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Star Trek: Rebooted, Reimagined, and Really Better Than I Expected

I just got back from seeing Star Trek. I have to admit, it was much, much, much better than I expected. JJ Abrams reimagined without destroying what had come before. And while he could likely helm a sequel with success, he needs to backoff after that. Alias and Lost have shown us what can happen when he stays involved with a franchise for too long.

My knowledge of the original Star Trek is limited, so it was not immediately clear to me that James Tiberius Kirk's past had been dramatically altered. At some point, it hit me that Kirk had a brother that was now non-existent. Vulcan was destroyed. Spock's mother killed. I knew this was not part of Trek's history. My assumption was, given the plot involved time travel, that a reset would take place and the movie would realign with the canon we know. It was not to be the case.

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the reset, so to speak. It's odd to think forty years of history has just been obliterated. On the other hand, the more I think about it, what I invested so much time in did happen, it just may not happen again. If I recall correctly, it's Uhura who mentions an alternate reality and I suppose that is what we are seeing here. It's not a bad thing or a good thing, but JJ's "What if?" realized with studio backing and put on the big screen.

The characters haven't really been altered. The Spock/Uhura relationship surprised me, though Spock's comment to her about not assigning her to Enterprise because he didn't wish to show favoritism made me suspicious that we were missing something. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the relationship, but I was immensely relieved we avoided a Kirk/Uhura hook up.

The film was well cast and the next generation of actors ranged from good to excellent in their roles. Chris Pine didn't dominate the screen as one might think considering, in some respects, he is the star of the movie. Mercifully, he doesn't chew scenery as his predecessor had a habit of doing. Zachery Quinto had the toughest role to assume - a largely emotionless character and arguably the fan favorite of the original series. Add to this, he had to act opposite the man who created the role. He's no Leonard Nimoy (who, along with Bruce Greenwood as Captain Pike, added maturity, dignity, and gravitas to the film), but no one is jumping to mind as being better suited for the role. Karl Urban I felt at times tried too hard to imitate DeForest Kelley and thus I was more aware of that then his performance. Anton Yelchin, John Cho, and Zoe Saldana had more leeway in creating their roles since Checkov, Sulu, and Uhura were supporting and less defined character over the course of the TV series and films. (And I loved they were smart and full of initiative rather than mere button pushers.) Simon Pegg as Scotty I felt was the best bit of casting. In a smaller role he was able to quickly establish who the character is and remind us of the Scotty we knew, yet it never felt as if he was trying to copy James Doohan's performance.

As for the rest of the cast of characters, I didn't realize until the credits were rolling that Rachel F***ing Nichols was Uhura's roommate. The lack of acting ability should have been the tipoff. What happened to Winona Ryder's career? I like Eric Bana, but he didn't do anything extraordinary here. And Nero's motivation for destroying Vulcan, Earth, the Federation, and billions of lives seemed rather weak. Spock and the rest of the Vulcans were doing everything they could to try and save Romulus, but the sun went supernova before Spock could get there in time. Jennifer Morrison (Kirk's mother) can really act! She had better material in a few minutes than in the last two seasons on House.

My complaints about the film are relatively mild. Little Jimmy Kirk stealing the car and nearly killing himself was extreme and unnecessary, imho. At times, some of the humor felt forced rather than organic to the story. And, I swear, JJ was trying to pay homage to Rambaldi with the Giant Red Ball of Doom. My mouth fell open when I saw that thing. It looked ridiculous on Alias and looked about the same here.

Finally, I don't care if he just saved Earth and the Federation, no one goes from Starfleet cadet to captain in the spam of a day or two.
  • Current Mood: impressed impressed
I pretty much agree with you exactly. For me one of the best bits of the film was slowly realising (because like you I have very generic Original Trek knowledge) that this was an alternate reality and then the amazement that they didn't simply hit the reset button at the end. It doesn't irk me because as you say, it all still happened, and for all we know, given Trek science, is still out there somewhere in an alternate universe.

