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An enjoyable film that has a serious flaw in it

Like many people, I thoroughly enjoyed the new Star Trek film, which seeks to “re-boot” the series by going back to the early days of Messrs Kirk, Spock, Scotty and the rest in much the way that the makers of Casino Royale tried with some success to do with 007. I liked the paciness, humour and action of the ST film a lot; some of the cast were great. I thought the fellow who played Spock stole the movie with such brio that he should be probably up before a court for grand larceny. But I have a reservation: I thought that the guy playing Kirk was often a total jerk, albeit with some redeeming qualities, and it was wildly improbable that a starship would have employed him as a commander at that point. Yes, I know that the very premise of the movie is fanciful, but there has to be enough credibility and character development to make it work at even the level of fantasy (that is why Lord of the Rings triumphed as a movie series, for instance).

And this guy thinks the same way. But even so, Stark Trek is well worth the money and far more enjoyable than a lot of SF films I have seen in recent years.

37 comments to An enjoyable film that has a serious flaw in it

  • David

    Assuming the canonical Star Trek future history holds true for this latest film, one has to wonder what vetting procedures are put in place by the Earth Government to select Starfleet candidates. Kirk only gets a place at what is surely the MIT of the 23rd Century through the decidedly dodgy manipulations of a high-up official – and that solely on the strength of his aptitude for Advanced Bar Brawling. ST may be set post-scarcity, but it doesn’t seem to be post-corruption. Plus ca change?

  • My problem with the film: this guy Nero sees Romulus destroyed by a supernova. He then is zapped back in time to before it was destroyed. Great, he says, now is my chance to save my threatened planet and its billions of people!

    Er, no. He actually says, now is my chance to take spectacular revenge on one individual who tried to save it but couldn’t.

    Even granted that seeing one’s home planet destroyed often makes one cranky, this seems an odd choice of priorities. He got his crew to agree to it, too.

    But I thought the guy who plays Kirk was OK. I even thought that when I thought he was Matt Damon. Possibly I should inform myself about these Hollywood folk by means other than Team America.

    And yes, the Spock – Zachary someone – was awesome. Did you notice how he even imitated Spock’s slightly stooped posture?

  • Ian B

    I thought that the guy playing Kirk was often a total jerk, a

    You mean, the actor Chris Pine was a total jerk, or that he portayed Kirk as a total jerk? Clarity please.

    Anyway, you’ve missed the point. It’s a story of a directionless child-man with the seeds of greatness within him becoming the man and those seeds blossoming, kind of thing. Captain Pike sees the potential and goads him into joining Starfleet and develops it.

    He wasn’t “employed as a commander”. He was a cadet on the officer track, he smuggled himself onto the Enterprise, and Pike appointed him first officer in a crisis as an act of faith. He then got himself into the captain’s chair with Prime Spock’s advice as to how to do it; because Prime Spock knew that the crisis needed Kirk in the chair, not his younger self. He was then at the end of the movie appoitned to the captaincy in recognition of his leadership skills displayed, and also probably at his mentor Pike’s behind the scenes recommendation. And also because apparently they’d lost a lot of captains recently.

    It’s a brilliant movie. Keep going to watch it until you get it 😉

    (and remember during the interrogation by Nero to shout “Don’t tell him, Pike!”)

  • Ian B

    The other thing about Pine’s performance is how well and subtley he handles the growth of character. I saw the movie with my sister and in discussing it afterwards found we’d both seen the same thing- that all the way through the movie he’s not yet captain Kirk, then in the last scene when he walks onto the bridge, bam, he’s Captain Kirk, suddenly a credible captain figure, the commanding officer we expect, with the portrayal just right. It’s very well played indeed.

  • Ian B,

    “Don’t tell him, Pike!”
    You evil, evil man. I had to turn my keyboard upside down and leave it to drip. For those not familiar with this greatest of all crossovers, I think he’s talking about this.

    Johnathan, re-reading your post, I now see that you meant that the actor played Kirk as too much of a jerk to be believable, when at first I thought you meant he acted poorly. (I have to agree with Ian B that you weren’t entirely clear on that point, while admitting I did not read that carefully.) I only partly agree; his reverse rake’s progress was slightly cartoonish – but within the confines of a movie that has a lot else to do, I thought it acceptable. One thing you have to remember is that this is a different timeline, and starts being a different timeline right from the beginning of the movie when Kirk senior dies at the helm. Our Kirk grew up with his dad whose proudest moment was when his son was accepted into Starfleet. The new Kirk grew up under the shadow of a dead hero father – perhaps that made him more insecure and more of a jerk.

