Review: Star Trek

This post is more than 2 years old.

Before I get into my thoughts about the Star Trek reboot, let me be clear. Any and all spoilers will be marked as such, and will be at the end of the blog entry. So if you just want to know what I thought, you can read the blog entry up until the warning block and turn away. As for comments, I say anything goes.

So, folks know I'm somewhat of a Star Wars nut (the whole cfjedimaster, the tats, etc), but I am a fan of Stat Trek as well. I've watched pretty much all the episodes that ever aired (except for Voyager, back when it was on air it was a busy time in my life, but I have every intention of watching them one day) and have seen all the movies. The quality is not always there. I think any Star Trek fan can attest to that. Shoot, I know there are Star Trek films I can't even describe because they are so forgettable.

But as a whole, the mythos, the story at large, is darn good. I love the rich history. (I know a lot of people didn't like Enterprise, but I'll always have a great appreciation for the depth it gave to the early Human/Vulcan relationship.) I love the ship designs. (I especially like how they warp theory impacts the shape of the ships and can be seen in the all the different cultures designs.) But most of all - I love the feel of Star Trek. Much has been said about the general optimism of the Star Trek universe, and I definitely agree with that. There is something personable, warm, and just generally emotional about Star Trek that I don't get from Star Wars. This is what I wanted from the reboot. I knew the special effects would rock. I knew there would be twists and nods to the past (and there was one in particular that is a great nod to Kahn fans). What I really was worried about was how well the show would capture the feeling of Trek.

In general, the movie succeeds. The characters are dead on. I especially liked Kirk. He is an ass. An overconfident jerk. But you know what - this is precisely how I imagined him as a younger person. The actor (Chrine Pine) nails the role, much like Ewan McGregor nailed Obi-Wan. Ditto for Sylar... err.. sorry, I mean Zachary Quinto, as Spock. We get to see a bit of his upbringing on Vulcan and I thought it was great. Bones was good. Everyone else.. well. They were ok. I don't think they brought much to the characters outside of basic imitation. Chekov was basically a Russian accent joke. Again, they weren't bad, just... nothing new. Although my son (who is South Korean) got real happy when Sulu had a scene kicking ass.

The story itself was pretty good. Very fast packed, full of action. But (mild spoiler) it does involve time travel, and frankly, I feel like Trek falters whenever they introduce characters hopping through time. However, this does give us a logical way to pretend none of the earlier movies ever happened, and frankly, that may be a good thing. It is a bit of a stretch to see so many young people at the helm of a ship. I have a hard time believing that no one over 30 works in Star Fleet. But I'm an old fart so I don't really count.

I liked this movie. It was fun. It had some great nods to the old series (maybe a bit too much), and I'm looking forward to the next film. It's a good beginning, but I hope they can kick it up a bit more in the next edition.

My biggest disappointment though is truly a small thing, but it kind saddened me. The title screen. I know, the title screen/opening credits aren't really that important, but, the fact that the Star Trek theme wasn't used was just kind of... I don't know. Sad. It felt like an essential thing was missing. Maybe this will sound sappy, but I always watched the intros to Star Trek, even when I had them on tape. I always found them uplifting. In the movie, the title screen is about 30 seconds and just plain bland. Again, this is a very minor thing - 30 seconds of a 2 hour movie. But I did feel a bit cheated.

Ok, consider yourself warned. Spoilers are after this.

  1. Am I wrong, or was this the very first time we see a black hole in a Star Trek show? Black holes and bathrooms - they just never show up. But this movie had a bunch of em. Anyone know why black holes were never used?

  2. The bad guys. Ugh. I felt like they were a bunch of bikers. These weren't Romulans. These were... white trash. I don't know. Star Wars pretty much sucked on handling the bad guys as well. The Romulan race are proud, haughty, just rich for material and they were handled so poorly here.