I think I would reverse your comments about Scotty and McCoy a little in that I loved Karl Urban's performance and found Simon Pegg's a little more forced, but I admit that might be because several of the places where I found the humour forced were comments from him so that may have adversely affected my overall opinion. Plus the problem I have of seeing him and just seeing Simon Pegg no matter what he's doing.

I think that the Spock/Uhura relationship was something of a masterstroke specifically because it forcefully negated Kirk/Uhura which made it far easier not to be permanently irked at Kirk.

I do agree about Young Kirk's unnecessarily crazy stunt at the start. Really, it didn't have to be that dramatic, as well as the end where he continues to be the Captain. I can handwave it because I enjoyed the movie and because a) Star Fleet is still in its very early stages and b) they lost a hell of a lot of ships at Vulcan/apparently a lot more were engaged in a conflict elsewhere or they wouldn't have been drafting the cadets anyway, but it's still pretty ludicrous.

I completely agree about the dignity and gravitas added by Bruce Greenwood and Lenoard Nimoy. Old Spock was just fantastic.

As to Nero, I didn't have a specific problem with his motivations but I definitely agree that they were uninteresting and given an extra five minutes of focus on the character - instead of, say, Young Kirk stealing that car - he could have gone from a servicable villain to an actual interesting and good one. As it is, his methods of planetary destruction were creepy and menacing and awesome but as an actual character, I didn't really care one way or the other.

A friend who read the prequel comic books said that they deal with Nero's history and Old Spock trying to save the planet. I don't remember all the details but apparently it's quite epic with Nero starting off as a "good guy" and Spock promising to save Romulus but then, in the wake of that promise, finding Vulcan unable and unwilling to render aid. I think that the reason Spock was too late flying into the supernova was due to the delays caused by general refusal to believe in/help Romulus from the wider galaxy and also along the way at some point Nero becomes convinced that Spock betrayed him or somesuch.

Which is pretty annoying because, seriously, five minutes could have explained that and made us much more interested in the character. Most people aren't going to want to read the comic book.
and for all we know, given Trek science, is still out there somewhere in an alternate universe.

Yes, and given the seemingly wonky science they presented with the creation of the black holes, who is to say that Nero and Spock didn't just travel through time and space, but to some parallel dimension as well. Which could open the possibility of another TV series or movie series being created using the established timeline.

While I know who Simon Pegg is, he's not one of those actors who I strongly identify with either as an actor or as another character. Paul McGillion who played Carson Beckett on Stargate: Atlantis supposedly tried out for the role of Scotty and that would have been incredibly distracting had he been cast. He did get a much smaller part as the guy who told Kirk he wasn't assigned to a ship.

I'm really pleased that in various realities Uhura has the good sense not to get involved with Kirk. ;)

We discussed the ludicrousness of Kirk becoming captain. Even with the loss of ships and officers, there had to be people in line waiting for promotion, like Commander Spock.

Nero didn't leave any sort of impression on me which is disappointing because I like Eric Bana and feel he's deserving of a breakthrough role and he probably thought this might be it and...not.

I don't remember all the details but apparently it's quite epic with Nero starting off as a "good guy" and Spock promising to save Romulus but then, in the wake of that promise, finding Vulcan unable and unwilling to render aid. I think that the reason Spock was too late flying into the supernova was due to the delays caused by general refusal to believe in/help Romulus from the wider galaxy and also along the way at some point Nero becomes convinced that Spock betrayed him or somesuch.

Why, oh, WHY was this not in the film? It would not only explain Nero's anger at ALL Vulcans, but Spock's feelings of failure. As it played out on screen, it seemed as if Romulous was destroyed merely because Spock was running late! (And why didn't the Romulans evacuate the planet when they learned it was in imminent danger? Wouldn't they have had warning about the sun going supernova?)
There are actually a series of comics that link the established canon (ie post star trek nemesis) with this film. It explains more about what happened in the future and why Nero is a tad peeved. The Vulcans were actually dragging their feet and not wanting to give the Romulans red matter which is why Spock was too late. It took the actions of Spock and star fleet to get things going. This was not made evident in the film though.
beccatoria shared the same information as you have and that plot point really needed to be in the film. Now I understand Nero's anger at ALL Vulcans. As it is, it looks like Nero is pissed because Spock was running late.
I think the fact that Old Spock continues to exist means that while these new movies are in an alternate timeline (something very much a part of Trek lore), that the original series timeline continues to exist. And it does - since we can still go and watch it on DVD! That's the genius of this film - it respects canon and departs from it in very real terms.
It occurred to me that Spock may not have just traveled through time and space, but also to a parallel universe. Which means we can have more films in the new timeline, but the potential exists to still have films or TV series based on the old timeline.
i hated it... :(

