Saturday, May 9, 2009

Back to the Future's Past or Something...

I've been a fan of science fiction for as long as I can remember. Although my tendencies always leaned more towards the Star Wars side of the equation, it's hard to say that I'm a Johnny-come-lately Star Trek fan when I've been watching some form of the series since I was ten. I don't consider myself a trekkie, but somehow through the course of my life I've picked up a considerable amount of trek-trivia and...well, I did MARRY a trekkie (seriously, once as a complete slip of the tongue I referred to Data as Da-tuh instead of Day-tuh and got reamed out pretty hard for it).

So, while I'm too young to have seen the original crew in their glory days, I have seen a good portion of The Original Series and I've seen damned near all of the Next Generation-era Trek as well as all of the movies.

Star Trek: Nemesis may have sucked, but I still liked it. So, yeah, I was apprehensive about director JJ Abrams' plan to return to the unseen early days of Spock and Kirk. I mean, I like the Next Gen universe and isn't Star Trek supposed to be about looking forward? Didn't everyone bitch about this very thing happening in Enterprise? Yes, yes they did. With all that being said, I am a JJ Abrams whore. Joss Whedon may be Jim's master, but I will forever be loyal to Abrams. I don't care for Fringe and he wrote the screenplay for maybe I should rethink my adulation for the man.

So, was my dislike of continuity futzing overcome by my (sometimes misguided) love of JJ Abrams? Find out after the jump.

Short answer: No. Long answer: Yes, but...

If anyone had actually listened to our summer movie preview podcast, they would have heard me bitch about several things done in this movie, one of the chief concerns I had was the casting. Notably, Karl Urban as Doctor "Bones" McCoy. Everything I saw coming out in the previews did nothing to assuage my fears, and although I LIKED the castmembers in other things, I didn't like who they were cast as. Thankfully, I was dead wrong about the cast on most accounts.

First of all, Karl Urban as Bones was the goddamn highlight of this film. I can't believe that I was ever against this casting. Where other cast members don't really try to catch the body language and ticks of the people they are emulating, you can tell that Urban did his homework. Simply put, Bones works. Chris Pine's James Kirk isn't as close an homage as Urban's work, but every once in a while he'll say something or give a look that just screams "JAMES TIBERIUS KIRK!" Pine has an easier job thanks to Urban. Since Urban won me over so quickly I was more apt to accept Pine as Kirk merely by his association with Bones.

Zachary Quinto as Spock on the other hand didn't do much for me. Sure, it's a huge step up from the horse-shit he is involved with on Heroes, but he never really captured Spock for me. Maybe it's because I've seen him on my television for the last three years but I couldn't really disassociate Quinto from Sylar. That's my fault, but I really do wish the producers had picked someone a little less known. In the end Quinto is serviceable but nothing to write home about especially since we get to see the real Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy, later in the film.

The rest of the cast is a mixed bag of jewels and turds. Bruce Greenwood's Captain Pike made me giddy for the second Captain of the Enterprise like I've never been before but Anton Yelchin's Checkov made me wish the producers kept to continuity and didn't introduce the character until later. Yelchin's faux Russian accent is so ridiculous that it borders on racist. I know, I know, Walter Koening's accent wasn't all that accurate to begin with, but at least I could UNDERSTAND HIM. Simon Pegg is Simon Pegg, I find it hard to hate him in anything but his Scotty as written and performed is like a manic child. It's so over-the-top that I couldn't stand the character at all.

Finally Zoe Saldana's Lt. Uhura is a marginal non-entity. Saldana has not impressed me in anything I've seen her in. She was so horrible in Pirates of the Carribean that she was THE ONLY THING TO NOT RETURN in those misguided sequels. Here she does her best to just look sexy and that's about it. She's got a half-assed love story with Spock which just comes out of fucking nowhere. As my wife pointed out, it's probably only there because someone thought there HAD to be a love story in a summer blockbuster.

For his part in this all, JJ Abrams does an admirable job. Star Trek is an exciting and kinetic movie full of color and motion. I'll admit that I liked some of the new additions to the Trek science like the awesome new "warp jump" animation and sound effect. It looks pretty spectacular and sounds even better. Contrary to how I feel while watching most Hollywood pictures (and perhaps this is just because I saw X-Men Origins Wolverine last weekend), I found almost all of the special effects and CGI work to be impeccable. There's a sequence later in the movie that involves a monster-alien thing that looks less impressive, but otherwise Abrams has overseen an incredible looking film. The retro-future look of all the technology is fairly cool if not terribly accurate to Trek-lore.

