This will be a rather random review–today I’m too tired to think in coherent sequences. There will be minor spoilers embedded along the way, but nothing major (unless you’ve been living in a hole for the last year, in which case don’t read this, go get treatment).
The bottom line: awesome, whether you’re a fan or not. Go see it.
The very first thing that struck me was that Star Trek: Reboot steals from/pays hommage to, just about every visual skiffy trope of the last twenty years. The spaceships, space battles, wormholes, explosions, time travel etc–nod to design elements from Babylon 5, Firefly, Star Wars, Starship Troopers, Battlestar Galactica, and many more. They take the hallowed Star Trek building blocks–the Enterprise, transporter beams, phasers–and update them brilliantly. I don’t mean ‘pretty well’ I mean fucking brilliantly. The FX are cooler, the colours and textures are sleeker, the sounds are particularly convincing, and it all feels like the future–but it’s still, very much, Star Trek. Hats off to the production designers, set and costumer people, the sound editors and foley artists, the FX geeks, the…well, everyone.
So, within a few seconds I knew the film was going to look and sound awesome all the way through; a practically perfect update of technology for the next next generation.
The cultural updates were also pretty good though the portrayal of women was, sadly, underpar (more on that later). The thing that always bothered me about old style SF was the privileging of rationality over emotion, the whole mind/body dichotomy. (See my essay, Writing from the Body, for more on this.) Star Trek was a prime offender: everything positive was was clean, machined, and logical. The Vulcans (held up as role models for less evolved humans) espoused the excision of emotion; pon farr was something to be ashamed of. The new creative team threw all that out. Or at least tweaked it severely. The message we get throughout the film is that passion is a Good Thing. If you feel, if you take emotional risks, you win. (Winning, of course, is a Very Good Thing.)
So, for example, when Spock-Nimoy comes back through time he encourages the friendship between Spock-Quinto and Kirk because their friendship will (I’m paraphrasing) be the thing that defines them both. That’s a strong statement: a relationship between two people which will be the most important thing in their lives, that will shape their development and destiny. The K/S shippers must have been swooning. I was delighted for them. Plus, friendship is a powerful force, and it’s just plain pleasing to see one set out for future franchise development. The creative team made a very smart choice, I think, in having the career trajectory/action hero role belong to Kirk and the emotional arc belong to Spock. Lots (lots) of room to play there.
So, the women. The first female character we see gets blown out into space during a battle, and dies. The next has a baby–Kirk–and is never seen again. The next also has a baby, Spock, and does nothing but tell him she loves him, then dies. (And, hello, she’s played by Winona Rider who is only 37; Zachary Quinto, her movie son, is 31. But we all know about the weirdness of Hollywood gender crap; I won’t rehash here.) The next woman is Uhura. She gets to be fought over in a bar, then watched while she takes her clothes off–though she does get to translate something at some point–and then is the object of a main character’s affection. She also wears mini-skirts and boots. In other words, although there are is no egregious misogyny, if you want strong women, watch something else. Eh, one day someone will write Aud in Space, but today is not that day.
This is a story about boys and men–about their rivalries, hierachies, and friendships. And it’s a blast.
The creative team, through the time travel device, have simply wiped the board of the canon. The world of Star Trek is now officially off the reservation. It can go anywhere and do anything–and yet the kernel of its appeal, the essential righteousness of Kirk and Spock, and the strength of their friendship, is rich and ready.
This will be a fertile franchise. And therein lie my main quibbles with the film (if you ignore the hand-waving time travel thing, and the cardboard badguy*, and the movie shorthand**). Every now and again, some action sequence would go on too long, to no apparent purpose but to lay the foundations for various video games (hello ice planet, hello Scottie shoots through the tubes). It was a little tedious, but I understand the commercial impulse.
There were a handful of minor slip-ups. (For example, Kirk at the end: “You got it!” was the wrong tone; I think “Fine [shrug]” would have been better. Scotty’s alien friend was handled badly, etc.) But I really enjoyed this film. There are some real woo-hoo! moments. Superior entertainment. Go see it.
* Eric Bana did a good job with a thankless role. ‘You killed my planet, now I’ll kill yours! While you watch!’
** Two examples: the fleet is busy, fill the new flagship with cadets! And Yeah, we’re off on a voyage without a 1st officer, release the parking brake–oh wait! here’s a guy right now who will do!
25 thoughts on “Star Trek: Reboot”
T minus 1 hour 45 minutes…
You will not regret it.
Wait. No cardboard acting or wobbly sets or men in alien suits and plastic-looking enterprise models?
Next you’ll tell me the Klingons don’t look human. No thank you.
I saw it last night and I agree with pretty much everything you wrote about here. There were only a couple of things I thought ‘wrong’ with the film.
Definitely the Nero villain wasn’t well developed. Not sure if that was the script or Bana. One of my friends, who doesn’t really like Bana, considered his acting at fault, but it really comes down to direction IMO.
The other thing I think that wasn’t done well was the science. Minor spoilers ahead: First, supernovas do not threaten galaxies, they’re big events sure, but in something the size of a galaxy they’re a firecracker pop. Second, the supernova wouldn’t have destroyed ‘that planet’ as it did without being ‘that planets’ primary star. Third, even though starships travel faster than light, supernova explosions and radiation don’t. The black hole science was off too.
But Trek has never really been about the science. It’s always been about a good story and the people in it. And STXI was definitely a good story.
Oh, and just a comment. They were being faithful to the uniforms of the original series. Uhuras mini-skirt and boots looked to me much as her uniform in ST:TOS did, I doubt there was disrespect there.