okay, 'hate' might be too strong a word, because there were small moments here and there that had me chuckling (simon pegg, overall, and specifically his reference to admiral archer's beagle, as i'm quite fond of enterprise), but overall i just wanted to bang my head against the wall and/or curl up in a ball and cry. not because it literally destroyed, well, THE ST UNIVERSE, for that i could have taken, but because the plot made absolutely no sense, neither did the characters' motivations/actions, and the science was so effed up it went well beyond improbable, past impossible and headed head-first into downright embarrassing.

the 'alternate universe' thing felt like a cop-out to me. it was like they wanted to blow shit up, lots of shit, and then not bother with the consequences of that, plot-wise, or canon-wise, so they used the age-old lazy excuse of 'alternate universe'. they could have done admirably and stayed within canon as we know it had they cared to do so. only, they didn't.

and... winona ryder? WTF was THAT all about?!?
erm... posted the comment and then i realized that damn, am glad you liked it, even if i didn't, and it isn't nice of me to go rain on ppl's parades. :) i'd delete it but you're probably getting them by e-mail.
No worries. :) I always enjoy reading other POVs. And while I've enjoyed 'Trek' over the years and have a reasonable knowledge of it's history, I've never been invested in it like 'Buffy' or BSG.
I'm sorry you hated it. I think my opinion is so positive because I feared it was going to be bad. beccatoria and I chatted about the film yesterday afternoon and we were both much more critical in our chat than in our reviews because, as we talked, we came to realize there were lapses in logic we didn't see right away. Because the science is so wonky (even I know black holes don't work that way) it allows me to believe that Spock didn't just travel through time and space, but to an alternate reality as well. These characters are the characters we know, yet also not the characters we know. Too bad Kirk couldn't be less of a womanizing ass in this version. Or, better yet, come out of the closet. ;p

Did you read beccatoria and onlyoot's synopsis of the comic book tie in above? Nero's motivations and actions make a lot more sense to me now. I wish they had included that backstory as opposed to some of the unnecessary stuff involving Kirk.

The Winona Ryder thing was weird. Did her shoplifting arrest hurt her career that much? And why not hire an older actress rather than aging her with makeup?
what i think bothered me most was the fact that it seemed really easy to write it all off as 'alternate universe' to justify the major changes in the characters and/or plot. to me it read like fanfiction, where the writer uses AU to justify writing out of character and ignoring canon because it doesn't fit with what s/he wants to do. it was lazy, as far as i'm concerned.

well, maybe winona really really wanted to be in the movie. maybe she's a huge fan of TOS. :) or maybe there were more scenes of her and young spock that were cut, which would partially justify having her play amanda as opposed to an older actress. :)
They did cut scenes of Spock's backstory from the film, including his birth, when they would have needed a younger actress.

The AU thing didn't bother me as it avoids whining about canon, which would be damn annoying. And I say this as a formerly huge ST fan. As for the science... when has Trek EVER been realistic, lol!

Anyway, you're obviously free to hate it, but objecting to it on a scientific basis just strikes me as funny.
Thanks for the information about the cut scenes. Her casting makes much more sense now. I should have considered the possibility since the same thing happened on BSG. ;p

I loved it, so much so that I'm going to see it again this week.

I rolled my eyes at the big red sphere - typical JJ!

Chekov was my favourite - so adorable and I hope we get to see more of him next time. But I liked all the characters, though Nero was a bit underdeveloped really.

But yeah, just a whole load of fun.
I saw 'Star Trek' again this past weekend. :) And then I came home and read Spock/Kirk fic. Damn you JJ!