Star Trek: a Non-Trekkie’s Opinion

12 06 2009

As always, spoilers.

I’m not a trekkie. Not because I don’t know anything about Star Trek– I scored dismayingly high on a Trek trivia quiz recently– but because I don’t like it. I enjoyed the original series as a kid, but never became a dedicated follower. I suppose it started to seem silly and self-indulgent with the 3rd movie. I watched Next Generation in college with the rest of Bean Complex housing staff, but by the time Voyager came along I could not watch any iteration of the show. The whole thing just rubs me the wrong way. The military hierarchy, the deus-ex-machina pseudo-science (every problem is solved by re-routing and converting and diverting power, as if the Enterprise is made of Legos), the stiff postures, the orders barked and phasers fired without the least sense of tension….argh.

Star Trek (2009) is a whole new ball game. In the first ten minutes it achieves the impossible: making the quintessential scene of crew-on-the-bridge, confront-enemy-ship, pleasantries-end-and-firing-begins, actually exciting. From there is carries itself as a real movie, developing plot and character in solid fashion, rather than relying on automatic buy-in from a cult following. At the same time, from what I hear, the new movie manages not to alienate said cult-following, but delights them as much as, or more than, me. I’m sure I missed countless references aimed at the trek geeks, but the ones I caught were fun; the doom of the red-clad away team member, Kirk and a green-skinned babe, Captain Pike in a wheelchair, Sulu fencing, Scottie’s signature line.

Quibbles: Kirk’s mother is on the ship? And gives birth at the moment of evacuation? That was a little much. And honestly I feel like I’ve seen someone giving birth in every movie of the past year. The Nokia product placement was especially grating in a future setting. And just where was Kirk’ mother when he enlisted in Star Fleet? I suspect there are some deleted scenes there.
Chekov was cool, but once Scottie shows up he seems redundant. Spock the elder was essential to the story, and really a tragic figure in the end, which was cool, but I felt there was one too many Nimoy scenes.
Everyone is awfully cavalier about creating black holes. I would think you’d want to be very careful about when and where you do that.

My favorite things: how the crew all found their niches as the crisis wore on, not necessarily the roles they were assigned. Rolling cameras giving outer space its 3-dimensional due. Vulcan emotionlessness being a cultural convention rather than a biological fact. Spock and Uhura. Using the alternate history theory to cut loose from the canon. Simon Pegg. The bridge! As a kid, I liked nothing better than imagining I was onboard a spaceship. The bridge reminded me why.

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