    While I’m here, I didn’t like them killing off Vulcan. As it said in your link, this is one of the founding races of the Federation we’re talking about here. Without Vulcan the whole future history is going to be different. But since there’s time travel about, I expect they can put it back.

  • RayD

    The flaw for me was Simon Pegg. I love him to bits, really, but there’s no place for him in the Star Trek universe, and certainly not on the Engineering Deck. Compare and contrast Karl Urban’s Bones, so accurate it’s almost impersonation rather than acting.

    Also, William Shatner is as camp as a row of tents, and I’m not seeing the tiniest hint of that here. I just can’t imagine any way this young bruiser is going to become (or could’ve become) the Kirk in the episode where he mind swaps with an woman and flounces around the bridge. And was it supposed to be endearing when young Kirk trashes his foster/step father’s no doubt extremely valuable classic car? Little bastard, I thought.

    I never had time to wonder why Nero didn’t try to save his planet rather than hang about for twenty-five years waiting for Spock, because I couldn’t stop wondering what on Earth was Eric Bana thinking, taking this part? The role of Nero is little more than talking extra. It doesn’t detract from the movie, but why, Eric, why?

  • Richard Garner

    I didn’t like the timeline changes. I kept thinking, “either they are going to restore the original timeline that the Romulans messed up, in which case I don’t have to get emotionally attached to these characters, or they are not, in which case I will lose all the adbentures and developments I am emotionally attached to.

  • Richard Garner

    I didn’t like the timeline changes. I kept thinking, “either they are going to restore the original timeline that the Romulans messed up, in which case I don’t have to get emotionally attached to these characters, or they are not, in which case I will lose all the adventures and developments I am emotionally attached to.

  • Laird

    Natalie, that’s precisely why I dislike “time travel”, “alternate universe”, etc., story lines. I did enjoy the movie (I thought the pace, action, humor, etc., were good, as noted by Johnathan, and the actors generally did a good job of “channelling” the mannerisms of the actors who portrayed their later selves in the TV series), but I was really expecting them to somehow resolve the paradoxes and set the timeline right by the end of the movie. Instead, we’re left with a universe in which both Vulcan and Romulus have been destroyed, prior to the events of the seminal series. Not good. Not good at all. I really think they could have come up with a better vehicle with which to explore the early lives of all those characters we fans have come to know and love.

    And I agree that the Kirk character was excessively and unnecessarily “jerk-y” throughout most of the movie. I did think the actor did a good job of portraying the role he was given, though.

  • Ian B

    The whole point of the timeline changes was to get rid of the great edifice of “canon” to give the new writers some freedom to breathe. Prequels are dull; you know what happened to everybody afterwards. You can’t put anybody in jeopardy, because you know they lived for many more decades. Prequels may be of interest to hardcore fans who like “factoid collecting” but are little use to writers who want to paint a new canvas. The old stories are still “there” in the Prime Universe, but the new universe is deliberately a tabula rasa.

    This is a universe where they can blow up Vulcan, or kill of a character, and it won’t get “fixed”. The whole point of this movie was that there was no reset button. Now we can set off on a whole new set of adventures with these characters, with no idea what will happen to them in the future.

    Laird: Romulus hasn’t been destroyed in this universe. It may get destroyed in this universe’s 24th century (though presumably this time they’ll be forewarned about the superdupernova).

  • Subotai Bahadur

    The strange things that one’s choice of movies turn on. My original thought was that I was not going to go see it. Keep in mind that I am somewhat of a Trek-ker [not a Trekkie which is a far stranger thing] and have been since I watched the Original Series as a teen. I did not care for Zachary Quinto [young Spock] because of his role in Heroes. I decided to see it because the cast, crew, etc. took the film to our forces deployed in the Middle East for a series of early special premieres for the troops, and the cast and crew spent their time interacting with military people; which is heresy for most of Hollywood which hates the country and the armed forces.

    As for the film itself, I was not pleased to see the canonical history of the Star Trek universe FUBAR-ed completely. And to be honest I agree with David above. How the freep did Kirk get anywhere near Starfleet Academy other than as a tourist, let alone being appointed first officer over the heads of commissioned officers? Further, the relationship between Uhuru and Spock reminds me more of courtier manipulations rather than a professional paramilitary organization patterned on a navy. What kind of EU/UN corruptocrat brave new world is this?

