Saturday, May 23, 2009

Star Trek XI, Redux

How much am I failing at my blog hiatus? As of today, I'd say a lot.

[Of course this image (from Poulpe Pulps) has nothing directly to do with Star Trek, though the damsel does sport Spock's bangs; but we've all seen enough images from the new film, right? I have, anyway.]

When I wrote my first impressions of the Star Trek movie, I held myself back because I didn't want to spoil the movie for anyone. Maybe that was a mistake, as it made for a vague review. Or maybe it turned out for the best, as what I have to say now is more thoughtful.

This morning I replied to Mortmere's right-on Star Trek review "Punch It." (and to Mrs. Conclusion's comments in reply too). Mortmere broke it down into "Things that I loved" and "Things that I hated (or at least was left wondering why)."

Here's a version of my "Things I Loved/Hated about Star Trek XI" comment to Mortmere:

Reading your and Mrs. C's, Lee's, and other friends' reviews!
Like Mrs. C says--the audience reaction in the theater was fun, and I'm enjoying this after-the-theater reaction more than anything in the movie, probably. Except Chekov's "I can do that! I can do that!" enthusiasm and his look of sickened horror when he loses Amanda in the transporter = the only expressions of emotion in the movie that stayed with me.
I'd even forgotten the cute dismay of the ewok-like creature left behind on the dinosaur-plant planet you mention. What a mishmash of Star Wars visuals this was! (Scotty/Creature slash: too funny! You should write it, Mrs. C.)

I totally agree that the Corevette/Nokia commercial could/should be cut--and a wee bit of character development/interaction added instead. Or on top of. Or just stuck in anywhere. Anywhere. Please?
(Oh, wait, that's not something I loved. Though I did like the car, and I read somewhere it was a 1966 model, same year as Star Trek first aired.)

[I take that back. It does lead to something I love, since I love people talking abotu Star Trek more than the product itself, this time around. And the car scene led to these images (right) from "The Physics of Kirk's Star Trek Car Jump". Someone did the physics and figured out that our captain must have extremely strong fingers, which answers my questions about how he manages to cling on to the edges of so very many cliffs in the movie though not why the filmmakers felt compelled to show this to us so often.]

I was surprised, but I agree Chris Pine was pretty much OK as the captain. The swaggering male (captain/cop/cowboy) is such a normal American character, a lot of actors could play him convincingly, and Pine did. I just have to accept that growing up without a father, and with his mother off in space, makes this new Kirk very different than the one I love.

******But Pine did cross his legs in the captain chair an the end, surely a conscious tribute to Shatner's Kirk, and I LOVED that! That was my favorite part of the whole movie come to think of it--even better than Chekov. I haven't seen a still photo of that yet--and I do want one.

You're right about Bruce Greenwood. I overlooked him, but his Captain Pike stood out as a real character among a bunch of mostly cartoonish ones.

Scotty wasn't the Old Scotty to me, no; but I am predisposed to love Simon Pegg, so I was just, like, "Hooray: It's Shaun of the Dead putting on a bad Scottish accent in space!" And he woke me up as I was about to slump out of my seat in the last third of the movie. Where, oh where, were the editors?

"Uninteresting" is the perfect word for Red Matter. And for the movie, overall: it just didn't move me much one way or another.

II. THE THING I HATED (hated, hated, hated):
The one scene that makes me declaim, "THIS IS A DISASTER!"[1] is Spock and Uhura kissing in the transporter room, in front of the new captain.

It was wrong for both characters and the ship:
Even if Spock had a lover, he'd be private his sexuality--in "Amok Time" he couldn't even bear to tell Kirk about Pon Farr in the privacy of his quarters. I don't see why an alternate timeline would change that about him--but given that it did, a Spock who acts this way is of no interest to me--it was his struggles with his emotions, his choice to try and control them in service of some Higher Good (in Vulcan eyes, anyway) that I related to--and that made him sexy. Remove that and he's just another one of us, suffering from a repressive childhood, or maybe he has Asperger's syndrome, which is a human adaptation, not a Vulcan philosophy.

Uhura, for her part, would be professionally discreet about a love affair with a fellow crew member, even as a young woman. Even if--especially if--they are facing death.
On the show, Uhura only flirted with Spock when the captain was off-bridge or they were in the rec room. And after the first season, she seemed to give it up as a lost cause. (This is their early days, of course--maybe what we saw on TV was the flickers of dying passion before she moves on? But I still don't buy in any way the PDA.)

