Thursday, May 28, 2009

Star Trek Phase II


I couldn't just leave the talk of Star Trek at that. As a Star Trek fan, I feel compelled to go into more detail and expose my geeky self.

As a result, there are spoilers here. It takes a while to get to them but there ARE SPOILERS!!!
If there are any comments, there will likely be SPOILERS in there too.

So BEWARE THE SPOILERS!


SPOILERS! ALERT! SPOILERS! ALERT!

As I mentioned in the last post, I thought the characters really worked and they were the core of the film.


Karl Urban did a great McCoy. That man deserves an award for that performance. And Pine, there was one scene where he channelled Shatner's performance and, for a moment, they could have been the same person - in that very last scene.


But the rest? No, I didn't see the Chekov I knew. I certainly didn't see the Scotty I knew.

Thing is, I don't know that it would have been any better a movie if I had. What I saw a bunch of new characters who just happened to share names with the characters I knew. But I thought these new characters were pretty damn great. Simon Pegg's Scotty was probably the furthest away from the original and just played it for laughs. But it worked. He was massively entertaining. Chekov was excellent - young and so enthusiastic. While that description sounds just like the original, how he was played was entirely different. And they worked for me.


In some ways, I could say there were actually subtle improvements. For example, we see an Uhuru who knows several different Romulan dialects, contrasting with an Uhuru in Star Trek VI, a senior communications officer seemingly without a word of Klingon.


Quinto as Spock was an odd one. I've heard how like Spock he was from several people. He looked like Spock. But something was off and I'm not sure whether it was the writing or the acting.


He seemed to be written into a slightly different role, well beyond the Science Officer he once was. And, with that, seemed much more comfortable in his surroundings and with humans than the Spock I know from the original series. And, though he's half Vulcan and their thing is their lack of emotion, Nimoy's Spock was always commenting on what was going on around him with just his looks. He showed a huge amount in his face.

You could see even very early on that Spock did in fact have a sense of humour, that he did sometimes doubt himself, that he was often baffled by those crazy humans.

I got very little from watching this new Spock.


That's not to say he was bad. In the role that was written for him, he worked very well. Just different. And this was made all the more apparent by having Nimoy in the film.


You know, that move was key to the movie. Had this been a complete reboot, a (to use the term I loathe) reimagining, it would be open season. Anything goes.

But they didn't do that.


By having Nimoy in the movie and telling the story they did, they were saying this is all part of the Trek universe we know. Yes, it's different because some things have changed, but aside from stuff changed as a result of Nero's and Old Spock's presence, everything should be the same.

Nimoy in the movie means that consistency is an issue.

Oddly, the one character who should have gone through the most change as a result of Nero's first action, Kirk, is probably the least changed. If anything, Nero's actions provide a good backstory as to how he ended up like he did. But he was like that already in the timeline we saw before Nero was invented.

Now, he was missing the thoughtfulness of Kirk but then he was younger so maybe that had something to do with it. But people seem to remember the fist fights and torn shirts and forget how many aliens/robots/whatever he beat with pop philosophy or psychology.

Scotty, on the other hand, is a whole different person. And there is that odd quirk in the Spock/Uhuru relationship, the point of which eludes me. I can't think what it really contributed to either of them. Yes, it impacted on Kirk but to a tiny degree.

But, as characters were different and Star Trek is sacred, I am thinking - well, did it have to be those characters? Couldn't they have created a whole new bunch of characters? I remember seeing Generations and loving that opening - a whole new crew of rookies who seemed totally out of their depth. A new crew made just for that movie. Seemed really interesting. And then 15 minutes in, we move on and never see them again.

We end up with the soulless crew of The Next Generation.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed Next Gen at the time and it had some great stories but the characters were pretty dead and they had a hard time sustaining movie interest. For me, anyway. They're stiff. They're not fun.

But a whole new crew? Yeah, I could get behind that.

So did this have to be Kirk? Spock? I don't know. I guess they felt name recognition was all-important. I'm not so sure.


The story of the movie felt all too convenient in places. We're getting a new story where they are all sort of forced together, whereas I guess I would have imagined in the previous timeline that their careers evolved naturally. We were asked to swallow a hell of a lot when a smuggled, suspended cadet was given command of a starship and his young buddies went with it.