    The sequel is already in production. I will watch to see if the timeline is somehow restored before spending my money on it. That said, as a fantasy movie, it was not bad, but it was jarring to the fan base.

    Subotai Bahadur

  • Kevin B

    I haven’t seen the film, (and won’t till it comes on TV), but I suppose resetting the Trek Universe and starting a whole new series with the same characters undergoing different adventures makes some sort of sense. I mean, they can use the same starship designs, (and maybe even models), and everyone knows what a phaser is.

    But if the producers want to make space operas, I can think of a few series that might be more ground-breaking without leaving the non Sci Fi public behind.

    Weber’s Honorverse, for instance, has lots of space battles as well as plenty of contrasting social models or, if you want nasty aliens, there’s always Ringo’s Aldenata series.

    Instead we get Star Trek the reboot.

    Oh well.

  • Kevin B

    Oh, and Angelina Jolie was born to play Honor Harrington.

  • Kevin B, might be fun to make a movie of Ringo and Kratman’s “Watch on the Rhine” and watch the bleeding hearts’ heads explode.

  • Nuke Gray!

    Another quibble- How could original-Spock actually see Vulco/his home planet get destroyed? Isn’t he in another star system? Even if he’s still in the same system, but on an outer planet, you wouldn’t see anything, just like you wouldn’t see Mars or Venus being destroyed from Earth.
    And what was Nero doing for twentyfive Earth years? Would his supplies hold out that long, on a mining ship? How come they don’t look old?

  • Star Trek

    JJ Abrams was obviously going to pay attention to the graphics, but there was too much attention on the wrong things while paying too little attention to what really matters. When the viewer first sees San Francisco, where Star Fleet is located, it just looks bad… it looks like a really poor model. When the shuttle crafts are talking off, I was looking for the wires holding the prop up. Seriously, the special effects from Blade Runner – all of 26 years old – looks better than some of the crap in this movie. And, really, does everything need to be filmed in a Blue filter and have constant lens flares? And what about the green alien Kirk was making out with? Was the actress dipped in green food coloring?

  • Star Trek

    I went to see Star Trek, and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting all that much. I grew up watching Star Trek with my dad and two brothers, so nostalgia and some good popcorn was all I was shooting for. But to my surprise, I absolutely loved this film. There’s just something so compelling when a character in a story undergoes a complete transformation. James Kirk was a young guy with a history of loss, and now he was creating a future of failure. He had decided that living for himself was his best bet.

  • “Star Trek”, the green alien chick was a joke for the fans. A sultry Orion slave girl appears in the original pilot show “The Cage”, later re-used in “The Menagerie”. Human males, particularly Kirk, cannot resist them, apparently.

  • Nuke Gray!

    Natalie, why would we want to resist them?

  • Eric

    I’ll probably see this when the it hits the bargain DVD bin, just to see what they did with it. But Kevin B is spot on. Ye Gods, instead of doing yet another remake of a classic from the ’60s or ’70s, why don’t they pick a good yarn from the bookstore and bring it to the screen?

    I realize they expect the nostalgia factor to boost attendance by some percent (no doubt calculated to the second fractional digit), but I can’t be the only one out there who is bone weary of remakes, even if you call them “reboots”. I might actually go to the theater for something that didn’t look like a retread.

  • Ian B

    Why reboot it?

    Why relaunch any product? If your line of biscuits is considered old fashioned and sales are dwindling, should you just throw in the towel and make way for new biscuits, or would you have a go at reinvigorating the brand? I think most producers would at least consider a relaunch of their biscuits if they thought there were a chance of success.

  • If your line of biscuits is the only (or one of the most profitable) thing(s) you make, then sure. If you make hundreds of lines of snack food, however, then you’ll be happy to replace one of your flagging brands of biscuits with someting else if that something else seems likely to be more popular. That was, indeed, the point I understood Eric to be making when he wrote “I can’t be the only one out there who is bone weary of remakes, even if you call them ‘reboots.'” Implication being that these stories from the bookshelf would be a better investment. Resouces must be allocated, after all. Of course, the fact that Star Trek is selling quite well sort of answers the empirical question about whether it was a good investment…

  • Subotai Bahadur

    Moving to something more basic than the Trek universe, I will go into curmudgeon mode. One of the signs of a culture’s decadence is the inability to produce new, memorable art and a tendency to either endlessly rework the products of the past, or to deliberately produce shock for shock’s sake. In my lifetime [I am approaching 60] I remember far more innovation and change in movies, in art, in TV [my life encompasses the widespread popularity of TV] and to a lesser extent in writing up until say the 1970’s than today.

