.
My second reason is a nitpick:
Why is Winona Kirk on the USS Kelvin? I'm sorry, but the writers must be as ignorant to the workings of biology as they are to physics. Pregnancy isn't some sudden thing that comes on so quick you don't have time to process it. If a female officer onboard a Starfleet vessel got pregnant she would be off on maternity leave within three months. No way would a nine-months pregnant woman be on a border-patrol scout ship. And don't tell me she's a civilian, because Starfleet didn't start carrying families aboard until about 230 years later. That was my first facepalm of the movie, it was stupid.

A belated facepalm was the appearance of Nero on the Kelvin viewscreen. Why does the Captain of the Kelvin recognize Nero as a Romulan? Humans have never seen a Romulan at this point. The Captain should be like "WTF? A Vulcan?" Pay attention to this facepalm, I'll be bringing it up later.

Time for a fan nitpick -- In Gene Roddenberry's novelization of The Motion Picture, he states the following explanation of James T. Kirk's name: "James" for his uncle (brother of his father, George Samuel Kirk, Sr) and "Tiberius" for the Roman Emperor, who had always fascinated his grandfather, Samuel Kirk. Why the fascination? Because "Tiberius" was a successful general who became a ruthless and terrible emperor, and Kirk's grandfather liked the lesson of "stick with what you're good at". Kirk later used his middle name of a reminder of how easy it is to lose compassion in a position of command.
Okay, sounds good, right?
In this movie, it's "James" after his mother's father and "Tiberius" after his father's father. Yawn/facepalm.

At least they got his year of birth right -- 2233.

We hit one of the story's biggest head scratchers. Nero, our big planet destroying villain, then sits around doing nothing for 25 years. He claims later that he was plotting his revenge, but his plot turns out to be destroy every planet in the Federation. Christ, took him 25 years to come up with that? Gonna take him a while, too. He should've spent the 25 years getting a head start.

Anyways, after the main titles we get the "Corvette" scene. Why the **** is this in the movie? We get a *hint* of Kirk's abusive uncle (but not really) and all this scene does is establish Kirk as a troublemaker -- oh, and makes no sense. We've got the STUPID Beastie Boys song, as well as the 1957 Corvette with 23rd century Nokia radio. Kirk's uncle says its an "antique" -- DUDE IT'S 300 YEARS OLD!!! A farmer in Iowa owning a 300 year old car is like a farmer today owning a 1700s era ANYTHING -- improbable as ****. And in working condition? And young Kirk can drive it?? Most 12-year-olds NOW can't drive a stick shift off-the-cuff and cars are something we're familiar with! FACEPALM.

Next up -- some Vulcan stuff with young Spock. To be honest, the early Vulcan stuff with Spock is great. Well written, well done. The only weaknesses are Ryder as Amanda and Cross as Sarek. They both suck. Oh, and the LUDICROUS dutch angle intro to the Vulcan Science Council scene -- I mean, whaaat? It also would've been nice to get a bit of conflict between Spock and Sarek over Spock's infamous choice to join Starfleet -- after all, this is what supposedly severs their relationship as father and son (hint: this is handled way better in Shatner's book, Collision Course Wink) Still, the Kolinahr and katric arks references were cool.

Cut to Iowa bar scene. The film starts falling apart.

I'm gonna address something right here and now. The character ages make no sense. I made this realization months ago, I'm gonna spell it out now --

The film takes place in 2258 -- it's established that Kirk joins Starfleet three years earlier, in 2255. This would mean he joined five years later than in the standard timeline, where his academy days were 2250-54. It also means he's about 25 in this movie. Okay. Based on that -- Uhura should be 19 (meaning she should be 16 when we first see her in the bar), Sulu should be 21, and Chekov should be 13 (he explicitly says he's 17 in the movie). Sorry, Nero blowing up the Kelvin in 2233 does not change the ages of the characters. But never mind, I made that point months ago and there's still more plot holes to go.

Okay, my question -- why are a bunch of Academy cadets spending their leave time in a bar in the middle of nowhere in Riverside, Iowa?? The Academy is in San Francisco -- are there no more nightspots on the western seaboard? And why is Captain Pike with them?

Oh. Right. So the movie can contrive a reason for Kirk to meet Uhura and subsequently meet Pike.

This is called BAD WRITING.

"The Riverside shipyards" says Pike. Riiiiight. That are building one ship only. Which ship is being built in Riverside in the year 2255?

The one built in San Francisco in 2245 you say? Well, then!

Okay, so Nero's time meddling for some reason delayed the Enterprise's construction by ten years. Seems that in this timeline, "The Cage" (Roddenberry's original Star Trek story) NEVER HAPPENED, since it was set aboard the Enterprise in 2254, a full year before it was built in this film.

Ahem. Anyways. Jesus this post is going to be loooong. I apologize.

