Okay, here we go for the spoiler-enriched version of my reaction to Star Trek.
Total spoilage will be in effect, so caveat lector.
Continued below the fold.
Here are some general comments on the movie, grouped by category.
THE OPENING: Didn’t really grab me. The “in media res” thing needed more explanation. If we ever heard the name of the Kelvin’s captain, it went by so fast I didn’t catch it. The only people that were built up were Kirk’s parents, and we needed to understand who they were for this to have emotional oomph (which George Kirk’s sacrifice had), but the scene needed more than that.
Some nitpicks: Just how long does a suicide plunge into a starship that close by take? I’ll also do you one better on the dialogue. Instead of just reiterating “I love you . . . I love you” to his wife, George Kirk should have changed it the second time and said, “I love you . . . I love you both.” Would have been more meaningful.
THE CAR CHASE: I didn’t mind this in the previews, but I didn’t like it the way the movie used it. It doesn’t really connect to anything. It’s just dropped in to show us Kirk as a rebellious, reckless child. And–it seems–not a completely fatherless one, since the guy on the phone is apparently his stepdad ("As long as you’re living in my house . . . "). Then he destroys the car and almost destroys himself and we’re not shown any consequences. Too much drama for not enough context.
Some nitpicks: What’s with the 20th century ringtone? (Yes, I know the car is an antique, but that’s not an antique car phone. I can live with this one, and even see the humor; but it takes me out of the movie for a second.) Also, when did they move the Grand Canyon to Iowa? What is that thing Kirk crashes the car into?
GREEN BLOOD, RED EARS: Meanwhile, over on Vulcan, Spock is getting bullied by Vulcan boys. There is precedence for this. We also see young male Vulcan bullying in the TAS episode Yesteryear.
I can do you one better with the dialogue, though: The Vulcan bullies should have *started *by throwing really hard *questions *at Spock–like those learning pool thingies–and only switched to family insults as he beat all the questions. Vulcan bullying ought to start intellectual and turn emotional when intellectual stuff doesn’t produce the desired result.
A nitpick: We see some green Vulcan blood in this movie, like the scene right after Spock has been bullied, but I found myself thinking, “If these guys had green blood, their skin color would be completely different. Look! Spock is sitting in front of a window and there is light shining through his ear lobe, and I can *see *he’s got red blood in there.”
Yes. I know. It’s just a show, I should really just relax.
I’m just sayin.’
BTW, I don’t mind Sarek’s admission later in the movie–after earlier repeating the standard line that the married Spock’s mother because it was “logical”–that he married Amanda because he loved her. We’ve known for a long time that Vulcans have emotions and very powerful ones. They use the “We’re logical” business as a game to keep them from completely losing control of themselves.
It’s a form of denial, and always has been.
And I’ll do you one better on the dialogue: After Sarek admits why he married Amanda because he loved her, Spock should have looked at him and said flatly, “Because you loved her.” To which Sarek should have replied, “It is logical to marry the woman you love.”
VASQUEZ ROCKS: Man, have I never seen so much of [/FONT] in a movie! This has to be the Vasquez Rockiest movie ever! The filmmakers were on a mission to Photoshop them all over the place, and Yes They Can!
This was a bit of a treat for me, because I’ve actually ben to Vasquez Rocks. I [/FONT] up there a few years ago (they’re just a little east of Los Angeles). I always like seeing them in movies and TV shows, though I think they kinda overdid it this time.
(BTW, you’ll notice you always see the rocks from the same angle. That’s partly because that’s the way they look most impressive and partly because if you turn the camera around there’d be a freeway right there in the shot.)
SPOCK BEFORE THE SCIENCE ACADEMY: I like his polite “Up yours” attitude when they got to the subject of his mom.
And, in the abstract, I’ll do you one better on the dialogue. They’ve just commented on how remarkable it is that Spock has done so amazingly well (amazing even for a full Vulcan) given the handicap of having a human mother.
This wouldn’t work on screen without some extra set up to explain the concept to the audience earlier in the film, but I would have had Spock slam the human mother thing right back in the academy’s faces by citing himself as a case of [/FONT]. In other words, he does so well precisely *because *he has a human mother. And I’d end the exchange with a stinger like, “Surely scientists of your caliber are familiar with the concept.”
BAR SCENE: This scene was pretty standard fare. Nothing special. Had a couple of things in it that were crude, but they went by fast.
BTW, I assume others noticed the uptick in the number of cuss words in this movie compared to standard Star Trek. Guess that temporal divergence lowered everybody’s inhibition to using such language a little. (Though at the “Scotty, get us out of here or we’re all dead” moment, I didn’t mind Scotty’s reply.)