So, yeah, it's a pretty movie with some great performances and you'll probably have a good time with it IF you:

A.) Aren't a continuity obsessed Trek fan.


B.) Don't mind leaving your fucking brain at the door.

WAIT! Didn't I just say that Star Trek is a good movie? Yes, I did, but it is fucking STUPID. Full of Goddamn plot holes and retarded contrivances. Keep in mind that the guys who wrote the screenplay are the two fucking winners who wrote Transformers. Remember when a giant robot pissed coolant all over John Turturro in Transformers? Yeah, you can thank Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman for that and you can thank them for this stupid plot that shits all over Trek Continuity.

Here's where I'm going to go all spastic nerd, so if you want to skip my nervous breakdown--fine, I'm giving it a 3 out of 5.

Still with me? Good. It takes some mighty fucking kumquats, brass balls, huge fucking stones to write a screenplay that COMPLETELY wipes out forty odd years of continuity, but that is exactly what Orci and Kurtzman have done. Now, as Jim pointed out to me after my showing of the movie, there was no way I was going to love anything that erased Star Trek: Deep Space Nine out of continuity. He's right, but it goes deeper than that. This movie was specifically created to appeal to a broader audience. In some ways I can appreciate that (though the dying Nintendo fanboy in me looks at the dusty Wii sitting across the room and sees the horrible end result of appealing to the mainstream). But by wiping out continuity and introducing newer and hipper versions of characters we fans already love they are, to use a line from Gabe and Tycho of Penny Arcade, "selling our heritage to the same fucking guys who beat us up in P.E."

Want a small example? Orci and Kurtzman actually give us a stupid explanation of why McCoy is nicknamed "Bones." When Kirk and Bones meet for the first time Bones mentions his ex-wife only leaving him with his bones. Ha ha! Clever. Except if Orci and Kurtzman took two fucking seconds to think the goddamn nickname through or check out some BASIC Trek continuity they would have realized that he is nicknamed Bones because he is a in old sawbones? Hello, McFly?!

And please don't get me started on the fact that during the time period this film is set NO ONE knew what the Romulans looked like! Yet somehow everyone knows what they look like and that Nero's future Romulan ship was in fact Romulan. Even I know what Romulan ships look like from Nero's timeline and I DIDN'T FUCKING RECOGNIZE IT AS ROMULAN! And that's just the tip of the Trek-anachronism fest that permeates this movie. Seriously? Cardassian beer? Nuh-uh, even if the Federation had met the Cardassians at this point I really doubt we'd be trading fucking beer with evil aliens occupying and enslaving those poor Bajorans.

Want some more stupidity? Ok, I'll back off the crazy Trek minutia for a bit. How about our introduction to James Kirk as a precocious car thief. Never mind for a minute that the whole fucking scene is pointless and could(and SHOULD) have been entirely excised from the film, it's full of stupid moments that will make your head swim if you think about them for a second. So twelve-year-old Kirk steals his step father's car. The step father calls Kirk in an attempt to get his car back. What do we hear? We hear that obnoxious Nokia cell phone ring tone. You know the one, remember Jurassic Park 3? Remember William H. Macy's phone with the ring tone that was supposed to be the jingle for his company? Yeah, everyone knew that was a pre-loaded ring tone back I really supposed to believe that THREE HUNDRED YEARS in the future that annoying ring tone will still exist!? Not to mention the fact that we actually SEE the Nokia phone in the car. Nokia advertising. In a Star Trek movie. Jesus. So young Kirk jams out to some Beastie Boys and wrecks a car, breaks the laws of physics by jumping clear of a moving vehicle and then tells a cop his name. Awesome. Wouldn't the bar-brawl scene have been a better introduction to Kirk? Considering it is the very next scene in the film...yes, yes it would.

How about the scene where Spock has Kirk ejected from the ship for disobeying orders and punching a security guard. Yes, Spock goes the HIGHLY illogical route, ignores the fucking ship brig and sends Kirk to a dangerous ice planet. Oh, but it gets better...this planet just so happens to be the planet that Nero sends Old Spock! It's the worst case of Deus-ex-Spockina! And to make matters worse, not only is Old Spock on this planet, but so is SCOTTY! There's a great big universe out there...too bad Orci and Kurtzman don't fucking realize it.

