Star Trek (2009)

star trek

“I like this ship! It’s exciting!”

The Scoop: 2009 , directed by J.J. Abrams and starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, and Eric Bana

Tagline: The future begins.

Summary Capsule: Star Trek gets a reboot/prequel/sequel of sorts… but it’s all good (mostly).

Al’s rating: Setting phasers on rant…

Al’s review: One of the nice things about writing for the Mutants is that my reviews don’t necessarily have to be reviewish.  If you look around this page, you’ll already find two funny, thoughtful, able-bodied analyses that talk about the story, the performances, and the special effects of Star Trek.  That’s not what I’m here to do today.  What I really want to talk about is you people.  Yes, you people.  Namely, WHAT THE HELL IS YOUR PROBLEM?

When Star Trek came out in theaters last summer, it was pretty widely received as a fun, exciting, welcome addition to the canon.  Some fans grumbled, but no one noticed.  When Star Trek came out on DVD, most of us rejoiced.  These same fans complained louder and I started to pay attention.  Now that it’s been a few more months and rumors are swirling about the particulars of the next movie, all I can see are people grousing like petulant children about how JJ Abrams has destroyed the franchise and raped their childhood.  And from what I can tell, the backlash is coming almost exclusively from Trekkies.

So I repeat: WHAT.  THE.  HELL?

Yes, this movie is an ‘action movie’ as opposed to a ‘sci-fi adventure’.  Yes, the science is unexplained and highly unlikely.  Yes, James T Kirk isn’t quite the stand-up guy he used to be and, yes, Spock likes girls.  This is not, as the cliché goes, your father’s Star Trek.  My issue is that you keep saying this like it’s a bad thing.

See, Star Trek was dead before last summer.  Not ‘struggling.’  Not ‘on life support.’  Dead.  The last television show, which tanked, was canceled four years ago.  The last movie, which also tanked by Trek standards, came out seven years ago.  The last bankable cast went off the air FIFTEEN years ago.  And don’t even try to talk to me about the video games and novels.  Did you play Conquest?  Did you read Before Dishonor?  Maybe the corpse was still too fresh for fans to smell it, but Trek was dead, folks.  They don’t get much deader.

Then JJ Abrams comes along and makes a movie that’s fun.  And it’s funny.  And it’s sexy.  It has people who don’t wear Vulcan ears checking it out and enjoying it.  I know real, live girls who saw it twice.  My MOM liked it.  It’s a little different, it moves a little faster, but it’s also created fans.  Not placated existing fans.  Created new ones.  There is now a new generation of kids and adults who are eager for more.  And who are they going to find when they look to the older Trekkies for guidance?  A bunch of anal-retentive whiners who can’t get over the idea of ‘red matter’ but will defend to the death the episode where Spock walks around without his brain.

I’m not saying you’re not entitled to your opinion—if you want to hate on the movie, then it’s your business—but I just don’t get it.  Are you so attached to the minutia that you can’t deal with change?  Do you really believe the movie would have been improved if everyone sat down and talked about the scientific properties of a giant drill?  Or are you just angry that our little corner of geekdom has become something the rest of the world can enjoy too?

If that’s the case, maybe we shouldn’t cancel those funeral plans just yet.

Justin’s rating: Star Trekkin’ across the universe… boldly going forward because we can’t find reverse!

Justin’s review: Blasphemy or necessary? Reboot or sideboot? Homage or theft? A new beginning or a one-shot blockbuster spectacle?

I suppose time will tell what 2009’s Star Trek ends up being, for both the Trek franchise and the pop culture medium at large, but as a former Trekkie and a current movie savant, I feel pulled back and forth between feelings (illogical as they may be).

There’s no doubt that something radical needed to happen for Trek following Star Trek Nemesis bombing at the box office in 2002 and Star Trek: Enterprise’s dismal fall from grace at the end of its series in 2005. The franchise was bloated beyond belief with too much technobabble, too much history, and too little “direction” by ham-handed hacks Brannon Braga and Rick Berman. This was compounded by the rise of many other svelte, sexy scifi platforms, such as Stargate SG-1, Battlestar Galactica and – of course – According to Jim.

Wisely, Paramount let Trek lie fallow for years until a new strategy could be devised to put Star Trek back on the map: a massive comeback motion picture based on the original Star Trek series (with Captain Kirk and company) and helmed by golden boy J. J. Abrams (Lost, Cloverfield).

