In an effort to keep my geek credentials in good standing, I saw the new Star Trek movie on Friday. (My license was almost revoked when I failed to see either Wolverine or Watchmen this spring.) Short review: Star Trek was excellent and I’ll probably see it again in the theater if I can. I can say without reservation that, no matter who you are and what your previously level of commitment to Star Trek might be, you should absolutely go see it if you haven’t done so already.
I’ve always been what I would call a mild Star Trek fan. As a kid, I found the original series too cheesy to take seriously. I enjoyed the Next Generation when it was on TV. I found Deep Space 9 too obscure and inconsistent to follow, and found the cast of Voyager insufferable. I though Enterprise (apart from the god awful theme-song) was better than most people gave it credit for. But I am totally, 100% sold on this new universe, though. Here are some reasons why: (Spoilers follow, so consider yourself warned.)
Things that were awesome
The first six minutes of the movie were just unbelievable. In it’s pure, emotional impact, it reminded me of the intro to the premiere episode of Lost or some of the best of Joss Whedon’s writing. The movie grabs you and does not let go.
Much has been written about this already, but I’ll just say that every single actor is perfect, and absolutely nails his or her character. Beyond the obvious rightness of Kirk and Spock, Scotty is hilarious, Karl Urban does an jaw-droppingly good McCoy. I can’t wait to see more of these guys.
Spock it the obvious heart of this movie, as well as the connection to all that has come before. I think it may be some mild revisionism to claim that this has always been the case — but Leonard Nimoy has managed to shepherd Star Trek nobly through four decades and all of the variations. Shatner just became ridiculous after a while.
The new Spock is far more human than we see him in the series. He may pursue the benefits of logic, but he still contains all of the emotions of his human side, all thr more potent for their repression. He’s much more powerful, more emotional, and more dangerous than the Spock of the original series. He portrays humor, anger, violence and sexuality as well as the continuous struggle to overcome all of these through discipline.
This Kirk is way more engaging than the original. The new Kirk’s chief talent seems to be the ability to take a beating and keep going. How many times did Kirk get the crap kicked out of him in this movie? But it totally works — like Indiana Jones, the continuous beating humanizes Kirk, and makes him a much more attractive character. Similarly, they’ve taken Kirk’s womanizing and, by shooting him down a few times, made it endearing rather than lecherous.
The team behind this movie did an incredible job keeping some important things quiet. Two things in particular: going in to the movie I had no inkling of the relationship that would develop between Spock and Uhuru, and I had no idea that Vulcan was the planet we saw destroyed in the trailer.
In fact, I couldn’t believe how sneaky they had managed to be with the trailer. It strongly, but deceptively, implies that there’s a relationship between Uhuru and Kirk. It uses the history of the characters to misdirect us, all the while setting up for a payoff that had my grinning from ear to ear. And I watched Vulcan being destroyed a dozen times on TV without knowing what I was seeing. And this, when the real moment came, I was floored.
This, then, is what they mean when they take about raising the dramatic stakes. It delivered a punch to the gut just like the destruction of the colonies in the Battlestar Galactica miniseries did. And I can only imagine how the idea of Spock and the Vulcans as refugees might continue to play out over future films.
The writers worked in a ton of really, genuinely funny moments — and not just the surefire lines. We know McCoy has to say “Damnit, I’m a Doctor!” They get those moments in with a minimum of artificiality. But there’s real humor in the movie. I laughed out loud far more times than I expected.
Things that were slightly less awesome
I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see more of the Enterprise. There was really only one great action scene (dodging the debris of the other Federation ships), and a brief moment at the end when it swoops in to save the day.
The new ship design is great: it respects the original series, yet still manages to look cool. And I am enormously pleased that they seem to have changed the way the weapons work in the Star Trek universe: more than one weapon can fire at the same time! And how cool was it to see the crewmen actually loading photon torpedoes?
Which brings up another point: I liked that we got to see people doing their jobs in parts of the ship beyond the bridge. The weapons crewmen, or Uhuru down in some science bay, hard at work.
The new bridge does, on the other hand, look pretty darn cool. But I have to ask, why do they need those stupid desk lamps everywhere? And I can’t explain the scene that had Kirk and Scotty running through what appeared to be a brewery in the belly of the ship.
It was a great idea to give Sulu a sword fight in the movie, but why must all movie sword combat involve leaping and tumbling all over the bloody place? Hong-king-style martial arts have becomes way too common — they just don’t belong in Star Trek.
Go see it
In the end, I loved almost every second of this movie. There are ten more favorite moments I could list (like Eric Bana appearing on the view screen and just saying “hi!”). But I’ll leave it for now with a final reminder: get to the theater.