    It is as if there is a fear of producing anything new. I posit both a risk aversion [as the entertainment media forms into larger and larger conglomerates, the corporate mind wants only to bet on sure things] and perhaps a changed cultural mindset. From about the 1970’s here, we shifted to a more socialist, statist model of the relationship between the individual and the government. This mirrored the rise of the generation of 1960’s protesters to positions of authority. They believe in both the perfectability mankind if only the right people [themselves] are in charge, and in the Marxist dream.

    Their utopia can only come about in a statist and static environment that holds still enough for them to plan it. Innovation is the enemy because it cannot be accounted for in the 5-Year Plan. Right now, in any field; economics, technology, energy there is immediate opposition to anything that would change the status quo no matter how disasterous that status quo is. That opposition, however it expresses itself, has an almost religious undertone [I say almost, because worship of either Mother Gaia or the State are the only two dispensations allowed and tolerance for any other higher power is to be opposed] that seems immune to facts or logic. Indeed, “modernism” as espoused by the Left avers that “facts” are mere constructs that can be disregarded to create a new reality.

    In short, the inability to do more than endlessly re-make stories already told is a sign of something far deeper…. and darker.

    /curmudgeon mode

    On a better note, Angelina Jolie as Honor Harrington? I realize that “Nimitz” would be a CGI effect, but if a human male could audition, the competition would be brutal.

    Subotai Bahadur

  • Kevin B

    Subotai, I’m not quite as curmudgeonly as you, though a little bit older. Hollywood has always produced an endless diet of remakes with the occasional innovation thrown in.

    In my youth it was Westerns, War movies, War movies, Westerns and Musicals. It’s only looking back and cherry-picking the highlights that give rise to the ‘Golden Age’ tag.

    Having said that, Hollywood produces very little that I find memorable these days, and I recognise much of what you say about decadence.

    Nowadays, probably the most innovative art takes place in the games genre.

    Mike Borgelt, I can think of quite a few Ringo stories that would cause a few leftist heads to explode. The Kildar stories for a start, then the kicking John gives to government in general, democrats in particular and, most memorably, the thinly disguised President Hilary in The Last Centurion.

    I’m glad to see that the Panzergrenadiers make a re-appearance in Eye of the storm.

  • I remember far more innovation and change in movies, in art, in TV [my life encompasses the widespread popularity of TV] and to a lesser extent in writing up until say the 1970’s than today.

    I’ve heard this complaint before, and while I don’t necessarily have any particular objection for most media, I have to disagree about TV. TV has gotten constantly better since it went mainstream (I’m dating from, say, 1957, to pick an arbitrary but not obviously inaccurate number) – not just in special effects, production values and acting talent – but in general story and thematic structure as well. Perry Mason was good, but Buffy the Vampire Slayer was great. UK and Australian viewers will have to weigh in with their own experiences of course. My (limited – but I’m not completely ignorant) knowledge of UK TV suggests that what I’ve just said might not be true for the UK, as there were already plenty of high-quality shows there by the late 1970s (although the production values generally sucked donkey balls until the 80s).

  • Laird

    Subotai, you’re getting entirely too serious for this thread. We’re dealing with important ephemera here.

    Re the green alien girl, she also made an appearance in the movie “Free Enterprise” (any Star Trek [or, for that matter, SF fan] who hasn’t seen it, shame on you!).

    Ian B, I stand corrected.

  • Ian B

    I’ve just got back from seeing it for a second time.

    It’s definitely a brilliant movie.

  • rollory

    “It’s definitely a brilliant movie.”

    Brilliantly stupid, yes.

    BTW, to the OP – the author of the Wrong Questions blog is a woman.

  • John Thacker

    it was wildly improbable that a starship would have employed him as a commander at that point.

    It’s wildly improbable that all the top officers go on every away team, and that the one trained Marine on each mission is the one to die, for that matter, but the original series always used that.

  • veryretired

    I think it’s fascinating for anyone to go to a movie devoted to a completely fantasy universe and then complain that it wasn’t realistic.

    Hollywood endlessly remakes old stories because the truly creative and innovative is threatening to the utterly mediocre mentalities responsible for the writing and producing of most projects. The Cohens are a notable exception, among a few others.

    I’m waiting for someone with the guts and creative energy to make a true adaptation of the “Startide Rising” series, or “Ender’s Game”. I won’t hold my breath, though.

