Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Phasers to shun

I've just seen the new Star Trek film and was surprised, having read only favourable reviews, to find myself realising about an hour in that I wasn't really enjoying it that much. I am by no means a Star Trek fanatic, I've never really bothered with the Next Generation, Deep Space 9, Babylon 5 and the one where Captain Jane Somebody is lost in space. But I am a fan of the original series, I've got them all on DVD anyway. And one of my most prized possessions is a mug from the surface of which Kirk, Spock and McCoy dematerialize when you pour the hot water in. So, nothing too serious, I've never dressed up or learned Klingon or anything.

So, what went wrong? For starters the time line disruption. I like time travel stories and I also like the fact that the Star Trek universe is big enough to take a fair bit of discontinuity. But Vulcan being swallowed by a black hole? No more Amok Time? I'm sure there are other repercussions but that's bad enough for me. And Spock's mum copping it. Is this the only way modern films can think of to give characters a bit of emotional depth and motivation? Spock was singled out for praise in most of the reviews I read. I know he's meant to be a kind of junior Spock but I found him altogether too emotional, the reliance on Uhura was especially jarring, and the overall vibe coming off him was angry. He had some good lines but they were delivered with a touch too much spleen. And Spock's catchphrase, "Fascinating", usually uttered in the aftermath of some gruesome display is wasted here on a spaceship chair that spins around all on its own.

The baddie Nero was boring, his evil outfitters had made absolutely no effort. I found his look very unRomulan and it was annoying that the mystery of the Romulans' kinship with Vulcans, which is important in an episode in the original series, is casually tossed away here. We needed a madman set on destroying the Earth and Nero is lazily levered into position. And I'm no astrophysicist but the elder Spock's plan to save Romulus from a supernova by positioning a black hole in its path? If it's going to gobble up a supernova wasn't Romulus always next on the menu? As well as any real character Nero was totally denied a big death scene - Kirk's line at the end was reminiscent of George Bush's response to Osama Bin Laden's comment on never being taken alive, lending proceedings a whiff of US persecution complex bravado that was pleasantly lacking from the original series.

The good news: the Enterprise looked nice but that was it. All the other technological stuff was pretty bland. Actually I did like the speed cop's bike, and his addressing the young Kirk by the title of citizen gave a hint of the utopia that Earth society is meant to have evolved into. The original series may have looked impressive effects-wise in its day and now at the very least it's got a kitsch charm. I can't see people thinking the same about this. One thing that was unexpectedly good was Simon Pegg's turn as Scotty. He's got a lot of goodwill for Spaced but prior to this I don't think he's ever really pulled off a big screen appearance.

Overall I'd say the main problem was a tendency towards the generic. The look of things, the plot, even the opening theme music. The old series music might not have been appropriate but they could at least have come up with something with a bit of swish, got John Barry or John Williams on the case.


  1. I haven’t viewed this film but agree on a general basis: today’s movies seem to focus on the spectacle of keeping today’s audience awed.

    Where is the magic created by a fine old movie using often a 50th of the budget of this one?

    The good old days ;). Have you ever watched Barry Lyndon or Hair? Now, that was art!


  2. I've not seen Hair, but I have got the soundtrack. Barry Lyndon I have seen and while I liked it enough it didn’t blow me away. One scene has stayed with me though: one of Barry’s friends is dying and his last words finish “…for we’ll never meet again”. That bit really got me.

  3. I liked the film, but I couldn't get past the fact that

    a) the plot mcguffin is frankly ridiculous (and isn't the main villain essentially a miner who is absurdly well-equipped for his time-spanning revenge mission?)

    b) the actors - good though many of them are - are basically actors playing other actors playing the characters. What's that all about?

    I enjoyed it though. Brainless, well-executed fun, I thought.

    Pegg had his own jar-jar though, didn't he?


  4. It was okay, I just think it was a squandered opportunity. Though Keenser (I googled it) is a far superior sidekick to Jar Jar fucking Binks. For a start he was mute - I wonder if that was Simon Pegg's idea?