BONES: I like the portrayal of McCoy. Only wish he had more screen time. Accent should have been stronger, too. Liked the rationale for him going into Starfleet (given his obvious distaste for space and its risks). Also, it implies that there is still MONEY! Woo-hoo! Take that, Gene Roddenberry!
About the nickname “Bones.” Didn’t mind at first the new explanation they gave for it. Thought it was clever. But don’t like it so much now. Is it really a good thing to remind a friend every time you use his nickname that the only reason he’s in Starfleet is because he was broke after a failed marriage?
KOBAYASHI MARU: Didn’t like Kirk’s solution. Way too cheesy. Not elegant. No way he would have gotten a commendation for that (as in the original timeline). Should have done better with this.
Did like the debate on it afterward, though. Thought it looked like Kirk’s side was doomed, but then he started to make some decent points.
Also liked McCoy’s initial taking a liking to Spock. Nice irony.
DROPPED KLINGON SUBPLOT: So what’s with the references to Uhura picking up a transmission from the Klingon prison planet? How are those relevant here? And how did Kirk know to ask if it was Romulans that attacked near there?
Also, why did Nero and his bunch wait 25 years seemingly doing nothing?
Turns out the two are related.
There is a [/FONT] in which Nero and gang were captured by Klingons and they spent 25 years mining dilithium on Rura Pente. Then they escaped and were able to pursue the rest of their plan.
Kirk may have known that the people who were responsible for his dad’s death were in prison in Klingon space (after George Kirk wounded their ship by ramming it), and what Uhura monitored was com traffic about their escape.
And thus the “Why 25 years of waiting?” thing is explained.
Or would have been.
INTO ACTION, SPACE CADETS!: The big coincidence of how everybody rushes into action strains credibility. What do you mean, “The fleet is engaged in the Laurentian system”? Is there a war on or something? And when does a government *ever *do something as stupid as committing all its defense forces to *one *location so that cadets have to be pressed into service? Saying the entire Federation fleet is in one system is like saying the U.S. put *all *of its trained forces into Baghdad. That’s just goofy.
HOW KIRK GETS ON BOARD (BIG HANDS AND ALL): As long as we’re being goofy, though, I did like the way McCoy got Kirk on board, big hands and all. (Yes, human hands really can get that big with certain medical conditions, though let’s not go into those.) I also liked the recurring schtick of him getting the neck injections. On balance, it was fun.
HOW MUCH ROMULAN DOES UHURA SPEAK?: So Uhura is fluent with Romulan and all three of its dialects? I don’t mind the filmmakers having gotten rid of the idea of first visual contact with the Romulans being in the TOS episode Balance of Terror (that was always a somewhat lame idea; how often do you fight a war and never see the body of an enemy soldier? Only a *completely *robotic fleet where the bots’ memories contain no information about what a Romulan looks like would make that possible), but they are really chucking out the idea bigtime. Apparently humans and Romulans have had all kinds of contact.
THE VILLAIN: Liked him. Rather underdeveloped. (More development is given in the lead-in comic book authored by the writers of the movie, so it’s about as canon as any non-screen thing is likely to be, but still he was kinda undeveloped.)
Liked the fact that he didn’t ham it up as much as typical Trek villains.
Loved, “Hello, Christopher. My name is Nero.”
Who says supervillains can’t be relaxed and friendly?
SCRATCH ONE CHIEF ENGINEER: So the tradition of having a previously unknown redshirt die to show us the stakes is maintained. Fine.
Also, I liked the way they took this one out. For once, Kirk *wasn’t *the uber-reckless individual. Someone out-recklesses Kirk and gets wasted as a result.
It’s nice to see idiotic macho risk-taking get its just deserts for once.
TRAINING VESSEL?: So we’ve got lots of cadets manning the Enterprise. What is it? A training ship or something? That would make sense if it was at the academy, waiting to take on cadets. But then why is it also (if I am not mistaken) called a flagship in the film?
They don’t have a good gasp of [/FONT] in Star Trek. But that’s normal.
DEATH OF VULCAN AND SPOCK’S MOTHER: Hmmm. Risky. You close off a lot of potential storylines if you yank Vulcan. You also create others. If you’re planning a series of movies, rather than a bunch of never-ending TV shows, though, the decision makes sense from a dramatic point of view. You get a big dramatic punch and some really interesting angles to explore in future movies. Look at what losing his home planet did for Superman.