I always thought the Enterprise woman Spock responded to with some sparkle was Janice Rand. But I think that was because they were sort of friendly rivals--they both loved the captain. (The flip-side of the unfriendly rivalry, as I see it, between McCoy and Spock.)

Now that would be an interesting romance--if Spock and Janice became lovers because they loved the same third person.... No doubt some fan has written that pairing? (I don't read much fanfic.)
It could be a comedy: in the heat of passion, they could both call out "Jim!" Gosh, if it doesn't exist, I should write it! Oh, I just did.

Further, in the movie, it's ludicrous to think that someone who's just watched their mother die wants to be kissed romantically, as Uhura kisses Spock in the elevator. But that was just bad writing to introduce a plot device--more of what Mrs C. called "the screenwriters' house of cards"-- not a rift in the very nature of the ship.

Finally, the Enterprise is supposed to be a naval vessel, and to see naval officers kissing publicly while on duty blows that reality out of the water. I like how director N. Meyer played up the naval qualities of the ship, and I met a navy man at the Star Trek con last summer and he told me with delight how correct the details are--on the TV show too.

It's the restraints that make the story interesting, that give the characters something to push against--the restraints of proper naval behavior (Hornblower's struggles with this add a layer of emotional complexity too), and the restraints of Vulcan philosophy, and of course the restraints of our own personal limitations, whatever they are.
Remove them, and the story goes limp.

III. Left Wondering
Obviously I was deluding myself that this movie didn't move me--given my long rants here!
I was going to add that another thing I hated was the callous, almost casual, way the movie wiped out 6 billion Vulcans. To newcomers, Vulcan's just another planet sucked into a black hole; but to those of us who've cared about it for decades, that's like blowing up, say, Hogwarts.

But then I thought, you know, the destruction of Vulcan mirrors one of the many genocides or destructions of culture in human history--certainly the Holocaust of World War Two, but also the experience of Africans taken into slavery, Native Americans after the arrival of Europeans, Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda, people in Darfur, Tibet, etc.

And so the wipe-out of Vulcan sets up the possibility of dealing with the aftermath in future stories--just like Jews, African Americans, Tibetan Buddhists, and other survivors have to deal with the loss of their homelands. How, afterward, to keep the culture alive? How to recover, insofar as that's possible, from the horror?

They'd better pick this up in some future movies or else it was just senseless slaughter for the sake of a house of cards.

[1] Footnote: Netspeak

I'm not sure about the first use of "THIS IS A DISASTER," but I think it's from an overwrought comment objecting to Scotty being wrongly placed (in Chekov's seat) on Star Trek: The Cake posted on last year (5-25-08). At least that seems to be the funniest early use of it... And did it spread through io9's post "Star Trek Cake Upsets Nerds" , which appeared 2 days later and which as of today has 36,693 views?
Anyone know?


Manfred Allseasons said...

Y'call this a hiatus??

(taps pen on desk, looks over pince-nez) I hope that work is finished and to standard, Ms Fresca...!

I havent seen this film yet...but somehow I feel I know it really well...

fresca said...


You must write your own review when you see the film.

Jennifer said...

Further, in the movie, it's ludicrous to think that someone who's just watched their mother die wants to be kissed romantically, as Uhura kisses Spock in the elevator.I do not dare to actually review this film, for I have no wish to be torn apart bodily by my friends who have somehow become rabid Spock/Uhura shippers (WTF??), but I want to mention that yes, yes, yes to this comment especially. That was Dan's first comment: "When I heard my father had died, making out with you was not something I would have wanted. At all." His mother, his planet, his race, and she's smooching with him? Total emotional falseness. There were things I enjoyed about the movie--Sulu, Chekhov, Bones and Scotty were all cool, Pike was awesome, Spock and Kirk both very good. Uhura gave me hives. My friends have been raving about how she's so skilled and awesome, and as far as I can tell she's been altered from a capable career woman to a person who exists as random eye candy, character development for a male character, and proof of non-gayness of Spock. Phooey. :P

Nimoy kicked ass, though, IMHO. There was more emotion and affection in his lines than anywhere else, and his tender wistfulness on seeing Kirk, and his confusion and dismay at the timeline being different ("You are...not the captain?" killed me) were wonderful.

I haven't read your actual review yet! *heads backwards in time a la Spock to do so*

fresca said...

"Uhura gave me hives."
Great line, Jen. I thought the movie changed her from being Kirk's phone operator to being Spock's emotional nanny. Hardly an upgrade.