Yet as Star Trek: Enterprise proved, doing a prequel to hundreds of years of established scifi history is a recipe for a major headache of details, not to mention apathy on the part of the fan base, who would rather see things progress forward, not back. Many die-hard Trekkies were considerably disturbed by the notion of other actors stepping into the roles made famous by William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, et al. Abrams had to make this new movie palpable to two diverse audiences – Trekkies and your average popcorn-munching moviegoer – in order to call it a success.

The solution he came up with is elegant, but not without a few serious ramifications. Abrams yanks a few old chestnuts from Star Trek’s underwear drawer – a little time travel from Star Trek IV, Romulans with their big bad starships as enemies from Nemesis – and devised a way to sort-of reboot the franchise without completely negating everything that had come before.

How? By imagining a “what if?” tale for an alternate Star Trek timeline – what if a Romulan brought massive hardware back from the future to the time of Jim Kirk’s infancy, and by doing so disrupted the established events of the Trek timeline? What if Jim Kirk grew up without a father, angry and rebellious instead of naturally heroic? What if the Romulans would majorly reshape the course of the Federation in one fell swoop? What if the original series’ crew were to get together anyway, but under completely different circumstances?

It’s interesting. It doesn’t wipe out the rest of Trek, which sits happily in a separate timeline, but creates a new world for Abrams to play in without expectations of where it may lead. His re-envisioning of the 23rd century is similar yet not to the old series and subsequent movies, but he walks the fine line of placating the Trek base with in-the-know references (Sulu fences! Kobyashi Maru! “Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a…!”) while throwing us through a fast-paced, explodey-prone flick that cuddles up to quotable one-liners instead of any actual conversations.

I mean, I liked it, I really did – but I also sincerely missed the character-building moments from the old days that showed us a little past one-note personalities. Star Trek is the thinking man’s scifi to Star Wars’ action man’s scifi, and perhaps they should’ve stuck with a bit of that depth before trying to cash it in for a slice of the summer blockbuster gross.

The story goes something like this: Somehow, a Romulan miner named Nero jets back in time to exact revenge for the destruction of his homeworld in the future. This being Star Trek, where characters frequently hop back and forth in the timestream as easily as you or I might visit a 7-11 (and with far less danger on their part), we’re well aware of the consequences of such actions. Yet instead of Marty McFly getting his parents to hook up at the prom and re-establishing the right course of events, Nero makes everything go horribly wrong.

Due to his actions, Kirk becomes an instable hothead, Spock gets a little more frisky with his human emotions, Scotty is marooned on an ice ball, and the Enterprise ends up being a cross between an Apple store and a nuclear reactor plant. Kirk still makes friends with McCoy at Starfleet academy and establishes himself as a bit of a legend, but we’re aware that this isn’t the same guy, not exactly.

Starfleet, the same in any timeline, has no experienced starships on hand when Nero besieges Vulcan, and therefore shoves all these wet-behind-the-ears cadets on the ships (it’s Star Trek II! And V!) and sends them on their merry way to doom and destruction. Only the Enterprise with its rowdy bunch of rascals are able to make a dent in the Nero offensive, mostly because it’s really cool that they do so instead of some other faceless starship crew. Things keep exploding and Kirk butts heads with Spock until they become both friends and slightly brain damaged. There’s also a green girl in underwear, just like Kyle’s bedroom every Saturday night. It’s all quite entertaining.

By and large, Star Trek doesn’t give us time to really think through all these details, because it’s occupied with keeping us entertained. It really is quite funny, adrenaline-pumping and different, and I couldn’t wait to go see it again. Perhaps all the rest of my reservations melt in the face of that, perhaps not.

It’s Star Trek and yet it’s not, and while the media may mock Trekkies for being agitated at the changes, I can’t quite blame them. There’s something disquieting about the restructuring of the Trek universe for this film, and it begs the big question – where do we go from here? Will Star Trek continue as a movie series with the same characters, or was this a one night stand that will be the final word on the franchise? Will we ever see another series, and if so, which timeline will it be in? Like the cause and effect of time travel in the film, where one action has massive consequences, so too might the release of this film completely change where Trek might or might not go for the next fifty years.

But hey, like Spock said in Star Trek IV, these are not the hell your whales. Er, series. Er, franchise. Really, the guy was a bit cryptic at times, so who knows what he meant.