And with the woman being blown out to space at the beginning. I reckon that was just equal opportunity. Plenty of men have had that role. :-)
I always thought the original Star Trek was less about Vulcans being more evolved and more about how Vulcan Spock was too yin and human Kirk too yang and between them, with various catalysts (mostly McCoy), they made a team that could conquer any problem…a very basic concept stripped down even more and incarnated in characters for TV. More than occasionally the conflict was mined for the comedy inherent in the friction. The original painted the crew and its actions and impulses with a broad brush; nuance is left to the interpreters who bring their own experiences. And for those of us who don’t particularly want nuance on any given day — let’s fire those proton torpedos and execute a few evasive manuevers.
Did they ever discuss philosophy or religion?:)I can’t wait to see it. I can just here all the guys saying, as some did here, “let the women get their own Star Trek!”
When will Honor Harrington come to the big screen? In a space battle between Harrington and Kirk, who would win?
I did not regret it. I LOVED IT!!
this new Star Trek is high quality cinema, except at the theater i went to the reel kept jumping and the sound went out a couple of times… why are movie theaters still using film i wonder
I just saw it — I pretty much agree with your review, especially the part about the women. That was my major disappointment with it. I like my scifi with powerful women as main characters. I hope that subsequent efforts in this new franchise will do better on this front. On the other hand, go K/S!
<>stropp<>, everything’s relative. One’s person’s <>hommage<> is another’s disrespect (or at least eyeroll).
<>nomad<>, assuming that’s not a rhetorical question, theatres use film because they have no incentive to change–and it’s not cheap (yet) to convert. Film makers, on the other hand, would *love* to be able to beam out the film without having to pay for all those prints…
<>malinda<>, I expected the neglect of women so wasn’t disappointed, exactly. But it would have been lovely to be surprised by some smart and/or axe-swinging Commander saving the day for somebody. I wonder if Kirk’s mum will make an appearance further down (up? along?) the franchise?
Oh darn, I guess I’ll go see it. * imaginary arm twist*
I’m still not sure about seeing it. I’m a huge Trekkie, but unlike many Trekkers, I prefer The original series and ST:Voyager and ST:Deep Space Nine over The Next Generation. So I fall somewhere between philosophical original and the darker versions of the show. I’ve seen the trailers and TV spots for the new film, and I have to say that – and this is something that bugs the hell out of me of most films today – everything looks extremely flashy, and therefore, just a bit (ok, a lot) unreal.
That’s what I loved about Battlestar Galactica; grungy as hell, making everything look supremely real and believable. I’m a huge fan of J.J Abrams (getting LOST once a week as one of my highlights), and without even having seen the new Trek, I know he would have done a great job. I don’t tend to get overtly anal about injecting some originality into a franchise, unless it undermines fundamental concepts. But it does kinda annoy me that any movie that requires a bit of chrome has to be layered with so much shiny-shine that it creates a virtual wall between you and the screen, therefore distancing you emotionally from the screen.
<>lynn<>, this film isn’t about thinking, it’s about having a blast. Go have a blast.
Yes, I know, I know :) But I think I’ll wait for the weekend and go see Angels and Demons instead. Oooh, pretty cathedrals.
Oh it was lovely. Like you said… clean reboot Braga and that other asshat are out of the picture. This movie was all about Kirk and Spock maybe the female characters will be treated better in future movies. But I’m not holding much hope. Nevertheless… It was a blast.
Discover has a breakdown about the science in the movie.
I think passionately and feel intellectually, so I am always wary when someone tells me that a movie isn’t about thinking, it’s about having a blast. I’m just one of those boys who wants it all, at least if moviemakers want my money. Still, I think I may see this one in the theater.
*sigh* I know exactly what you mean <>Promiscuous Reader<>. I have a hard time watching anything – movie or DVD or TV show that doesn’t stimulate me on some intellectual level. Unless of course the aim is to make my brain stand still for ninety minutes on purpose.
<>The thing that always bothered me about old style SF was the privileging of rationality over emotion<>I’ve been rewatching a fair amount of the original series for reviews at Tor.com, and while this very issue was constantly debated on the show, rationality and logic didn’t always win over passion, compassion, and emotional bonds. In that sense, the film is faithful in its central theme.
ecmyers, one of the things I disliked intensely about the original series was that Spock’s rationality was often the butt of humor. It has been a long time since I watched it, but I don’t recall that rationality and logic always won over passion, compassion, and emotional bonds. (The very dichotomy seems to me mistaken, but that’s another subject.)
Lynne, I don’t expect intellectual stimulation from all entertainment. I’m not sure what make the difference so that sometimes something dumb but fun can carry me along. Have you ever seen Galaxy Quest, by the way?
<> Promiscuous Reader <>: Galaxy Quest is Awesome. But even that stimulated me intellectually because of the clever way in which it satirized so many things about the sf community. (I’m afraid it’s true – Literature students dissect EVERYTHING :p )
Stropp, your right that supernovas do not threaten galaxies in the way portrayed, and that Romulus would not have been destroyed if indeed the supernova was not a local sun. But a supernova *can* severely damage atmospheres and biospheres in neighboring systems via gamma-ray bursts. So I like to imagine that’s what Star Trek was goin’ for, even though I know it wasn’t. :)
Though, of course, most gamma-ray busts occur in the kind of supernova where the exploding star is collapsing into a black hole. So I’m not sure if Spock’s SECOND black hole would necessarily help so much. :P Though I suppose it might.
Anyway, I completely agree with this review and loved the movie.
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