It turns out I don’t really have a lot to review for you this week. My weekend, which was going to be spent obtaining and playing some new games for you all, was instead taken up by Enosh, who had a birthday late last week. To celebrate, I took him back to Arcade Legacy in Cincinnati, by which I mean he drove me there and then paid for his own ticket. Because I’m a good friend!
I guess I could have reviewed one of the games I played while there, but the only game I really remember was a Japanese fighting game, where I faced off against Enosh in a bloody brawl, him commanding the raw might of a hideously pill shaped Sasquatch, and me taking the left side of the screen as Little Red Riding Hood, which was the most humiliating character I could find. I whipped Enosh in hand to hand combat with my plucky, sparkly magic powers. YEAAH.
But since that game was entirely in Japanese so I have no idea what it was called, today I spent the day watching the newer, updated Star Trek on Netflicks to see what its deal is.
I was never much of a Trekkie myself, growing up. I have some spotted memories about the old TV show, mostly from when I was flicking through the channels in search for cartoons. I remember this guy in a red shirt with a visor over his eyes for some reason opening a closet and finding bodies (omg omg) and a few scenes of mildly overweight people sitting around in pseudo-seventies era chairs and talking about photons. The height of my Star Trek knowledge comes from an incident that happened back in middle school (I think) where I went to go see a Star Trek movie along with Elrood and his family.
I’m not really sure how this came about. I’m about as into Star Trek now as I was back then, which is to say more than slightly mystified by it, and easily bored by it. I always saw Star Trek as an ancient sci-fi TV show that used endless space age technical jargon to keep down the cost of producing a sci-fi drama down. But to be fair, I never actually sat down to watch a whole episode of Star Trek. Not once.
Anyway, I don’t remember the name of the movie Elrood took me to. It chronicled the adventures of Captain Bald, who was cruising around the galaxy with an emotionless robot named Data or something like that. They were attacked by different robots, who were all like “we want you to be robots like us,” and Captain Bald was all “No way, homes, I’m a human, kinda.” So they kidnapped Data, grafted skin to him, and then the different robot queen activated his emotion gland, which I didn’t know was an actual thing robots can have, and made out with him for a while.
Oh, and I know at some point someone has to shout KHAAAAAAAN for a reason that was never totally explained to me.
That’s about all I really know about Star Trek. I remember hearing some controversy a couple of years back when it was announced that they’d be remaking the franchise in a way that “appeals to a younger generation,” and then promptly lost interest since Star Trek’s not the kind of thing that interested me in the past. Generally, as a rule, I stay away from films that completely reboot long-standing franchises. I’d much rather see movie developers let franchises die and try something unique instead of trying to convince us that the last 40 years of adventures never happened. I’m looking at you, James Bond.
But I was starting on a blank slate with Star Trek anyway! So I booted it up and watched as director JJ Abrams walked a fine line between pissing on four decades of good memories for dedicated fans while playing lip service to the longtime Trekkies to reassure them that everything is gonna be okay.
The movie starts out on Stardate… uh… something something. The USS Kelvin is floatin’ around space, doing what it is that Star Trek type disc ships do in their spare time. The crew comes across this swirly space thunder storm, which is pretty confusing to everyone, what with the total lack of atmosphere in space. Suddenly, something big and nasty comes through a big ol’ rip in space and starts shooting spiky torpedoes left and right. To make a long story short, the ship’s captain gets abducted, a whole buncha people get blown up, and a pregnant woman gets booted off the ship while the baby’s daddy, a reliable young man by the name of Kirk, goes all Independence Day on the attackers.
Fast forward a few years, and whoa! Kirk and Spock are children! Spock’s learning some things with the help of some kind of tutoring alcove or something, and Kirk has committed grand theft auto. Then we jump ahead again, and some more character development happens. That’s about the time when Kirk decides to enlist with Star Fleet.
A LEGEND IS BORN.
Or, you know, that’s what the movie seems to be telling me. I could tell by the dramatic pauses in dialogue, when Kirk meets up with a down and out degenerate by the name of McCoy (played by Karl Urban), or by the way the music seemed about to leap up out of the movie and start carving statues of the main character out of solid motherfuggin’ GRANITE.
Spock and Kirk both have their characters redone for this update. While Kirk, played by Chris Pine is an aimless rebel, drifting through his academy years with equal parts insolence and insubordination, Spock (played by Zachary Quinto) is a serious, arrogant tattletale who can’t take a well placed “yo mama” joke. The supporting cast isn’t quite as important. There’s Uhura, played by Zoë Saldana, who acts as the film’s obligatory hot chick/major character love interest, Anton Yelchin as the hilariously accented Chekov,
Harold John Cho, who acts as the unfortunately under trained Sulu, and Simon Pegg, as Scotty, who seemed just randomly added in at the last minute.