P.S. – I’d like to form an exploratory committee on just how much this film owes to, of all things, Galaxy Quest. The more I think about the looks and concepts, the more it’s nagging me. The big lever for warp drive? The water turbines that are there for no other reason than to be dangerous?


Lissa’s rating: You know, it was really funny watching Heroes while Zachary Quinto was filming this and noticing that his real eyebrows had been shaved off and the ones he had on were fake.

Lissa’s review: I have to confess, I have never been a Star Trek fan.  It’s not so much the franchise itself, it was the lack of opportunity.  When I was a kid, my parents weren’t into it at all, and it never really crossed my sphere of knowledge.  By the time I was old enough to have a better idea of what was on TV, I was in college and not watching much anyway.  And by then the mythology was so deep, it seemed like this giant, impenetrable fortress of geekdom.

Of course, I knew something about Trek.  Doesn’t everyone?  I’ll bet most Americans could at least tell you that there were characters named Kirk and Spock, and there was some sort of spaceship, and someone said “live long and prosper” while doing that weird thing with their hands.  I could also tell you that there was Uhura, Bones, Scotty, and Sulu (Chekov seemed to always fly under my radar), and I do remember seeing Star Trek IV in theaters.  And I love the Futurama episode where the Star Trek actors’ heads get kidnapped by Melvar and forced to participate in something resembling a convention.

That said, I am a geek.  When I saw the shiny lights and pretty special effects in the trailer, I couldn’t help myself.  I wanted to see this movie, and I wanted to see it bad.

God bless my parents, who babysat.

So, for those of you who are Star Trek noobs like myself?  Fear not and hie thee to a theater — you don’t need to know a darn thing about the universe.  Would you get some of the jokes and references better if you know more?  I’d say there were people laughing in the theater when I wasn’t, but those same people were laughing at a really dumb trailer, so I’m not convinced they knew any more than I did.  But yes, you would get more references and intricacies if you knew more about the universe, I’m sure.  But not knowing a thing won’t stop you from having a darn good time.

So, there’s this guy, George Kirk, and he gets put in charge of this starship.  And he saves lives and it gets blown up literally seconds after his baby is born.  He names the baby and then goes on to a terrible, painful, explosive death.  And his kid, James (eventually played by Chris Pine), grows up to be a total brat.  Across the galaxy, a little half-Vulcan boy named Spock is getting picked on by Vulcan bullies (which is really sort of funny in its way, and while I’m on the subject, WOW could that kid pull of a young Zachary Quinto.  That’s one of the best “this is this actor as a kid!” casting decisions I’ve ever seen).  So, Spock and Kirk both end up at the Starfleet Academy, and they hate each other on sight.  Of course, this leads to wacky adventures.

It’s really a fun, awesome movie, although the time travel aspect makes my head hurt like always.  As a movie itself, I really have very little negative to say about it.   I got exactly what I (as a non-Trekker) wanted: awesome effects, minimal cheesiness, a good story, snappy dialogue, and the creation of a fantastic universe.  But if you’ve read even one review of Star Trek already, you knew this.

There was one thing that caught me by surprise, though, and that was how much I laughed during this movie.  It really was funny.  I think my surprise comes from the genre.  As anyone who reads this site knows, I’m a Battlestar Galactica girl.  Battlestar Galactica took an old, occasionally (okay, VERY) cheesy TV show and updated it, making it more realistic and gritty.  It didn’t just update it — it turned it on its head until there was hardly anything left in common with the original.  I think a part of me was expecting that from the Star Trek movie.  However, this is NOT a reimaging in the sense that Battlestar Galactica was.  Which has its perks and its drawbacks, but at least it means that the Star Trek movie does NOT become the game of “let’s see how much we can torture these characters and how positively MISERABLE we can make them!”  The effects are updated.  The dialogue is updated.  There are fingerprints of the twenty first century all over it.  But the spirit remains largely the same, and the new Trek movie is NOT a depressive emo fest that would make a junior high creative writer envious of how much tragedy can be heaped on a single character.

The other thing I wanted to take up valuable bandwidth to address was the issue of Uhura.  Can I just say how much I adored her?  But let me go into detail.

Scifi and fantasy are old boys’ schools in a lot of ways.  People have long believed that only men like scifi, and so strong, interesting female characters have historically been rarities.  And of those men that like scifi, Hollywood has unfailingly seemed to believe that most of them are white.  Finding good characters of non-Caucasian origin can be… well, about as difficult as finding good, strong female characters.