  3. Not even one Klingon? Oh, and Uhuru hears about 47 Klingon ships being destroyed, and that doesn't scare the crap out of the Federation? I mean, think back to the Cold War. If we heard that half the Russian fleet sunk by some mysterious attacked, wouldn't we be a bit concerned?

  4. The bad guys show up at Vulcan, and no one else is there? I get that the Federation fleet was busy. But... um... you send every ship away? You don't keep a few ships around your planet for - well just in case?

  5. The scene with Kirk as a young kid - stealing the car. Perfect. Absolutely perfect. That sold me on the Kirk character in this movie.

  6. One thing I never quite got. Maybe this is talked about in one of the numerous books/comics/or whatever. So in the early 21st century there was a nuclear war. Yet someone how we rebuilt. Look at San Francisco in the movie. It looked beautiful. Was it not nuked? Did we maybe discover some way to clear up radiation that - as far as I know, lasts for thousands and thousands of year? Where are all the scars from the horrible war that almost ended humanity? That could have been a good movie. Start off with the Eugenics Wars (I believe it was called that), reboot Kahn, and skip ahead to the modern time of the Federation.

  7. Kobemashu Maru (yes, I spelled it wrong) was done very well. I loved how it setup the antagonism between Kirk and Spock.

  8. Old Spock. Well... I don't know. As I said, time travel stories tend to not work well for me in the Star Trek universe. I felt like his acting was a bit rushed. And... seriously - he didn't arrive in time to help Romulus? What - no one knew the star was going to supernova? There weren't any astronomers on Romulus? I mean maybe that was implied. Maybe most of the people got off the planet. But it felt like Nero was saying most of the race was killed off. If so, they were a bunch of idiots.

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Archived Comments

Comment 1 by Gary Funk posted on 5/9/2009 at 7:03 AM

Like they say, "Live long and phosphor."

Comment 2 by Scott Stroz posted on 5/9/2009 at 7:03 AM

I plan on seeing this next week. I will admit I am a bit leery. The last JJ Abrams film that everyone raved abot was Cloverfield and quite honestly, I thought it sucked. Not just a little bit of suckage, but gargantuan sized suckage - Ishtar sized suckage.

Comment 3 by Scott P posted on 5/9/2009 at 7:37 AM

Loved it, enjoyed the ride but I sat back and just watched the movie. I tend to base a lot of my judgement on if I think about other stuff during movie and I really didn't in this one. Highly recommend viewing. Good ride - kirk, bones, spoke, and even scotty was perfect. I understand the history but didn't really dig the green chick. That part didn't really work for me.

Zoid - spend the money and go see it

Comment 4 by Dave posted on 5/9/2009 at 8:11 AM

I agreed with evrything you said, good start, could have been a little better but my girl said she would go to the next movie with a lot less grief so I'm saying it's a victory!! Overall a good transition. I was very skeptical at first thinking it was a true pre-TOS story. How suspensful could you make it if everyone MUST survive for the timeline. So they dodged that bullet well and now the sky is the limit, with no obligation to the original timeline. Totally missed what "red matter" was, and also missed the Khan reference so I'm interested to see again. Can't remember a black hole episode either, but they usually called them singularities and must have wanted to stay away from all the relativistic effects!

Comment 5 by Michael Long posted on 5/9/2009 at 8:13 AM

Actually, I thought the Kobayashi Maru sequence kind of sucked. If J.T. is such a genius you'd think that he'd make cheating (excuse me, changing the parameters of the test) just a LITTLE less obvious.

But I totally agree about the intro theme music. That music IS Star Trek.

Comment 6 by Troy Allen posted on 5/9/2009 at 3:46 PM

My son and I absolutely loved it. Great reboot, well casted and acted...really natural and "fun" interactions among the crew. I agree with most of your points, especially about being "meh" about the Romulans.