Then there is the humor. Some of it works...most of it does not. When you see Kirk with elephant man hands and a swollen tongue running around the Enterprise you'll understand. Or how about Scotty beaming into a maze of water tubes and being shot around the ship's innards like a balding-Scottish Augustus Gloop. Seriously, everyone who saw Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and bitched about the misplaced humor (for the record, love T3 but hate the humor in it) has no right to NOT complain about most of the humor in this movie because it's the same tone changing bullshit.

And of course there is the villain. Nero (Eric "I ruined Hulk" Bana)'s motivation is so terribly misguided it's laughable. First of all, unless you have read the awful comic book tie-in, Star Trek: Countdown, you won't have any real inkling of what Nero's intentions are. You see, the comic book explains that Nero is a pretty nice guy. A miner with a wife on Romulus and a kid on the way. One day while out mining Nero's ship comes upon a star about to go nova or something. He returns to the Romulan high council to warn the planet. Spock is there doing the same thing and of course, the entire council doesn't believe Spock or Nero. Spock convinces Nero that the scientists of Vulcan can stop the Nova from destroying Romulus and the ENTIRE GALAXY!!!!! How one nova is threatening the entire galaxy is never explained. So, of course the Vulcans won't help and Romulus is destroyed. SOMEHOW Nero blames Spock and the Federation. It makes absolutely no fucking sense! One book earlier Spock and Nero are friends, enjoying a drink and mind-melding with each other. Romulus explodes and suddenly it's a conspiracy planned by Spock to wipe out the Romulans. Seriously, people, Nemesis sucked, but at least the villain in that movie had motivation that made some Goddamned sense.

In the course of the film, Orci and Kurtzman make it a priority to point out through the characters that the time-line has changed and everything will be different now. Great, thanks for erasing forty years of continuity, guys. Everyone bitched about Rick Berman and Brannon Braga ruining Trek. And, yeah, I'd agree they were beating a dead horse. But what Orci and Kurtzman did was tantamount to skull-fucking that very same dead horse.

The sad part is, that the rest of the movie is pretty good. The stuff that doesn't piss all over continuity is fun and and exciting. The cast is pretty good, good enough that I wouldn't mind seeing another movie with them in it. Everyone keeps telling me that this is just another universe and the time-line I know and love still exists. Of course I know that. But this movie is going to be huge because of the "I don't even like Star Trek but this looks awesome" crowd. More than likely(unless Terminator Salvation actually becomes MY salvation and dethrones Trek) this is going to be fucking huge and Paramount is never going to be able to see the original time-line through the mountains of cash it will be making.

So, yeah. Despite all my griping, I liked it. It's good, not great. But you'll like it. Yes, you. The guy who has never even seen Star Trek before. Just know that you're getting a new franchise at the cost of my fandom. Because, while I'll still go see the new movies and may enjoy them to a certain extent, Star Trek just isn't Star Trek anymore and that makes me very sad.

3 griping fanboys out 5.

Skip to the bottom for VERY spoilerish ending gripe.








Ok, so in the end Nero is caught in the same temporal black hole thingy that sent him and Spock back in time to begin with only now it begins to destroy his ship. Why this time it is going to kill him is never explained. Chalk that one up to Orci and Kurtzman's shitty script. Kirk, in the spirit of old-school Trek, offers the hand of assistance in an effort to save relations between the Federation and Romulus. Nero, in typical scenery chewing villain behavior, says he would rather die than be saved. Ok, great, the black hole thingy will take care of his death. But then Kirk opens fire on Nero, destroying the ship. Really? That is totally not Star Trek. I mean, sure, it's something that I might have occasionally bitched about in Trek. But when it happens on screen it feels like a complete betrayal of the entire franchise. I was hoping for something along the lines of Batman Begins, "I won't kill you, but I don't have to save you." Instead, Kirk looks like an ass, kicking a retarded kid after he falls on the playground. Are you proud of yourself Kirk?

Ok, enough bitching. Go see this fucker, you know you want to.

Ok, one more fanboyish gripe. Where the fuck were the Temporal Federation guys at to prevent Nero's time fucking? Seriously guys, coffee break or something? You've got a time-line to protect...

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