The original Star Trek had a female character, and a black character.  And lo and behold, they combined them into one and basically made her a glorified telephone operator in a short skirt.  Now, we all know it’s not that simple.  Star Trek did actually have an Asian character in Sulu, and the original Uhura did have some good moments (although again, I’m not a Trekker enough to know what they are- I just have been told they existed), and you need a communications officer on any ship.  (I’ll refrain from pointing out that Battlestar Galactica ALSO had a black female as a communications officer, and even on the Pegasus, Hoshi was originally scripted as a woman.)  But anyway.  The original Star Trek made steps forward, but by today’s standards, not big enough.

I’ve seen rants about how that it was sexist (and racist, but more about the sexist) not to remedy that.  Uhura remained the sole woman in the core crew, she still wore short skirts, and she retained her original duties, and she had a love interest.  Well, yeah.  But the thing is, that’s what Uhura was, minus the short skirt.  (More on that in a bit.)  She is the communications officer, she does speak languages (and does it well, darn it), and she is the sole woman in the core crew.  Hi, this is Star Trek, okay?  But I don’t see how her role is any less heroic or flashy or whatever than Scotty, Chekov, or Bones.  Sure, she doesn’t get fight scenes, but neither do those guys.  Sure, she’s got a love interest, but while Kirk would reduce her to a pretty face, the movie clearly shows us that Uhura is a lot more than that, and Kirk’s kind of a jerk for even thinking it.  Uhura’s a character in her own right, and she’s a pretty awesome one at that.

As far as the miniskirt goes, well, yes.  I can’t ever see any normal woman wanting to enter combat in a skirt that flashes their underwear if they lean over wrong and high heeled boots.  But like I said earlier, this isn’t the kind of update that Battlestar Galactica was.  These are essentially meant to be the same characters as those we know from the original series, and it is essentially meant to be the same universe.  And in that universe, women wore short skirts as their uniforms.  Like it or not, that’s what the iconic Uhura wore, and therefore that’s what Zoe Saldana must wear.  This is especially true as the men’s uniforms were also the same, even if they could have stood an update as well.

Yeah, I spend too much time on the Internet.  What else is new?  But hey, that’s what makes sites like this fun — the ranting about the details the rest of the world doesn’t much care about.

So, yeah.  I loved it.  I can’t speak for the Trekkers too well, but if you like action, space, or hot people on space ships, this one is worth every penny.  Nice and tight and well crafted, and completely and utterly enjoyable.

(And as for MY PS — spoiler, by the way — notice how Spock ended up being a dirty old man?  “Hey!  We can be in two places at once.  YOU go be on the Enterprise, I’LL go repopulate the Vulcan race.  Hehehe.”)

“There are some things in life that are just fact; and one of those facts is that every one of the odd-numbered Star Trek movies is s**t. …Wait, what movie am I in?”

Intermission!

  • The eyes of the alien doctor who delivers Kirk are way freaky.
  • Hehe… Chekov can’t say his V’s in this timeline either
  • Is that fold-up sword Starfleet issue?
  • Vulcans have six billion people on their home planet, yet they’ve established no colonies before this point? That’s… odd.
  • Notice the groan-worthy Nokia product placement?
  • Green girls go for Kirk, 9 times out of 10
  • Um, what is “red matter” and why do you never, ever explain it, other than it makes black holes and we have twenty kilograms of it in a lightly shielded chamber?
  • So… what DID Nero do for those 25 years other than just hang around?
  • Uhura got a first name!
  • There’s a tribble on Scotty’s desk on the ice planet.
  • Christopher Doohan, the son of the late James Doohan (Scotty from the original series), appears alongside the new Scotty, Simon Pegg, in the transporter room.
  • There’s a little nod to Star Trek: Enterprise (Archer and his beagle)
  • In the scene where Kirk is taking the Kobayashi Maru test, he is eating an apple, which is also what he is eating while recounting his tale of taking the Kobayashi Maru test in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan
  • The idea of a young James T. Kirk and young Spock meeting at the Academy was considered as early as 1968, announced by Gene Roddenberry at the World Science Fiction Convention.
  • The Trek movie with the longest hiatus to date since the last motion picture (7 years). Of the now 11 films, this is the most expensive Star Trek film by far ($140 million).
  • This is Leonard Nimoy’s first live-action film role since Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
  • Majel Barrett, the wife of “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry, has a role in this film as the voice of the Enterprise computer. She completed filming two weeks before her death on December 18, 2008.
  • Spoiler alert – The Enterprise is, at the time, the brand-new flagship of Starfleet. And they just let a cadet jump from a pre-ensign rank to full-fledged captain on the basis of one really good mission? Buh?
  • Another spoiler – Is it just me, or does the Spock/Uhura hookup seem to be there solely to provide ‘shippers something to squeal over? They never explain why it happened or give the relationship any depth beyond a bit of smooching (which, coming from Spock, is profoundly disturbing).
  • Final spoiler – will Future Spock be equally free to distribute future technology to this past timeline as he did with the transporters? And what does that mean to this universe?

