Tuesday, January 19, 2010

“Star Trek” – This isn’t your parents’ Star Trek.

“Star Trek” was a great movie. It’s important that you know that up front because you probably won’t believe it by the end of this review. In fact, I’ll warn you when to stop reading, just so I don’t ruin another movie for you.

The critics overwhelmingly loved “Star Trek,” but it wasn’t because they were Star Trek fans. They loved it because it was a very entertaining movie that injected some much-needed life back into the franchise. What they didn’t do was talk to my friend who is very knowledgeable about the history of Star Trek. In other words, a giant nerd (they like to be called Trekkies). Being a thorough critic myself, I did talk to my friend. I’m slightly more disturbed as a result, but I did realize something. This is one of those movies where the audience can be clearly divided into two groups: those who loved it and die hard Trekkies.

J.J. Abrams had a specific purpose in mind when he made this movie. My friend would say “to completely ruin Star Trek,” but it was actually to recreate Star Trek in his vision. After four television series, twelve movies, and countless novels, Abrams decided to go where only he has gone before (haha) – another timeline. If you’re a fan of “Lost,” you know what I’m talking about. And, if you didn’t get it at first during the movie (like me), Uhura tells you in plain words “You mean an alternate reality?” He couldn’t have been more blunt with a two-by-four.

If you were like me, you probably got angry when Spock’s mom plunged to her death. Well, maybe not too angry, considering Wynona Ryder (seriously) portrayed the matriarch. I won’t dwell on it, but I do wonder why they didn’t just cast an older (cheaper) actor instead of piling on bad makeup to make Ryder look older. Like every other Trekkie out there, I bruised my jaw when it hit the floor. Then, I rebruised it when the planet Vulcan was destroyed. I’m glad Uhura told me about the alternate reality or I might have spontaneously combusted.

After a while, I came to grips with this twist in the Star Trek universe. While my friend hated it, I realized that Abrams did his best to make everyone happy. He brought a new beginning for fans that had grown bored with the series, created something new for the uninitiated, and left the old timeline completely intact for those who wanted it to continue. The fans who hated this idea would call Abrams lazy for not trying harder to tie it with the old timeline. There may be some truth to that, but so what? If you don’t like it, just think of it as Star Trak.

My friend was right about one thing though. Abrams did not consult enough Star Trek fans, or scientists, and there are a lot of things that just don’t make sense when you start thinking about them.

(Here’s the part I warned you about, so stop reading if you don’t want to think.)

Even for a science fiction film, there were all kinds of inconsistencies, a lot of which really are just nitpickings. For me, the two glaring ones were that the Enterprise was being built on a planet and that the transporters never seemed to work the same way twice. You might think the first one is a nit, but I assure it’s not. For one thing, a ship of that size and shape would never hold up under the pressures of a planet’s atmosphere and gravity. Not to mention that they are well into the space age and already had space stations where they could build these things. Even worse though, the original trailer for the movie shows it being built in space. Did they forget that or just ignore it?

The transporter thing was even worse for me than the shipbuilding. How can they have trouble transporting stationary people when not a few minutes earlier they transported Kirk and Sulu while they were falling at terminal velocity? They even tell us that the problem was getting a lock on them due to their falling. So what the hell was the problem with the group standing still, considering they were in the same environment? Again, it’s not their first experience with transporters. They’ve been using them for a while.

I was also not happy with the number of homages to the original series. Some of them were good and subtle enough to be clever. Others were just awkward and forced (just like the romance between Spock and Uhura).

On the flip side, they made up for this (and more) with the scene where McCoy is shooting different drugs into Kirk while trying to sneak Kirk aboard the Enterprise. Both actors played out the scene effortlessly and the comedic value was priceless. This scene alone makes the movie worth seeing.

As for the nits, here’s a quick list. Anti-matter explosions (the engines) would have destroyed the Romulan ship. The Vulcans and Romulans had many more planets than just their home worlds. The Romulans had no idea their star was going to supernova? Were they just not paying attention, since that doesn’t just happen overnight? What the hell is red matter and where did it come from? Coming out of warp in the methane atmosphere of Titan is not a good idea. Wow was that Romulan mining ship huge. And why was it armed to teeth if it was just a mining ship? Where did Kirk get gasoline for a 1960’s Corvette in the 23rd century? Finally, I hate Nokia.

(That last one isn’t a nit. The blatant Nokia placement was easily the crappiest part of the movie.)

Having said all that, I’ll remind you of the movie “Galaxy Quest” where some nerdy kids are quizzing Tim Allen about inconsistencies with the show. He yells at them, saying “It’s a television show. It’s not real!” So for all of the things on my quick list (did I mention Nokia sucks?), they don’t matter in the end because the movie was extremely entertaining. Even if I do have splinters in my face.

Rating: Definitely worth the price of admission. You might even get to see some nerds explode into flames.

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