I liked the scene where Kirk gets on the shuttle to go to the Academy (though I totally called the scene where he gives his motorcycle to some dude). The Kirk/McCoy interaction was great, and I liked the friendship that the film developed between them. I also liked the acknowledgement that McCoy's older than Kirk, and the recognition of his failed marriage. It's weird that the film followed canon in some respects, and disregarded it completely in others.

Then we flash forward three years. To me this was a big wasted opportunity -- promised a movie about the beginnings of Kirk and Spock, we really get neither.

One of the funny things about this movie is that it's clear intention is to get people who've never seen a Star Trek to get into the franchise. Yet they do a **** job of explaining anything to the uninitiated. If I knew nothing about Star Trek -- okay, you briefly give me Starfleet and the Federation --- but who are the Klingons? The Romulans? The Romulans are the main villains, yet if I was a newbie watching the movie I'd wonder -- wait, why do these guys look exactly the same as Vulcans. It's about an hour and a half into the movie that Spock finally says "Romulans and Vulcans share a common ancestor".

A smart writer might've taken advantage of the Academy setting to throw in a "history class" expository scene where we set up that the Romulans were offshoots of the Vulcans who left when the Vulcans imposed their philosophy of logic. This would not only explain our villains, but also help new audience members understand why Vulcans lack, yet still have, emotions.

Anyways, instead we get Kirk cheating on the Kobayashi Maru test. Which was fun, and cool, but IMO a little too obvious. I always got the impression it was a bit more of a devious cheat that this OBVIOUS haxors move. Still a fun scene, only taken down by the mention of the "USS Kobayashi Maru."

It's a freighter, not a Starfleet vessel. Therefore "SS Kobayashi Maru", not "USS".
Am I going to nitpick every last detail of this movie?
Well I'm going to sure as hell try. What else have you been waiting for?

The detail that Spock programmed the test is neat, but I don't think necessarily what the writers of TWOK had in mind when they said he never took the test.

The movie almost starts talking about some themes like fear and emotion and no-win scenarios, but then it remembers that **** like that is totally lamzorz and where's all the explosions?

So we begin the first instance of what is clearly the writers complete and utter lack of understanding what the word "verisimilitude" means -- or even the beginnings of how things like "chain-of-command" work.

Turns out that Vulcan is being threatened and because the ENTIRE STARFLEET is all in the Laurentian System (named after the pencil crayons, no doubt), the Cadets of Starfleet Academy are all being pressed into service into the ships in Earth orbit (which are presumably on "defend the **** out of Earth" duty).

Okay --- so I know this is the new film's version of "you're the only ship in the area", but still -- WHAT THE FLYING ****?? Um, no. The entire **** Starfleet is NOT in one **** system. The film NEVER EVER EVER adequately answers the question of WHY all of Starfleet is off in the Laurentian System, it just sticks them there for the ENTIRE MOVIE.

Soooo -- all our cadets are pressed into service. Vulcan is a major planet, one of the five founders of the Federation. Does it not have some ships of it's own? Is there no ships in the Vulcan area that can help with the evacuation?? *sigh*

So next thing we know (after some hijinks) we get all our friends onboard the Enterprise. Spock is the first officer to Pike (Number One does not exist in this timeline, evidently), while our cadets are all commissioned into their original series ranks except Kirk, who's on academic suspension for cheating and McCoy sneaks on in order to facillitate the Nutty Professor swollen hands gag that's completely pointless.

And hello! There's 13 -- ahem -- I mean 17 year old Chekov as our navigator. This begins the writers complete lack of understanding of shipboard positions. At this point in the movie Chekov issues a shipwide communique about the mission (usually Uhura's job) while later in the film Uhura gives Spock bearing and heading info on Nero's ship (logically Chekov's job). Later Sulu asks Chekov to allocate him certain amounts of power at certain points for precision maneuvers (usually Scotty's job). Facepalm.

Chekov's main role in the film is to have a funny accent. It's charming, it's funny, but man is it overplayed. Walter Koenig never layed it on that thick.

Turns out Sulu's here because the regular helmsman is sick with the flu. No jokes.

Uhura gets promoted to senior communications officer when it turns out the perfectly qualified experienced officer in the post can't tell Romulan from Vulcan.

McCoy becomes the doctor because the original doctor is killed in Nero's attack. (Boyce? Noooooooo!) Still, the Chapel reference was HIGHLY appreciated (again, schizophrenic canon adherence).

So the Enterprise arrives at Vulcan, despite Cadet Kirk warning --

and the entire cadet-manned fleet is instantly destroyed by Nero's mining ship's superior 24th century technology. Well, except the Enterprise of course. Wink

Her transporters get taken out (good! an explanation!) so Kirk, Sulu, and Ensign Expendable get choosen by Pike to skydive to Nero's planet destroying drill to destroy it while Pike goes to reason with Nero. Two important things -- Ensign Expendable not only dies a classic redshirt death, but actually was the Enterprise's chief engineer, Lt. Cmdr. Olsen. That'll be important later, when Simon Pegg decides to show up.