I loved the little touches, like the fact that Kirk is eating an apple during the Kobayashi Maru sequence -- just like he was when he was DESCRIBING it during ST2 - Kahn. Lots of subtle (the Admiral's Beagle - Captain Archer and Sophos from Enterprise and the drinks that Uhara ordred) to some pretty ham-handed ones that I will not divulge here. Also love how they took the "Red Shirts Die in Away Parties" to the absolute comical extreme -- good stuff.

Count me among those people who are really looking forward to the next one! One final note for discussion: Is it just me, or did anyone else feel like they REALLY overdid the "lens flare" effect throughout the whole movie?

Comment 7 by wolfee posted on 5/9/2009 at 7:42 PM

At least they played the original theme at the end of the movie, so I was glad of that. I was a bit dissappointed too when they didn't play the theme at first, but I don't think it carries the 'drama' they needed to establish up front. Pretty good film but I wish Kirk had been a bit more upstanding character - I mean, the guy was a cheat, a womanizer, a That's not the way I invisioned Kirk over the years.

Comment 8 by PaulH posted on 5/9/2009 at 8:10 PM

i thought the movie was excellent, re-booted the series, cleared up the sequels to do anything they want--very clever. my wife (who couldn't be more opposite of a star trek fan) liked it.

BA has a review, though mostly about the science: http://blogs.discovermagazi...

overall fairly favorable.

Comment 9 by Doug posted on 5/9/2009 at 8:50 PM

What was missing from the music was the fanfares that we had gotten used to from the early movies. Fanfares created by Hollywood greats like James Horner and Jerry Goldsmith. This music was largely forgettable.

Otherwise though, I'll forgive the music since the rest of the movie was so well done.

Comment 10 by Andy Sandefer posted on 5/10/2009 at 8:14 AM

You didn't mention Scotty at all and I thought that he brought just the right amount of comic relief to a point in the story that could have gotten far too intense and nerdlike without him - he truly pulled in all of the casual movie goers with a couple of cheap laughs. Plus they showed him before he became a lardas$!
The opener where Kirk's dad sacrificed himself to save the crew choked me up (I'm a true wuss). It was the performances of Spock and Kirk really sealed the deal for me. I am biased because I'm a huge fan of Sylar on Heroes so I expected a lot from Quinto and he delivered. On a side note I thought that Urban played a middle aged Bones very well and his divorce line was a great little joke.
Finally, when you spoke of the intro were you upset about the lack of official music or the lack of the "space the final frontier..." speech? The reason why they didn't open with the speech is so abundantly clear to me - they closed with it (right before the ending credits rolled) and the reason they did that was to show that the series of events (mainly the teaming of Spock and Kirk) that everyone had just watched was ground zero and that this would be a defining moment in the history of the federation and that the famous speech would become representative of the true mission of the Enterprise - after all it was a brand new ship.
BTW, I'm a huge fan of LOST and some of the other work that Bad Robot has done and as far as movies go this was their best outing. I must agree somewhat with Scott on Cloverfield. I wouldn't say that it sucked but they had a real opportunity during the scene where the military takes in our protagonists where the storytellers could have provided critical exposition which would've drawn members of the audience with IQ's over 90 into the movie. I've heard rumors of sequels to Cloverfield so maybe part 2 will be a redeemer!

Comment 11 by David McGuigan posted on 5/10/2009 at 11:15 AM

As a note, I've never actually seen any Star Trek episodes. Maybe one or two as a kid, but I have no memory of that. I've definitely seen 10 second clips, just long enough to turn the channel, on television sporadically, but nothing memorable other than too-slow-to-keep-my-attention dialogue. Nevertheless, I had some friends that really wanted to see this movie, and it was playing at an IMAX, so I went.

Against all odds, I thought the movie was surprisingly good. Though plagued by horrible, awkward casting ( the 17 year old fingernails-on-chalkboard caliber accent guy, the guy from Shawn of the Dead? WTF!, and a completely arbitrary and trivial appearance by Winona Ryder?, I just felt confused as to why they chose those people, which was distracting ), I think that it was a pretty good movie.