Also, losing Spock’s mother is a dramatic decision that can make sense, but I don’t think they played it quite right. The shock of losing her should personalize the loss of Vulcan, but Spock’s concern afterward is too much for the loss of the planet and not enough for the loss of his mother. You only get the dramatic payoff of killing his mother if you allow him to focus on that event emotionally. If you let it get overwhelmed by the other loss Spock has just suffered then you undercut it and lose the point of doing it.
Really, the situation here for Spock is quite subtle: He’s just lost the planet whose path he chose to pursue *and *he’s lost the mother that represents the path he could have taken. He’s just taken a hit on both sides of his hybrid self.
But they don’t explore that in the movie.
Also . . . what was Amanda doing in the Katric Ark, anyway? Was she supposed to be some kind of high-level human esper who was able to manipulate Vulcan katras or something? If so, that’s a *huge *aspect of her character that we’d never heard anything about. It also kinda undercuts her as a normal representative of the human race the way Jane Wyatt was.
SPOCK & UHURA: Didn’t mind that they have a romantic relationship. Vulcan-human romances are clearly possible (Sarek and Amanda, anybody?). Christine Chapel also carried a torch for Spock for the longest time. So in this timeline Uhura actually succeeds in establishing a romantic relationship with him. Fine. I don’t have a problem with that in principle.
I also liked that we finally got her first name established on-screen.
And I liked that they beefed up her role as a xenolinguist. I did feel that they were in danger of overplaying that a bit, though. While ultra-competent genius xenolinguists may tend to be attracted to slots on exploratory vessels, the viewer can only see so many of them before they start to feel like you’ve seen one Hoshi Sato, you’ve seen them all.
GET HIM OFF THE SHIP: I agree with Kirk. I think Spock likely violated some kind of regulation here. Ships have brigs for a reason.
Credibility is straining as we move forward to . . .
THE MOTHER OF ALL COINCIDENCES: Even Spock Prime is amazed that Kirk found him. What are the odds of that? Pretty dang small! Even granting that they’d be on the same world, the chances of the two finding each other in five minutes–or at all–are vanishingly small.
Apparently there was a dropped line or a line from the novelization in which Spock Prime suggested that their meeting might represent the timeline trying to repair itself.
Some dialogue along those lines would have given us at least *something *to explain the massive unbelievable coincidence. Spock Prime hanging a lantern on the problem just isn’t enough.
DELTA VEGA: Come ON!!! Vega [/FONT]. *Delta *Vega would be some kind of fourth thing (like a planet or space station or third stellar companion or something) in orbit around Vega. It’s also not where Vulcan has previously been established to be. And it’s far too young a star to have a system with anything but very primitive life (if that).
From what we’re shown in the movie, Delta Vega would have to be a *moon *of Vulcan if you can optically see the planet implode in the sky.
And we already know that “Vulcan has no moon.”
And, even if it did, THERE’S A BLACK HOLE THAT JUST ATE THE PLANET YOU’RE IN ORBIT AROUND!!! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!! YOU’VE GOT MINUTES (AT BEST) TO LIVE!!! WHAT IS SPOCK PRIME DOING HIDING OUT IN A CAVE AND WHAT IS SCOTTY DOING LAZING AROUND IN A FEDERATION BASE?
And . . . why *was *Spock Prime living in a cave, even before this, and why hadn’t he gone over to the base and introduced himself to Montgomery Scott?
BTW, the writers apparently picked the name “Delta Vega” because it had been previously (inaccurately) used in Star Trek history and they wanted the resonance of a name we’d heard before. Fine. There are lots of names we’ve heard before in Star Trek and had no clue where they were. Pick one that works.
STARDATES: They’re doing something different with the stardates in this movie, and it seems that they’re botching it. More later. Maybe.
SCOTTY & HIS ASSISTANT: Liked them both! They were fun! Also liked the reference to Admiral Archer’s beagle (couldn’t be Porthos, but he may like the breed).
BEAMING ONTO THE ENTERPRISE: Stretched plausibility too much. I thought they were going to take that shuttle, launch it, get up to speed beside the Enterprise, and beam over at warp with no reception pad. That would have been achievement enough for 23rd century tech. Beaming from a planet/moon onto a ship at warp is just really credibility straining given what’s been established thus far in this universe (including Mr. Scott’s future original timeline).
And speaking of stretching credibility . . .
RED MATTER: I don’t mind that they have goop that you can use to make a black hole. I don’t mind that it’s red. I actually like the fact that they try to avoid too much technobabble with it. But I think the name needs work. Lotsa matter is red. We need a little more thought put into this one.
Also, it appears that red matter only goes blackhole on you if it’s in some kind of heat situation (like the core of a planet or a ship’s engines or something). This needed to get more explained in the film.
