Thursday, May 7, 2009

Star Trek XI: One Thumb Drooping

link to Lee's review
link to mortmere's review
link to my updated with spoilers 5-23 review

[No Plot Spoilers; Yes Expressions of Disappointment. Friday morning: now with new, expanded expressions of disappointment!]
11 p.m. Just got home from the new Star Trek movie.
I enjoyed sharing the Star Trek PEZ dispensers (above) bink gave me for Christmas with my friends, but I didn't care for the movie. Didn't hate it. I won't lie awake tonight with my stomach in knots. [Next morning: Actually, turns out I did. I stewed.] But neither did I ever experience the flutter of butterflies. I'm just going to forget it ever happened.

The best things--and they were very good--were the character actors. Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy proved that you don't have to look like the original actor to play the character convincingly and give pleasure doing it. I couldn't have been happier with Chekov (Anton Yelchin) if he was Laika the space dog herself, rescued from her death on Sputnik 2 and enrolled in Starfleet. John Cho played Sulu with proper panache. And right as I was drifting toward zombiedom in this overly long trek (more like a slog), Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, you know) appeared as Scotty and energized the last third of the movie.

A lot was just so-so. Eric Bana was beautiful as the Maori-like bad guy, but he had little to do but be beautiful, like Khan reduced to a fashion model. Zoe Saldana as Uhura was also fashion model-like. I can't imagine her having the spice to call the captain Sugar. And the main change they made with her character --well, it wasn't a direction I'd choose. Alas, she's the only speaking female on the Enterprise this time round. Just one of the things that made me think this movie was aimed at young guys. (Imagine that. A genius deduction, eh?)

I liked Chris Pine better than I expected, though that's faint praise. He didn't offend me, but with his blue eyes and lean keenness, he never became my Captain Kirk. Because he was so different than Shatner, however, I could accept him as a likable enough action hero who happened to be named Kirk. Though at the end, ...well, I don't want to give anything away, but you know how I feel about Kirk's body language, and there was one pleasing little tribute.

The big change was Spock. Unlike Pine, Quinto played his role so I could see some Spock in him, and I'm sorry for that. It was Spock without an internal tension, a loneliness that made him precious and unique to me. And he behaved in the most human, un-Spock-like ways. He didn't even bleed green. Humanizing Spock, as far as I'm concerned, is a violation of the prime directive. Some people will like it, no doubt, but I walked away thinking, I have no particular reason to love this Spock. That's a loss.

I was surprised at the laxity of the storytelling. People are introduced you never see again. Relationships exist to no point. Plot lines start to ignite only to sputter out. And right in the middle of the movie comes a clunky segment explaining a central plot twist. Don't you get your knuckles hit with a ruler in Screenwriting 101 for having a character explain what's happening? You should.

Further, beyond introducing the characters to each other, which actually got short shrift, this Star Trek didn't have an overarching idea to it. I like a dash of philosophy, a splash of moral quandry, with my Trek. There was nothing in this story that exercised my brain. Or my heart. Or my soul.

The movie drags surprisingly too. Even the music was less than exciting. Despite a lot of explosions and fist fights--and how many times can Kirk hang off the edge of something?--it reminded me a little of Star Trek: The Motion Picture as it was first released, which never quite knew what it wanted to be when it got wherever it was going, wherever that was, but took a long time getting there.
The home-video release re-edited and tightened ST:TMP up so much, though, it's well worth watching now. This one could use a good trim too, though I don't think there'd be much left at the center.

David Mamet calls Galaxy Quest, the loving parody of Star Trek, a "perfect movie" because every single thing serves the story line and the characters, which is not the case here. I kept thinking about that as I watched this Star Trek movie. That's pathetic proof in itself: QED, you should not be able to think about David Mamet while watching an action film.

Well, Trekkie lore has long had it that the odd-numbered Star Trek movies are drek. This Star Trek is officially unnumbered, but we all know it's No. 11.
Maybe No. 12 will be better.


bink said...

And Spock got Kirk's girly softness this time around.

fresca said...

Yeah, I actually kinda liked that--kind of switched around the yin/yang.
Maybe the second movie will be better. After all, ST:TMP was followed up by the excellent "Wrath of Khan."

T'Keid said...

I'm sorry you feel that way. I am definitely going to see it again tomorrow.
No these are not our Kirk and Spock; it seems the timeline change altered everyone's core personality just a bit. A clever device that at least gets rid of the anxiety about canon violation for me.
I haven't decided if this Kirk and Spock are as inevitable for each other as the originals. I find it rather depressing to consider any alternate timeline where that's a serious possibility, though at least we got to see them starting to get know each other.

fresca said...

Oh, I'm interested to hear more of what you thought, T'Keid! I hope you'll post a review (or maybe you just did--I haven't checked yet.)
And I wonder how other pals are liking it--I wrote this before I read anyone's review, because I wanted to be fresh.

T'Keid said...

bink is right; maybe that's what changed... fascinating
lord I'm going to have to keep two different sets of imaginary fan-added characteristics of two separate sets of fictional characters alive in my mind. My brain may asplode.