Oh, and as Pike's leaving he declares Spock to be Acting Captain and Kirk to be Acting First Officer. Other than the fact that promoting a suspended cadet to First Officer makes no sense, okay fine. Remember this -- it becomes important.

So Kirk and Sulu get a cool action scene fighting Romulan baddies who pop out of hatches in the floor of the drill (why? so we can have an action scene, of course!!), while Pike gets swiftly captured and Spock uttterly fails to save his planet.

The planet Vulcan and all its inhabitants die a redshirt death. Spock briefly muses on the genocide of his entire race in his log, but the impact of this is largely glossed over. Except for when the film finds it convenient.

Like the first massive WTF moment. Spock goes into a turbolift shaft to brood. Good so far. Uhura follows him. Okay. Uhura comforts him on the loss of his race. Okay. She does this by frenching him. Repeatedly. Which Spock totally goes along with.

Kay, WHAAAT??? Where did this come from? The movie completely springs this on us as if its normal. It's not. Seeing Spock and Uhura make out is as weird as seeing my parents make out.

Don't worry -- it's never explained or developed. It also becomes Uhura's sole role in the movie from here on out.

Spock decides that this is all Kirk's fault. Kirk wants to chase Nero to Earth, while Spock wants to rendezvous with the fleet in the Pencil Crayon System. No one thinks of hailing the fleet and saying "YO DAWG! MOBILIZE EVERYTHING!! GET TO EARTH! MEET YOU THERE!!!"

For doing the job of a First Officer and questioning the Captain, Kirk is summarily exiled by Spock to Delta Vega.

Hmmmm -- they happened to pass by a planet that is less than a day (on impulse) away from the edge of the galaxy (1,000 light years from Earth) while on their way between Vulcan (16 light years from Earth) and Earth itself. Facepalm.

After running from monsters, Kirk runs into NimoySpock, who was exiled there by Nero, and Scotty, who was exiled there by Starfleet.
Delta Vega -- your one-stop out of the way spot for exiles.

Nimoy nearly saves the film. His performance is touching and really gets to you. Too bad he's required to give the exposition necessary to explain the FUBAR of a plot. Supernovas cannot expand and threaten the galaxy. Why is it Ambassador Spock who volunteers to save Romulus with a black hole? How is it that Romulus is suddenly destroyed with no warning? Supernovas are not sudden things that come out of nowhere.
Black holes do not equal time travel. (Nevermind that the black hole is inconsistent -- one moment it equals time travel, the next -- destruction!)

Now, Star Trek has always played fast and loose with science, but at least it's always respected the basics, respected the ideals and the principles, and when breaking it always tried to come up with a halfway decent bullsh*t explanation.

But no, this just shows that the writers really had no desire to do any homework to make their plot.

But again, like every other implausible thing in this script, this is dealt with quickly and not elaborated on -- we're meant to forget it and move on.

I would say this was the point when the film lost my suspension of disbelief.

Spock Prime convinces Kirk that being in command of the Enterprise is important and gives Scotty some advanced future knowledge that helps them beam to the Enterprise. Scotty ends up in a water pipe and "hilarity" ensues.

Kirk then pulls a "This Side of Paradise" and insults Spock until he loses it, and so declares Spock unfit for command, and so declares himself Captain, since Pike declared him First Officer a whole act ago.

I would've loved to have seen a Lieutenant Commander go "excuse me? You're a cadet. No." But oh well. Dramatic tension would've slowed things down -- we have an explosive finale to get to.

It was around this time that I realized the excuse for a plot was basically the plot of Nemesis again. Rogue Romulan with big-ass spaceship has a superweapon and is going to blow up Earth. Only this time with TOS characters and some time travel BS.

Anyways, with Kirk in command, we intercept Nero and have a big fight. Kirk and Spock beam over and pew pew laser guns with Nero's crew and I scratch my head at Nero's nonsensical ship design. I wish we had learned more about Nero and the villains. As it is I just don't care.

Some more Nemesis parallels as Spock pilots a small vessel around within the big ship shooting stuff, and then rams it into the ship, getting beamed out in the nick of time.

They manage to suck Nero and his big ship up into a black hole (the same black hole that earlier sent **** through time) and then escape said black hole by *ahem* ejecting the warp core and blowing it up and then riding the explosion out. Scotty specifically says "warp core" singular, but something like nine cores come flying out of the ship. Why? Same reason why King Kong fought three T-rexes in the remake instead of one -- more is cooler, dawg.