One thing that always sabotages my interest in Star Trek and Star Wars is the set-in-the-future-but-with-the-industrial-design-of-the-early-1980's effect. I just can't take them seriously because all of the effects and style is so old-fashioned looking to me. The ship design made me cringe. The laser pistols made me giggle. The logo broaches made me really wonder why when some of the effects WERE really well done and visually impressive they couldn't have updated their renditions of technology and design to something on par with other contemporary movies.

But! Spock, Kirk, Spock's gf ( can't remember her name ), the captain, Eric Bana, they all owned their roles and it was a very enjoyable movie from the perspective of someone not at all interested or impressed with the original series ( or even very exposed to it ). The two non-geek girls I was with actually like it too, which is saying something.

Comment 12 by Nomad posted on 5/10/2009 at 11:43 AM

the new Star Trek cast did an awesome job emulating the originals as did the script writers -- fun and enjoyment were had by all in my group

Comment 13 by Raymond Camden posted on 5/11/2009 at 1:48 AM

@Andy - Hmm, I guess I can see your logic about the music at the end, but wasn't it more of a remix then a real 'theme'? Just didn't seem to same.

I kinda forgot an important part of my review - what my son thought. He really enjoyed it. Got excited/scared at all the right parts, and asked some followup questions later on. (What other races are there? What was more popular, Star Trek or Star Wars? Etc.) I'm considering watching Kahn with him next.

Comment 14 by Jon Hartmann posted on 5/11/2009 at 3:17 AM

Not to defend the time traveling stuff, or the lack of back-story for the Romulans, but there is a graphic novel that covers the events in the future before Nero's ship gets sent back in time. The basic synopsis is that Spock knew it was going to nova, but couldn't get assistance to help. The comic covers where Nero got his ship, what Red Matter is, and the rest of it. Not to say that that is information that needed to have been covered better in the movie, but might help fill in gaps for those that are confused.

Comment 15 by Michael Brennan-White posted on 5/11/2009 at 4:38 PM


Good luck finding Kahn or any of the movies. They just aren't in the stores though I was happy to see the original episodes are on Hulu.

My kids liked it a lot and I almost had to fight my daughter over her BK kids meal toy of the Enterprise.

I agree about the music and the crew ages but really enjoyed the new Sulu and Scotty though it was hard to watch them and not imagine their other roles.

Was I the only one who had a Jar Jar binks moment with Scotty's little buddy.

Comment 16 by Raymond Camden posted on 5/11/2009 at 5:15 PM

@Michael: I've already got ST 1 and 2 on DVD. ;)

One more note on Sulu... and another thing I forgot to blog. My son _really_ digged his action scene. There aren't many Asian actors out there that my son (who is South Korean) gets exposed to, so that was a really cool thing for him.

Comment 17 by Andy Sandefer posted on 5/11/2009 at 6:00 PM

Jar Jar would've been fine had he not monopolized so much screen time and dialog. At least this little guy didn't speak!

Comment 18 by Thomas Case posted on 5/11/2009 at 6:46 PM

First off, glad to see you cover the movie on your blog. I know you moved most of your Sci-Fi coverage to the forums, but for old-times sake it was good to see the post here.

One of the tidbits you didn't cover, that I thought was great was the Tribbles. I don't know if you actually saw them, but the sound was in the background in the scene when Old-Spock and Kirk first met Scotty and his sidekick.

Another play off the old series was Scotty being beamed inside a container, and some of the other beaming "jokes" in the movie.

Inconsistencies that I found was: (1) Spock and Uhura's relationship, (2) Iowa was too flat (I grew up in Wisconsin and know that Iowa isn't that flat), (3) Iowa is flat, yet has a gorge drop-off?, and (4) I believe in "The Cage" (or was it "The Menagerie") episode that Captain Pike was still captain and in charge of the Enterprise (maybe this is one of those alt-reality deals because of time travel).

