This movie answered a question I’ve wondered about for a long time. What was Spock’s first name? For a while I thought it was “Mister,” but then I realized a lot of other crew members of the Enterprise also answered to Mister. But at one point in this movie Spock says, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever is left, however improbable, must be the truth.” So, apparently, his name is Sherlock. Sherlock Spock. Has a ring to it, doesn’t it?
One reviewer I heard on the radio said there had been seven Star Trek TV series and ten Star Trek movies. Could that be right? Ten? Wikipedia says it is, and this is the eleventh. I’m pretty sure I saw the first three movies. Of the TV series, the sum total of my viewership is maybe half a dozen episodes of the first series. In short, I’m about as far away from being a Trekkie as you can be and still be a resident on this planet, so you won’t be getting an analysis here of whether this one stayed faithful to the sacred canon. There will be no parsing of Romulan grammar. (And I still find it hard to believe that there are people who have so little in the way of a real life that they actually made up a Romulan language … and can speak it!)
Let’s start off with James Tiberius Kirk. This movie begins with his birth. The first time we see him out of swaddling clothes he is about ten years old. I hated the little prick instantly, and that was before he drove a Corvette over a cliff. (Driving a Corvette over a cliff should be, in my opinion, a capital offense in any civilized society.) The next time we see Kirk he is a medium-sized prick, starting a bar fight, and I hated him even more. One of the high points of the movie was seeing him getting the shit kicked out of him, but it didn’t last long enough. The third time we see him he is in the full flower of his prickhood, hacking into a Starfleet Academy combat simulation because … well, because he is Kirk, and he always knows better than anybody else. All this while eating an apple in a manner that made me want to kick the shit out of him even worse than those gentlemen in the bar did. So what happens? He’s on academic suspension, so the idiot Dr McCoy smuggles him aboard the Enterprise, where because of his insolent behavior, insubordination, and general prickhood … he is promoted to Captain in about 24 hours. I guess it makes perfect sense to a Trekkie, but he was the absolute last person I would entrust a spaceship to. I’d have had him scrubbing zero-gravity toilets for the duration.
He’s still a prick at the end of the movie, at which point he presumably morphs into William Shatner. Need I say more?
Let’s just skip over all the stupid science. The thing that annoys me most about movies like this it that they call them science fiction. It’s space opera, science has nothing to do with it. Just change the furniture and it’s a western: “Let’s head ‘em off at the pass. Deputy Sulu, take the posse into warp drive …”
I found most of the crew as annoying as they were in the episodes of the original series I saw, particularly Chekov and Bones. Uhura is the only female character in the original series and she’s fairly useless, so naturally she gets to kiss Sherlock, which looked like a pretty dry experience. An exception to the rule that Enterprise crew are mostly annoying: Simon Pegg, thrown in for comic relief as the irrepressible Scotty, and he actually does a damn good job of it. Too bad he only shows up in the last half hour. They promptly squirrel him away in the engine room, which is much much bigger on the inside than the Enterprise is on the outside (no doubt some sort of space warp) and looks like either a chemical refinery, a brewery, or a cheese factory. As for Spock … he’s played at first by Zachary Quinto, who has the proper eyebrows for the job. Forget the elf ears, playing Spock is all about the eyebrows, trust me on this. I’m sure that the first time J.J. Abrams saw Quinto’s eyebrows he shouted “That’s my Spock!” He is later joined by a severely wrinkled Leonard Nimoy as Old Spock. He sure looks like he’s lived long … and judging from all the philanthropic institutions I see Nimoy’s name on all over town, he must have prospered.
A lot has been made of this J.J Abrams dude “re-booting” this weary old franchise, using younger characters to appeal to a younger audience. It probably will, since this is definitely a short-attention-span movie, and it helps if you can’t actually think. I was just looking over the man’s credits. There are some TV shows I never watched, and then there was Mission: Impossible III, a pretty bad movie, and Armageddon, one of the worst “science fiction” movies of the later part of the last century. God help you, Trekkies. He’s already signed up to make another one.
Aside from a younger cast, he seems to be pioneering a new technique that I’m going to call “mind dazzle.” In the scenes where no frenetic action was taking place—only about twenty minutes of screen time, but it seems longer—I kept seeing bright lights flashing in my eyes, about every five seconds. That, or a bleed of white light at the edge of the frame, like a car had turned its headlights at the screen or the film had been badly overexposed. I finally realized it was being caused by bright lights that had been arranged all over the walls of most of the interior sets, most especially on the bridge, to shine directly into the sets. (Well, if you were designing the bridge of a fighting vessel, wouldn’t you be sure to have bright lights shining into the crew’s eyes at all times?) More important, I figured out why those lights were there. See, the action had slowed. A good part of the audience was getting antsy, almost falling asleep, because the camera was hardly shaking at all and many of the cuts were longer than one second. The lights were to assure them that they were still watching a motion picture. Short attention span. Gotta love it. The total effect was sort of like having a bright flashlight shined in your eyes for half an hour. Try it. It pretty much guarantees a splitting headache.
So be warned, you will be seeing a lot more of this technique, in addition to the standard shakycam and two-frame cross-cutting. Plus, you’ll be seeing it mostly in brain-frying, color-challenged 3D, if Jeff Katzenberg has his way. It’s the wave of the future, don’t you know. If the future means 1955 …