T'Keid said...

I dropped a line at Trekspace and now that things have settled down I'll think about it properly

fresca said...

Ah, but we fans are good at holding it all together! : )

I think I'll go to bed before reading any reviews because I want to rest with my first impressions--process the little bit of sadness about the Spock thing and enjoy the unexpected pleasures of the support crew... For once I want to see more of them and less of "Kirk" and "Spock"!

Anonymous said...

Dear Fresca, it's me, Annafrancesca.
It's so hard for me to write in english, so I won't waste my time in trying to explain all the reasons about why I'm so disappointed: simplu, in my opinion, it is not Star Trek at all. Just the name.
No one of the character in this film has the density that my starmen have.
Both Kirk and Spock simply are not Kirk and Spock, they are other persons not only outside, but the worst they are not at all themselves inside: there is no alternative timeline that can change you so basically.
The plot is just a mix of action and special effects.
I must confess that on the final Nimoy’s scene I felt razzed, they really think that the viewers are poor people, and I cannot say more for not spoilering, but you can leave your brain at home when you go to the cinema to watch this movie.
There is no soul in this movie. Really it’s not only because it’s not respectful at all of the canon, I don’t like it because it’s not in the spirit of Star Trek, it’s something else. Even Star Wars had more soul than this patinated, icy, plastic movie .

I will think to this movie as a parody, not so intelligent, cute and smart as Galaxy Quest is.
And yes: I feel betrayed by Nimoy and by his enthusiastic comments.
That’s all.

fresca said...

Yes, me too Anna.
What was Nimoy thinking to say this was true to Spock? Quinto doesn't even bleed green (when he's a boy and his lip is split in a fight)---because, as you say, he's not Spock inside.

I said I was going to go to sleep, but I lay awake feeling more and more disappointed, so thank you for writing--it gives me a chance to say that here.

"A mix of action and special effects"--that's about it, and it's a mix we've seen before, in other Star Trek and Star Wars movies.

I love Galaxy Quest--it has soul, and you are sadly right, this movie doesn't.

Live long and prosper.

Anonymous said...

Trek Drek Schrek Schmek! Oy vey! I couldn't resist the Yiddishisms! Don't know if I'll bother to see this for awhile...guess I'll stick to serendipitously catching ST reruns on tv on weekends if I'm ever inside again! So sorry it didn't delight. My cynical 21st century self held little hope for that; I was hoping for Trekkies' sakes that my down view of mainstream moviecraft might've gotten shaken up. I caught a glimpse of Nimoy talking about the movie on the Today show this week; I had the feeling he was being kind. I've seen the dude who plays him in the soap "Heroes"; he possesses a somewhat intriguing androgynous quality, but doesn't reveal the depth to his complex character in that show, tho' there could be room for it if the direction encouraged any substance.

Lalala! Love and You Keep making Art...and live long and healthfully Please!


fresca said...

You got it Stef: mainstream moviemaking. What made Star Trek exceptional was it was not just a mainstream crowd-pleaser. Even when it did it badly, and sometimes very badly indeed, it wrestled with ideas, not just explosions.

I haven't seen Quinto in Heroes, but he did have an appealing androgyny, I guess you could call it--a "girly softness" as bink said, here too. I like that, but it's not in the original Spock's makeup.

See you tomorrow!

bink said...

Thinking about it overnight: many of the minor characters were as good or better than the originals--Bones, Chekov, Scotty. That's the main pleasure I got from the movie.

If I don't think of Spock and Kirk as THE Spock and Kirk, they were alright, but that ying/yang thing is way different from the original.

The new Kirk is channelling James Dean more than William Shatner. That brooding Iowa farm boy who drinks and drives recklessly fast is rebel-without-a-cause-y. The old Kirk took physical risks (like climbing cliffs) because it was fun and play, not because he was sulking and angry.

This new Kirk leers at women in a way that's a real turn off. You can see why Uhura would brush him off in a bar--there's no charm. Kirk was omnisexual, but he wasn't the predator type. Women often came on to him because he was so appealing. This new guy is just teenage hormones--and how sexy is that?!

Also the new Kirk looks like the kind of guy who wants to work out in the gym so he can admire his hard body--not like the old Kirk who would only want to work out because it was fun (with the guys) or because he had to work off too many cheeseburgers.

Spock. I disagree that he didn't have green blood, I think there was a green tinge to the fresh blood next to the dark dried blood on the kid's lip. However, I think this Spock as already come down firmly in the human camp--without giving away plot--the old Spock just wouldn't behave in public the way the new Spock does.

I think the girly softness I referred to earlier was an attempt to portray more humanness from the start.
Quinto' soft voice doesn't help either.

All told Spock is much less interesting without the real battle of his Vulcan/Human halves--with this new Spock lacked.

Special effects? Not special. (Especially when the previews for the new terminator and transformer movies showed before for comparison.)
Plot? Lacking.
Bad Guy? Pretty but boring.
Editing? Cut about 40 minutes out and we'll talk.
Message? Nada.