  • I think it’s fascinating for anyone to go to a movie devoted to a completely fantasy universe and then complain that it wasn’t realistic

    Then I think you miss what is being discussed. Fiction only works if humans and their institutions are plausible within the context they are set and so can be rightly judged in than context.

    People act like people as we understand them more plausibly in BSG or Firefly or B5 than Star Trek and the fact they are in a fictional setting does not mean it is immune to critical analysis.

  • Ian B

    I think the new Trek is every bit as plausible- more plausible probably- than B5, which I loved. I also loved BSG right up until the last half of the last season, where it disappeared around the U-Bend of that awful final episode. Was it plausible? Well, it was acted in a stylistic “realistic” manner (which is not of course realistic at all) but, for instance, the boneheaded “we are not interested in this because the writers don’t want to discuss it” behavour was frequently ridiculous and maddening.

    This is a new type of Star Trek. The original series (which I love) was a 60s adventure show with a heroic lead. The TNG era series were watchable, well, TNG and DS9 anyway, but mired in Roddeberry’s simplistic utopian liberalism which, in the gap between TOS and TNG his lionisation on the convention circuit had convinced him that Star Trek was about.

    The new one is different again. Roddenbery’s cash-free economy and social fascism seem to have been quietly expunged, for a start. And the character have been somewhat reimagined for an audience nearly half a century later. TOS Kirk was a romantic lead in his interactions with women- watch his slimy courtship of the mad actress in The Conscience Of The King and squirm. People don’t act that way any more, so a Kirk with an eye for the ladies was obviously going to act in a more modern manner- that’s modern as in more forward and laddish and acknowledging that people do have sex when the camera cuts away with oboes and violins blaring, and thank heavens it’s not the TNG era’s “sex” so soaked in politically correct caution and embarrassment that it made one’s teeth jangle. Are TNG Risa episodes the most awkward depictions of sexuality ever in any media? Quite possibly so.

    I really am enthused by this new incarnation of Trek. It’s lively, it’s fun, it’s all the excitement of TOS for the modern day. Pine’s new Kirk is every bit the man who’d pilot a crippled starship into the maw of the Doomsday Machine, and this time around they can make things like that look a bit better than a model kit with cigarette lighter burns, and a papier mache windsock.

  • Nuke Gray!

    As for complaints about recycling- everyone does that! Romeo and Juliet was a reworking of a familiar theme, and shakespear touched it up. What else is The Lord Of The Rings but a good rehashing of various horror themes? (Vampires, goblins, the diminutive hero in a world of goliaths) And all of the lasting stories have the basic theme of good overcoming Evil, however these are defined in the book. Originality is a spice added to a familiar story.

  • Nuke Gray!

    And what’s with the ‘light-speed’ engines? The old Enterprise used to go around blithely ignoring the speed of light, with warp-factor thrown in for minimum plausability. Now they’re throwing in Star Wars engines! Why not just have them apporting, appearing in a star system where required?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    It’s a story of a directionless child-man with the seeds of greatness within him becoming the man and those seeds blossoming, kind of thing. Captain Pike sees the potential and goads him into joining Starfleet and develops it.

    up to a point you are right; but it still does not quite come off as very credible. A young man as obnoxious as this, who did what he did to some of his colleagues, would have a very hard time getting to first stage on any officer training programme. So I don’t think I am missing the point, in fact.

    The review I link to is far harsher in its treatment of the Kirk character than I would be and generally speaking, this was a splendid movie and I hope they make another one.

    By the way, Ian, I haven’t seen the final episode of Battlestar G., I am wary of doing so since it would spoil my enjoyment. I am told the final episode is a joke.

  • Ian B

    The last episode of BSG is like a detective novel in which the macguffin is that the pistol used as a murder weapon was inside a locked room, and you’ve spent the whole novel trying to figure out how it got there, and in the last chapter you’re told “God put it there”. Except this novel was spread out in chapters over four years.

  • Paul Marks

    The person who said that the last episode of BSG seemed to have been “written by the unibomber” was correct.

    Of course to prove (yet again) my paranoia – I suspect that it links in to General Electric (the owner of NBC and Universal) and their “green agenda” – i.e. the agenda of dead Jeff I. to get yet bigger subsidies from the government.

    The documentary evidence that the J.I. has ordered his minions to plug the green agenda is available.

    Of course, being Hollywood script writers, the writers of BSG might have done it anyway.