And then they get to keep the ship.

But there were plenty of other contrivances in the movie. We were asked to buy a lot of very unlikely events and actions. You either accept those or you don't.

I think, as a Star Trek fan, what could have helped here would be nods to some original stories. These could have been very subtle but would have made all the difference. For example, like the classic show, Captain Pike was captain of the Enterprise before Kirk. But, in the movie, he had Kirk's crew. Had he had someone resembling his 1st Officer, 'Number One', as in the orginal show, that would have eased the transition.

And where was Gary Mitchell?

He was the 1st Officer under Kirk seen in the pilot episode with Shatner, when Spock was just a Science Officer. According to that episode, Mitchell was a good friend of his in the Academy, when this new movie take place. But he doesn't seem to exist in this new Trek. His addition, in even a small role, would have been a lovely touch. And, considering how well they wrote the new versions of some of the characters, he could even have been a main player.

But, to their credit, there were some nice touches. Tribbles for one thing.

Though they managed for the first time to make a green alien woman look rather less than sexy.

You know one thing that let me down though? It's just a small thing I guess - the engine room. It was a few pipes. I remember back to engine rooms of movies gone by with large crews all in special protective suits and those, to me, looked like the engine room of a starship. This one looked a little cheaper.

Star Trek fans are known to be nitpicky. Well there was plenty to nitpick in this movie. But there were some massive things to overlook. Like how a star went supernova by the Romulan planet and seemingly they noticed it too late. Or how two blokes and their hand weapons could destroy one of Nero's drills and yet not one affected planet seemed to have any defenses to do it themselves. But, even accepting what we're told in the movie, there was one thing that stood out for me and it was mentioned in the comments of the last post so I wasn't the only one -

Nero and Spock were sucked into a black hole and thrown through time, unscathed. And yet everything else touching black holes was destroyed. For some reason.

I can get past that. Just about.

The big problem, the one thing that's hard to get past, as I mentioned in the last post, is how weak the villain was. Who he was, the reasoning behind what he was doing, just didn't feel strong enough. He was nobody. Nero may well be one of the weakest Trek villains we've had.

And that made it far more difficult to take the struggle against him seriously. Good heroes need great villains and Nero just didn't cut it.

That was a major failing.

What's odd is that the last Star Trek movie, Nemesis, was hated on by just about everyone. Part of the reason for that was the villain in my opinion - a bald rogue Romulan with a grudge against Picard for some obscure reason.

And, as much as that film was criticised, they saw fit to have history repeat itself, this time with a bald rogue Romulan with a grudge against Spock for some obscure reason.

Not a good move.

But I guess that's something that could be sorted in another movie.

Other things...hmm... I quite liked the Enterprise, though it doesn't reach the standards of the one introduced in The Motion Picture, which I think is just gorgeous. Effects were pretty good except for a very CG creature in the snow. Though, oddly, I think the old Motion Picture still looks more expensive than this movie.

This one was more of a mixed bag. Expensive looking outdoor snow shot leading to a bunker that felt like it came from Romero's Day Of The Dead. That doesn't negatively affect the film but every part of The Motion Picture looked expensive.

Humour was spot-on. Score was great. I didn't mind the use of the Beastie Boys at all.

Product placement in a Trek movie stinks though. I really wish I hadn't been subjected to that.

I could go on and on.

But I won't.

Before this movie, Star Trek was dead. Some people may like bits and pieces like Deep Space Nine (those people are have issues), or Voyager (those people are related to the cast members), or Enterprise (those people don't exist) but pretty much everyone who likes Star Trek could find more to hate about it than love. The concept and universe was beaten to death and killed.

And the originals, those who started it all, are either dead or too old. Though Shatner is still, to this day, a god.

Star Trek was dead.

So there was nothing to lose with this. And I don't think we've lost anything. I actually think we've gained a lot. I'm very curious to see where this will lead.

I'm looking forward to more.

What I'd really love to see in a new movie is the actual premise - to seek out new whatevers. Exploration. There has been so little actual exploration in the Trek movies.

1 comment:

Andy J. Latham said...

Couldn't agree more with that last sentence. I suppose that's the difficulty with turning a TV series into movies.