As far as characters, I wasn't as impressed as you with Kirk. Young Spock (Silar) impressed me, mainly because he had no trace of his Heroes character present and was totally believable as Spock (excellent acting). I thought the character that played Bones hit it pretty dead-on, almost too much so, and Scotty was definitely the most believable/dead-on. Of course they were able to get Scotty's famous line in towards the end and some of Bone's lines also.

Comment 19 by dh posted on 5/11/2009 at 8:29 PM

*Spoiler included*
Totally agree with point 8--back story felt quite rushed and older Spock's relating of it seemed facile. A major planetary civilization and they don't notice a supernova? And they're only hope is one Vulcan in a little space ship who apparently was late because either a) his timing was a little off, or b) he stopped at the ihop on the way there? And actually I would have expects more from Abrams, considering the intricate and half-filled in mysteries he's woven with Lost, etc. Somehow, he seems resistant to bring that to his movie worked (I've read say as much). Too bad really.

Also, I think the reason black holes don't really show up in the original series per se is that because the science behind them doesn't really support their functioning as time jump portals. For their version of Doraemon's dokodemo door, Star Trek seems to favor the wormhole.

Comment 20 by Raymond Camden posted on 5/11/2009 at 8:32 PM

@dh: Interesting point you have here. I loved Cloverfield, but your right - it is nowhere as complex as Lost. Ditto for ST. Maybe he felt like he couldn't bring the same complexity in the time frame? I don't know, but this is a very good comment DH, so thanks for sharing it. I'm going to keep this in mind next time I see one of his films.

As for black holes and travel, well, every now and then you would have the Enterprise visiting some space doohicky for research. Kinda surprising you never see em visit a blackhole.

Comment 21 by Bill Downs posted on 5/12/2009 at 1:01 AM

I agree - awesome movie, overall.

About the the younglings running Star Fleet, the whole thing seemed like lazy writing to get everyone on the ship immediately. I was half expecting Spock to comment on Kirk metaclorides?

My biggest peeve was that the engine room looked like a brewery - complete with vats, hand valves (even my 2006 lawn sprinklers have actuators for the love of Bones !!), and an apparent concrete floor. I seen Carnival cruise shipe engine rooms that were more impressive. It's like the forgot the CG.

Also agree that the back story was rushed to shoehorn Spock in there. Also, I doubt that Spock would have stopped at Denny's - he strikes me as a fondue man. Maybe the "Melting Pot" ?

Comment 22 by Raymond Camden posted on 5/12/2009 at 1:08 AM

@Bill: Oh now this I disagree with, and thank you bringing it up. I thought the engineering was done _very_ well. The ship felt a lot more realistic to me. Especially the shuttle bays.

Comment 23 by cf_loser posted on 5/12/2009 at 1:27 AM

I'm not sure if I can see it -- that promo photograph of the group made it look like the movie title should be "Star Trek Babies" (kinda like Muppet Movie then Muppet Babies). Made me laugh....

Comment 24 by Bill Downs posted on 5/12/2009 at 9:14 AM

@Ray, I don't have a problem with the mechanical aspect of it - I think they could have hide the beer vats though. According to the Wiki - - they filmed it in a Budweiser plant in Van Nuys. Not a huge complaint, just seems like they punted when it came to designing engineering. The Enterprise series had the most realistic engine room to date(IMO). Looking at the design of our own shuttle, I don't see much steel deck plating, I-Beams, vats of beer or concrete floors. J.J, must really love beer. An acceptable fault.

Comment 25 by Matt posted on 5/15/2009 at 5:06 AM

For people wanting The Wrath of Khan and the classic movies, I don't know about where you all are, but here in Australia stores are re-releasing them in new boxes remastered in a collection of 6 (incl. Wrath of Khan) for 100$, and individually for like 26/36$ last I checked.