The question of why the explosion of nine warp cores doesn't just destroy the Enterprise (when the explosion of just one destroyed the Ent-D in Generations) doesn't matter because I stopped expecting this story to make sense about an hour and a half ago.

In gratitude for saving Earth, Kirk & Co. are all promoted to their familiar TOS positions officially, while Pike gets a (normal) wheelchair and a promotion to Admiral. No stem cell legs? No robot legs? Jeez, the future sucks.

One of my big facepalms in this movie was I kept getting dropped out of the idea that it was the 23rd Century. From the product placement (pretty sure commercialization didn't exist in Roddenberry's idea of the future) to the car/Beastie Boys to Pike in a normal wheelchair, the world has changed very little.

I have no idea where everyone keeps getting this idea that the utopian optimism is intact. I didn't see it. Yeah the future isn't shown as a dystopian wasteland, but I still didn't see Roddenberry's utopia in evidence.

And yeah, this story isn't about anything. No social commentary, no philosophical ideas, no deep thought. Just a fun action/adventure.

Mainly the point of this film was moving all the chess pieces around the board to get us in the position to do a sequel with all the familiar characters on board, only ten years younger than they were in the classic series.

In a good film, the director's job is to unify the various departments of a film to fit a coherent, consistent vision. Everything works together. That does not happen in this film. The costumes and sound effects tastefully update the old show, while the sets are completely different (and schizophrenic in and of itself). The film looks polished and beautiful, but the cinematography and editing is so haphazard and spastic that it's hard to see any of it. The CGI looks good in ONE SHOT -- the first reveal of the Enterprise (which is the same shot as our first sight, too) and that shot looks like a well-made model. The rest of the film is CGI. And meh CGI at that. I have no idea what Abrams was doing, because this film is a mish-mash of ideas and efforts, some great, some bland, and none of it coherent or consistent.

The movie's fun, it's got some good performances, it's got some good acting, it looks polished, the score is cool.

But damn is the story a massive facepalm.

I know people will say -- you're just being a and nitpicking little details and ignoring that the film is a great fun time -- but gods damnit th
jerk e story was NON-EXISTANT! The movie was written by retarded five-year-olds with no idea how to realistically portray a Navy (even a future navy) or Science. At all. Even all the character development was just a rush to get from one CGI setpiece to another.

I have and always will maintain that intelligence and verisimilitude need not be sacrificed to tell a fun and entertaining story. I will maintain that view for as long as I live. I don't care that modern Hollywood seems to hold that "smart" and "fun" are incompatible -- I refuse to go along with that view!

As a Trekkie, I give this movie


And I apologize for the long, rambling, nit-picking, spoiler-filled post, I really do.

For any Trekkies who side with my (apparently extreme minority) opinion, I strongly continue to recommend William Shatner's new book Star Trek Academy: Collision Course

Review of Star Trek Generations

Originally posted on MI6Forums Dec 22 2010

"Captain, I need you to come to the future with me and save the galaxy."

"You know, I've got hot tail waiting for me upstairs, and I had a good send-off in Star Trek VI. For all I've done for it,"

"The galaxy can go f*ck itself. And so can you, Picard."

"I'll get Chris Pine to do it."

"Pleasure to work with you, where do I sign up?"

Well, my opinion of it hasn't changed very much. I still believe the movie has three problems:
1) While destroying the Enterprise-D and killing the Duras sisters is major, the movie for the most part feels like an extended episode of the show rather than a MOVIE. Unsurprising since it was written by TV writers, produced by a TV producer and directed by a TV director, with production starting only a week after the TV show wrapped.
2) The movie loses all its momentum once Picard wakes up in the Nexus for his family Christmas thing. You just tune out and stop caring.
3) The entire GENERATIONS aspect of the movie. The whole movie is a NEXT GEN movie dealing with NEXT GEN issues and storylines, and Kirk is really just superfluous. Picard doesn't need KIRK, he needs A GUY to distract Soren while he sabotages the missile. So Kirk just feels shoehorned into the beginning and end.

That being said, the movie isn't awful. We do get some good things, like fine acting from Stewart, and the chance to see how good the Ent-D and her sets could've looked if lit in any style other than BLAND. The movie is in no way bad, just mediocre and forgettable. Certainly not the big event that Paramount wanted for the Trekgasm that was 1995 -- this movie was supposed to be the meeting of TOS and TNG coming on the heels of the successful finale of TNG and heralding the big premiere of VOY and UPN in time to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Trek. Instead we got Picard and Kirk making eggs and riding horses while Data engages in schtick.

But Malcolm McDowell is good and I liked the involvment of Guinan in the plot and I liked putting a cap on the Duras sisters storyline finally and I love the spectacle of blowing up the Ent-D and crashing it. So there's stuff to like here.

It's just no one involved really knew how to make a MOVIE. Yet...