The supporting cast works well together when they are given lines, add humor to a movie that’s on the verge of taking itself too seriously, and make it seem like Kirk and Spock aren’t completely alone. Which, to all intents and purposes, they are. Who’s inevitably going to get recruited for the awful, 100 percent fatality rate missions? Kirk and his no-nonsense, I’m gonna get the job done attitude! Who’s there if you need someone to provide conflict among the cast? Why, the anal retentive Spock, of course, with his arrogant, blank slate poker face!
On with the plot! Things are going mediocre for the lucky few to eventually be recruited to the crew of the USS Enterprise, when suddenly a routine, official eff you to Kirk from Star Command is interrupted by a distress call from planet Vulcan, which is apparently under grips of a HORRIBLE NATURAL DISASTER. But hey, relief efforts are awfully boring, so Star Fleet sends out the almost disturbingly ill-equipped recruits to handle it. Kirk, of course, sees a bigger threat. ALIENS.
Yeah, this isn’t too much of a spoiler. How lame would it be if the cadets arrived on Vulcan and then spent the last hour and a half of the movie distributing food and blankets to refugees? Turns out the aliens in this case are Romulans, led by the evil, ruthless, and tattooed face of Eric Bana. I mean, Nero.
What happens next? Well, you’ll just have to watch the rest of the movie, dear reader. I found the rest of the plot to be rather, I dunno, throw-a-way, used more for a vehicle to tie the new movie back into the old franchise in a way that won’t result in an aggressive letter writing campaign on JJ Abram’s house.
So how do you reboot one of the longest running franchises in American television and cinema without completely forgetting the hundreds of episodes and movies that came first? Why, time travel, of course! Start spouting out phrases like “alternate realities” and “fragmented timelines” without questioning them too much, and of course, by sprinkling in a liberal helping of Leonard Nemoy.
At this point, I feel like the development team hit a wall. “Is that enough?” Abrams asked, nervously staring at the crowd of men and women wearing Vulcan ears, all giving him the “live long and prosper” hand salute from the window of his penthouse apartment. “Oh god, what if that’s not enough?”
So the development team quickly decided that they can fall back on other sci-fi tropes for the rest of the movie. Hence, we get a pretty random scene where Kirk makes out with a underwear-wearing green chick, and then Zoë Saldana strips down to her underwear for some reason. Random explosions and scenes of Simon Pegg in tubes rule the rest of the film.
The other point that was never addressed: Why did they only send cadets to Vulcan? There was a 50 percent chance that “natural disaster,” which was somehow blocking all communications, was going to be something raw recruits couldn’t handle. You’d think they would have sent off at least ONE ship full of seasoned space pilots. But, from the way they were talking, the Enterprise was pretty much the top of the heap, and hell
Harold Sulu forgot how to go into warp drive for God sake.
Anyway, this movie was halfway decent. If we actually did movie ratings here at Faceplant, Star Trek would fall somewhere in the middle of the scale. Honestly, though, what hurt the film the most was the past lives of the actors involved. I couldn’t listen to Simon Pegg’s snarking as Scotty without imagining him chucking records at zombies, I couldn’t watch John Cho sword fighting without wondering if he had ridden a cheetah to the set of the movie that day, and I couldn’t watch Leonard Nemoy without remembering… Oh god.
Okay, that’s simultaneously the best and worst thing I’ve posted on Faceplant, and I really hate Star Trek for making me remember that this exists at all. Anyway, I know it’s wrong to dredge up an actor’s career… part of watching films on the silver screen is using our imaginations. These people aren’t actors, they’re REALLY the people they say they are! This is happening, right now, totally.
But God help me, I have a hard time differentiating between an actor’s past and current careers. I’m just glad William Shatner himself isn’t present in this film. I don’t think I’ve ever taken that man seriously, but all chance of it was destroyed after his 1978 rendition of Rocket Man.
Filed under: Movies Tagged: | aliens, Anton Yelchin, Chekov, Chris Pine, Eric Bana, explosions, green chick, JJ Abrams, John Cho, Kirk, Leonard Nemoy, Nero, Rocket Man, Romulans, sci-fi, sci-fi tropes, Scotty, Simon Pegg, Spock, Star Trek, Sulu, sword fighting, Uhura, Vulcan cosplay, William Shatner, Zachary Quinto, Zoë Saldana