Sunday, 10 May 2009

Star Trek Review

(Warning - spoilers ahead)

I saw Star Trek over the weekend at Castle Towers Megaplex.

In short, the only thing that prevented me from being wowed by the movie was the fact that all the reviews I had read had prepared me to expect something pretty good. The fact that the movie lived up to the hype was ironically a bit of an anticlimax.

I've been a Star Trek fan since the early eighties, when the series started showing on Indian TV. The only thing that managed to knock Star Trek down my list of favourite TV shows was Star Trek - The Next Generation, which began airing in the mid-nineties :-).

The new movie directed by JJ Abrams takes us back to the original story and provides us a newly-minted background to the characters of the Enterprise crew. It's very slickly done, although I do have a few quibbles. I would hardly be a Trekkie if I didn't ;-).

I don't have to provide a standard synopsis of the movie. There are plenty of others available. Here are my quibbles alone, but keep in mind that they in no way detract from the impact and appeal of the movie. You should go and see it on the big screen, even if you aren't familiar with the genre. It's very beginner-friendly.

On to nitpicking, then.

1. A prequel should try and be consistent with its future history. To a large extent, Star Trek succeeds in "backporting" its future characters' idiosyncrasies back to their newly-presented roots, but there are glaring exceptions. In Star Trek IV - The Voyage Home, the crew lands on Vulcan, and Spock has a conversation with his mother. JJ Abrams's prequel not only kills off Spock's mother but all 6 billion denizens of Vulcan, along with the planet itself. It's going to be hard to watch The Voyage Home again without feeling acutely uncomfortable. Abrams shouldn't have done this to us.

2. Captain Pike is in a wheelchair at the end of Abrams's movie, and has already become Admiral. The Cage and The Menagerie are still ahead of him. Is he demoted, does he get out of the wheelchair only to go back to it in time for The Menagerie, or is this another Pike? Highly illogical.

3. The human-Vulcan quandary affecting Spock seems to be resolved too soon. It's not until The Voyage Home that Spock is supposed to "feel" fine.

4. Spock designed the Kobayashi Maru test. I'm fine with that. But the point of it was for the cadets to learn fear? Spock wants Starfleet officers to learn lessons through an emotion? Illogical again.

5. And what's with the Uhura business, anyway? There's not a hint of anything between Spock and Uhura in any of the original episodes, so how are they going to explain the cooling off that surely must have happened after the Abrams movie? Perhaps there will be sequels to the prequel that will resolve this. Advice to the director: don't start anything you can't finish.

There were many nice touches I did enjoy. Bones gives us another variation of his "I'm a doctor, not a " with physicists duly lining up for the honour this time. On the other hand, there were many opportunities for him to say, "He's dead, Jim," but he passed them all up.

Jim Kirk can't resist anything in a skirt, even as he's about to pass out in sickbay. It's pretty hilarious, though I've often wondered if that isn't a fatal character trait for a ship's captain. (Picard, by contrast, is a gentleman who will even carry his guests' bags and he gets my vote over Kirk every time.)

Spock's reluctance to say "Live long and prosper" to his own past self on the grounds that it would be "self-serving" is pretty wry and shows that Vulcans understand humour after all.

The villain Nero is very casual whenever he hails Federation ships. He's so informal you'd almost expect him to go, "How'ya doin'?"

One final nitpick. I would have appreciated an explanation of why there are no seatbelts on starships in the twentythird century. I was hoping the prequel would explain that. Oh, well.

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