Groovy Quotes

Scotty: I like this ship! It’s exciting!

McCoy: Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence.

Sarek: [to Spock] You will always be a child of two worlds, and fully capable of deciding your own destiny. The question you face is: which path will you choose?

Spock: Are you a member of Starfleet?
Scotty: Uh, yes. Can I get a towel?

McCoy: We’ve got no Captain and no First Officer to replace him.
Kirk: Yeah, we do.

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11 comments

  1. I think you’re a righteous dude, Al. 😉

    You’re right: it’s different; if you can’t stand that, stick to reruns. But I’m unsure how it’s different: Is it New Trek? Then I like it. Or is it just that high gloss ‘splosions & one-liners sell? Then I hate the guilty cringy pleasure.

    I need one more movie to know. Just like with Bond.

  2. I just don’t want to see Leonard Nimoy-Spock wind up becoming the Professor dumbledor character in the new star trek film(s). What I mean is that Kirk and company are struggling to save the day and then old-spock whooshes in and either tells everyone how to solve the problem or fights the bad guy himself. I.E. Scotty worked for years to come up with the equation that allows someone to beam aboard a vessel whilst traveling at light speed. Old-spock steps in, types some keys and says “there is your equation Mr. Scott” He is going to become the “deus ex machina” plot-hole spackle that keeps the story moving.

  3. On the DVD, they mention (through interviews and deleted scenes) that the 25 years Nero waited, he was on a Klingon Prison planet. His escape was the destruction of all those Warbirds that Uhura picked up on and reported.

  4. Minor quibble here but what exactly was wrong with the “water turbines that are there for no other reason than to be dangerous?”? I would assume a long range exploration based ship such as the Enterprise would have a need for clean drinking water and the ability to filter and recycle it.

  5. Okay, I haven’t seen the new movie yet-shameful for a Trekkie, yes, I know, but it’s on my list of Things To Do Before I’m Three Hundred Million Years Old. For the record, the episode of TOS where Spock has no brain is Spock’s Brain, and is pretty much called the WORST EPISODE of TOS in HISTORY.
    By the way, Justin, don’t be mean to Galaxy Quest. It’s a homage to Star Trek and hilarious, especially if you’ve been watching TOS recently. I recently rewatched TOS and now I understand Galaxy Quest SO much better-it’s full of subtle bits of Trekkie stuff.
    Read/Watch it. Live it. Love it.
    ~Laveycee

  6. I am proud to call my self a Trekkie, I attend conventions, dress up and I even have “Live Long and Prosper” tattooed on my back. My family however, despite my best efforts, will watch the occasional episode but have never embraced the Star Trek world as I have. My husband took me along to the premier of Star Trek in London last night and thank you JJ you converted him in one film, I have been trying for 25 years! What JJ Abrams has done is create a film that can be enjoyed by all, its irrelevant whether or not you have seen Star Trek before, this film stands alone as brilliant entertainment. There are plenty of references to the original series to keep the fans happy. Of course there are going to be the “hard core” fans who will criticize certain aspects. I enjoyed seeing the lead actors imitate the characteristics of the original crew, Karl Urban as Dr Mcoy was particularly good. Good story line, plenty of humour, non-stop fast action, fantastic special effects, great acting from all the main “crew”, Zacchary Quinto and Chris Pine especially. Can’t wait for the next one to see more in-depth character development (of all the characters, not just Kirk and Spock and a moral dilemma which is at the heart of the best Star Trek. Film fans are going to love this film and that means Star Trek Lives Long and Prospers!

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