(NOTE: *Any *matter will make a black hole if you squeeze it enough. Red matter apparently has the property of squeezing itself and/or matter it is nearby to the right level in the right circumstances. They shouldn’t have gone into this too much, but a little more help–or at least a better name for the goop–would have helped.)
(ALSO NOTE: The black hole physics in this film are obviously not meant to be taken seriously.)
“WE COME IN PEACE; SHOOT TO KILL”: James Tiberius Kirk is a war criminal!
Okay, we already knew that.
Or at least it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise . . . at least for his mirror universe counterpart.
But the film lost me when we see Kirk commit what appears to be a flat-out war crime at the end of this film.
I like that he offers Nero help. I like that Spock resists. Funny! I don’t mind that Nero refuses. (Though he does get a bit over-the-top supervillany at this precise moment.)
But at that point Kirk should have beamed all of Nero’s crew aboard anyway.
Instead . . .
HE MASSACRES A DEFEATED ENEMY!!!
That’s a war crime.
Apparently [/FONT] that Kirk did this to prevent Nero from escaping through the wormhole and causing problems elsewhere but . . . if that’s what you’re going for then at least give us a couple of lines to set it up.
The way it is now, Kirk’s climactic act seems positively UN-heroic: “Hey, we’re generous Federation types! We’ll help you out now! No? Okay, KILL THEM ALL!!!”
YOUNGEST CAPTAIN EVER: Apparently Star Fleet rewards its war criminals (maybe this *is *the mirror universe) by making Kirk the youngest captain ever.
According to the writers, there are subtle cues in the movie that hint that more time may have passed (here and elsewhere) than is obvious, but it doesn’t come across that way.
You could have done the same work just by adding a scene in which Pike tells Kirk that his performance on this mission is a start to a great career and then putting up a title that says “THREE YEARS LATER” and having Kirk being given command of the Enterprise.
Slows the dramatic momentum only a tic; still gets you to the same point.
At least that’s how I’d be inclined to do it if you want to end with Kirk as a captain.
I understand that the more you dot the i’s and cross the t’s, the more you slow the action, but you also mitigate fan blowback if you at least dot and cross some of the big ones.
HUMOR: The humor worked! I saw this in a matinee in a down-on-its-luck mall with almost zero audience, and there were still laugh out loud moments. Only once in the film (when Kirk bumps his head while getting on the recruit shuttle) did I find myself saying, “Oh, wait. That was supposed to be funny.”
HYPERTIME: One concept that the show needed to do a little more with was hypertime–or at least the multiverse.
Some years ago DC Comics decided that its multiverse had become too unwieldy, too hard for new readers to get into, and they streamlined the whole thing in an event called Crisis on Infinite Earths, which resulted in a single DC Universe with a single history.
It was a controversial decision, and a lot of fans hated it because they felt like all (or many) of the stories they’d known and loved for years had been wiped out and now “never existed” (in a fictional way, of course). They had been booted from the canon.
Well, nobody likes that something they’ve loved and emotionally invested in (even a story) is now dismissed as nonexistant, so there was a problem.
And of course the DC writers couldn’t constrain themselves from, over time, reintroducing the equivalent of a multiverse, and later one that actually has the name (though that’s another story).
Along the way, in the series The Kingdom, Mark Wait introduced the concept of [/FONT].
It’s really just a particular way of presenting a particular kind of multiverse, but it has the effect of saying, “Look, fans, all those stories you know and love are still (fictionally) true. They’re all ‘out there’ in hypertime/the multiverse. We’re just not tracking those continuities right now. But you don’t have to feel like we’ve wiped them out of (fictional) existence.”
The Star Trek franchise is now in the same fix, and the need to do the same thing. They need to say, “Look, you’re beloved former continuity is still out there; we’re just not following it right now. If you were really attached to thing XYZ that is not part of current continuity, that’s okay. Thing XYZ is still out there. We’re just not telling stories about it right now. Maybe we will in the future!”
Apparently the writers thought about exploring this a little more in the movie than they did, but chose instead to focus on the characters’ reactions to the idea that the timeline had been changed and their futures would now be different.
Makes dramatic sense but will cause problems with the fans.
I was reading online after I saw the film and saw one chat where the writers were being raked over the coals for the fact that the multiverse idea wasn’t explored and that the phrase “alternate timeline” was used instead of “parallel timeline” (the latter, it was thought, would have made more explicit the idea that the original continuity still exists somewhere).
After trying to explain that the original timeline was still out there in the multiverse, one of the writers eventually was reduced to saying in frustration (paraphrase from memory), “I concede that the word ‘parallel’ is not in the film.”
Gotta love the really harcore Trek fans!
They can break *any *writer!