But like you say, maybe the next one will be much better...I'm willing to go with thinking it's a bunch of new guys and enjoying them for themselves if they tighten up the plots.

fresca said...

Brilliant tie-in with James Dean--I thought of "Rebel without a Cause" too--surely the car scene was an homage to Rebel's chicken scene. (But Pine is no Dean.)
I will let you have the last word, bink, because it's pretty much the same as mine.
I'm moving on.

mortmere said...

Fresca, this was a really refreshing review after all the rave ones I’ve read, both in mainstream media (which repeatedly mention a Dr. Spock…) and from people who claim they are true Trekkies. I've been wondering if the movie really can be that good and I'm glad, even gleeful, to hear from you that it's not. (I don't particularly want Star Trek to become mainstream, I want to belong to the minority...)

Now I can go and happily watch some good old Trek with both Bill and Leonard and stop feeling sorry for having to wait an entire fortnight before I have time to go to see this new one.

Manfred Allseasons said... was the Vodka Martini??

momo said...

My daughter, having no point of external reference at all, enjoyed it OK, but didn't think much of the storytelling either and missed the pleasure I had in seeing the overlay of the old and young versions of the characters. I actually thought young Spock was a credible precursor to Spock 20 years on, while the Spock who disappointed me was Leonard Nimoy's old man Spock--he was practically grinning, he was so warm and cuddly. I found young Kirk to have unexpected flashes of later Kirk, in voice and body language. Again, I could see him maturing into TOS Kirk 20 years later. But then I went in with low expectations, expecting a testosterone-fest, so I was not terribly disappointed. What I was disappointed with was the music, yes. Where were the bongo drums and the brass in the theme song at the end? and the menacing Daaa dada dAAAA--horns when danger looms?
I did like the way they incorporated the cricket chirp communicator sounds as part of the background noise in several of the ship scenes. I think my favorite character was Scotty, partly because any semi-believable Scots accent reminds me of Craig Ferguson.

bink said...

I heard Simon Pegg's wife is a Scot and that she says he (appropriately) has a lousy Scot accent, like the original Scotty.

Simon Pegg is definitely a knock-out winner in that role.

deanna said...

Good review; thanks for giving your perspective, Fresca. As I'm still waiting to see this next week, I tried to skim the comments. I think I'm finding out more ahead of time than I wanted, from other blogs and so on, but, y'know, it's just a movie...It sounds like it will be fun to ponder it afterward.

fresca said...

What wonderful comments!

MORTMERE: You know, I'm surprised at this movie's many glowing reviews because, honestly, I just don't think it's a very good movie, Star Trek aside. (But as for Star Trek, it makes me realize you must be right: we're in the minority.)

For a fantastic testosterone-driven romp, I'd take the Bourne movies (with Matt Damon) a million times over this limp fare.

MANFRED: Ah, you cut right to the heart of it, as ever.
The main variation in the Vodka Martini is the lemon twist. Some bartenders hack off a chunk o' lemon peel and heave it into the glass. I am happy to report such was not the case in my pre-Star Trek drink.

A strip of pithless peel floated clear in iced liquid, a feathery twist reminiscent of the fossil traces of a tentative fern...
I shall always recall it with gratitude.

MOMO: Yes! Where was the music!??! Aristotle lists music as one of the key 7 (6? 9?) thingamajigs that make drama work.

The deft interweaving of sound references was one of the things that made WALL-E such a masterpiece.
Such was not the case here.

BINK: I'd be happy to see the next Star Trek movie star Simon Pegg and Anton Yelchin (Chekov) alone on a planet.

DEANNA: Ooh, yeah... sorry... The plot is just one of many factors that make up a movie, so it's hard to write/read anything about a movie without spoiling it to some extent.
That's one reason I wanted to go see it right away--and didn't watch any but the first preview--I wanted to have fresh eyes.

I hope you like it, even though I didn't! Lots of people are enjoying it.

Jennifer said...

Pacing! Why is pacing so hard for people to get!? The whole dragged-out chase scene on the ice planet exists merely to show off some CG, and Scotty going through the series of tubes (we also laughed thinking of Ted Stevens! If I felt it were deliberate I might cut the film more slack!) was just annoying. The Enterprise's sensors only pick up intruders after three or four minutes, apparently. :P

I liked young Spock very much, young Kirk less so. The changes in Kirk's character were acceptable to me because of the changes in the time line (although they made me like him less--I never imagined him acting like that at the Kobayashi Maru test)...but Spock should be unchanged, and this Spock is not mine. *sigh*

Seriously, in the fannish circles I run in I've now seen enough outright boorish anti-K/S attitude (especially anything from TOS) that it's making me really depressed. I'm definitely going to be avoiding the fandom for the movie...

fresca said...

Pacing is difficult to get right, don't you think?
At the best of times, but especially if you want to show off your hardware more than you want to tell a good story.

You're right, Jen, that the changes to the timeline adequately explain the changes in Kirk (growing up without a dad), they just make me, as you say, like him less--the Kobayashi Maru scene had no classiness to it at all.
But this is not my Spock, no. So I just don't care.

Anti-K/S? But then where's the fun??!?!