Star Trek thoughts, round two
Since I was going to a Yoshida Brothers concert up in the city this evening, and kniedzw was going to the city for an IMAX showing of Star Trek with his co-workers in the late afternoon, I decided I might as well tag along and see what the space dive looks like when projected on a ginormous screen.
(Pretty good. Makes me wanna take up skydiving.)
Anyway, this is the post where I spoil like a spoilery thing, so I’ll cut-tag again.
Bad things first, as is often my habit.
First of all, the science was phenomenally bad. Yeah, nobody watches Star Trek for the science (thanks to sovay for the link), and no doubt there’s worse out there in the cumulative hours and pages of shows, movies, and books, but geez. I can forgive the space drill, but “red matter”? Those black holes? And there were definitely some logical holes in the plot.
Second, I could have done with just a hair less of shiny! colorful! action! The three scenes I’m thinking of particularly are 1) Kirk’s youthful joyride (I found Spock’s childhood scenes far more compelling), 2) the random snow-monsters that unfortunately recalled The Phantom Menace, and 3) Scotty in the water tube (though it did give him a couple of fun lines later).
And third — this being the only one that really bothered me — the destruction of planets with all their inhabitants en suite was just used too casually for my taste. Sure, it’s a nice flashing neon sign informing viewers that the reboot reserves the right to change ANYTHING WHATSOEVER, but it didn’t come across as nearly enough of a mind-shattering disaster.
The first two, I’m happy to skate over if the rest of the film entertains me enough (which it did). The third is more of a problem. Still, much to be happy about.
I think what impressed me the most is the decision to write the reboot into the narrative. There is an in-story, in-world reason why things will look familiar but not necessarily be the same. That’s quite clever, and different from the approach taken by (say) the remakers of Batman and Bond.
And it had some interesting consequence, the most notable of which — to me, anyway — was the marginalizing of Kirk within the narrative. I think I particularly realized it when Uhura kissed Spock before they beamed onto the Romulan ship, but I’d accumulated niggling thoughts about it along the way: Spock being acting captain in Pike’s absence, the way Nero’s revenge was focused on him . . . if I’d come to this with zero knowledge of Star Trek, I almost would have thought Spock was the main character. Kirk isn’t the center of this particular universe, which (as per my previous post) gives him lots of room to grow.
It also gives the people around him more chance to shine. Spock obviously gets a lot of attention, but I very much appreciated the way all the big secondaries from the original continuity got their moments of awesomeness. Chekhov probably wins the award for most adorable badassery (I giggle when he goes zooming down the corridor shouting “I can do this! I can do this!”), but Bones chasing Kirk around with injections, Scotty with the warping, Sulu on top of the space drill — Uhura was, sadly, the only one who didn’t get a really great moment along those lines, her contributions never quite rising to the level of “stand aside, folks; this is what I do.” But she was interesting enough in other ways that I’m mostly okay with it.
Being not a big fan of the original series and movies, I can’t judge the performances against their models the way a lot of people have been doing, but I liked them all a great deal. On a second viewing, I think I was the most impressed with Chris Pine, perhaps because my expectations for him started so low: I’ve never thought a whole lot of Kirk, and Pine seemed likely to be a pretty face cast in a moderately stereotypical role, such that my interest would mostly be on the people around him. But he’s got a way of inflecting his lines such that his delivery isn’t what my brain supplies from its database of How Heroes Talk, and that’s always good. This is a Kirk I’m actually interested in. I can read a certain amount of what he’s doing as posing, and that means I can read layers into him, which I never did with Shatner.
And, of course, lots of fun nods to the history of the franchise. My favorite was probably Engineer Olson; the instant Pike named him off as the third member of the sabotage party, my brain glossed him as Ensign Ricky — and then he showed up in a red dive suit! Everybody got their famous line (“Dammit, I’m a doctor, not a physicist,” “I’m giving her all she’s got!,” and my favorite, “Live long and prosper,” because Spock manages to sound perfectly pleasant while also somehow making it translate to “Go to hell”). Maximum warp, phasers set on stun, all the characteristic motifs of Star Trek.
So what’s my take-away? I’m glad this did well enough that they’ll be making a second movie and might be able to launch a new TV series, and I’m curious to see where they go with it. Like Casino Royale, Batman Begins, and the first X-Men movie, this has done the work of setting everything up; hopefully, like those franchises, it will be followed by a second installment that can move onto newer, more substantial things. Now that all the characters have said their famous lines, and gotten fans excited by doing so, we can flesh them out more. Take Uhura farther (even — gasp — introduce a second important female character), complicate Starfleet and the Federation, play with the dynamic and growing friendship between Kirk and Spock. Any first installment of a reboot seems inevitably weighed down a bit by the past, but its job is to be fresh enough that there’s momentum to move on. They have that now, and I hope they don’t waste it.