Skip navigation

(Special Note: Super thanks to Richard and Hannah for letting me have this important night off.)
GoingtoStarTrekPremiere-2009Ok, so I went to the 7:00 PM premiere show at the Metreon in San Francisco. Went with my ST partner in crime, Bob, his dad, brother, and a friend of his – total geek fest, so I was happy. Went upstairs to get in line at about 6 and the line had already formed. We found out that you could just go in anyway, so we skipped the line and passed the Enterprise art models (see an Art Enterprise below at the end of this post) along the way into the hall where the movies were. Glad they made these, but they weren’t very good compared to what an art car artist can do on his car (see my last post about Tom Kennedy) below. The theater really filled up within that hour. The energy was crackling. Audience was made of mostly males, but there were many females about. Other than the older audience members who probably were around when Star Trek appeared on TV in prime time, the audience was 18-50. After the show, I realized there were a lot of ILM (Industrial Light and Magic – the special effects) people in the audience because they all had created the special effects. They cheered during the ILM credits or shouted out specific names. Pre-commercials lasted forever. Previews for 20  minutes. Gads. Michael Bay’s Transformers was gargantuan and Pixar’s “Up”  color was brilliant with the best lighting around. It’s amazing what CGI can do these days.

General Observations

Ths movie is about to start.

Ths movie is about to start.

Although I was really ready to hate it… I mean really…I seriously enjoyed it (see grade below at the end) and was moved by various things enough to feel so passionate that when I left the theater I strangely wanted to be in that time (ok, this isn’t going to happen), in Starfleet (this movie is going to increase U.S. military recruiting), be Captain Kirk (nothing new for me – and I’m female – what is that?), or wanted to assist in the storytelling by being the director or the writer (that’s always the case). However….and that’s a big “however,” certain things needed more thinking out, needed more work. In many cases, you had to suspend belief because certain choices were wrong, silly, forced, unsubstantiated, or needed circumspection. In general, J.J. Abrams is a competent and talented filmmaker, but he isn’t a master auteur…not yet. This was a very enjoyable and impressive film, but it’s not going to be a great classic. Let’s go over the good and the bad:

1) The Movie and the Writing: The fact that they did it is a good thing. There’s nothing like being energized by the Star Trek universe. It made me feel like my life was so primitive and analogue when I re-entered my San Francisco home after the evening, but pleased that the franchise had been revived in an exciting way. It’s too bad this world doesn’t really exist. The writers did an excellent job of re-energizing this story; although, you will see comments below where they faltered. Overall, the way people met, came together, etc. was really great and I know it was a very difficult task to do this. I have a sci-fi pilot and it’s completely difficult to fill out all the missing pieces, so my  hat off to Roberto Orci and Andrew Kurtzman. I would love to have been in the room when they connected the dots and created these character arcs/trajectories.

SpaceComplex2) The World, the Enterprise, and the Industrial Space Complex: I think they generally were able to convey a world that – while in the future – is still rooted in the tangible analog present – scaling vertically to space and made of real matter – and yet still very much built as an industrial space complex, out of machinery and hard metal, where there is the use of combustion. The Enterprise is a very good example of that. Perhaps Gene Roddenberry wanted us to understand that we could improve transportation through beaming technology (I think anybody that gets beamed is essentially not analog anymore – but has been digitized in someway – or a futuristic version of digitization. Has anybody ever consided that?), but our vehicle, our home scooting through space, must be tangible and made of something. I don’t know if that will be the case in the 23rd Century (if we’re all still here), but it’s an interesting observation by the filmmakers. The Bad: On the other hand, it seemed very strange to have to see engineering guys load the photons or whatever they were into giant six-shooters as if they were on a 20th Century submarine fighting against German U-boats! I didn’t get that. Is that correct? Where is the Warp Core? Why isn’t this process entirely digital or beyond digital by the 23rd Century?  The Engineering Room seemed like the movie “Brazil” rather than the super clean, efficient, and powerful place it should be. On the other hand, we’re talking about moving an object that is probably 50 million tons and it caries 400+ people with real needs. Don’t quote me on the tonnage: I’m not an expert.

3) Time and Space Cleverness: The entire movie takes place because of a very clever mechanism the writers deployed to change the course of the character’s lives onto another path, an alternate universe, with completely new destinies for everyone (other than the Old Series destiny). Very clever guys. I have to give it to you. Not sure I like the fact that you did it, but A+ for the creativity and effort. Did you get help figuring that out from a traditional sci-fi writer like Theodore Sturgeon? C’mon: who made that up? The Bad: You have basically wiped out/discounted all previous episodes of Star Trek with Shatner and Nimoy by making them now false because their destinies have been changed, too, by this clever turn. That hurts! Probably isn’t good for longtail monetization either (though I see YouTube is now broadcasting a bunch of full episodes and Shaw Communications is broadcasting 600 of them in VOD! Live Long and Prosper! clearly.  I have all the episodes of the Old Series, so I’m not complaining).  Question: One thing I’m not sure of, though, did Nero know he was going to be able to travel back in time and get all this accomplished? I didn’t hear anything about it, but I may have missed it. As for space, itself, it just really made me want to be out there, so good visuals. I didn’t buy Spock from the future and reason for being there.

zachary-quinto-spock_l4) Theme: The commitment to an under-theme of non-racism and diversity was very strong and they were able to underscore and strengthen Spock’s backstory effectively as a result. Explanation: Spock’s rejection of the Vulcan Science Academy because of the Academy master’s feelings toward his human lineage (as unfortunate) and his turn to Starfleet (as an opportunity to be part of the multiracial – more moral universe) was a brilliant way to handle why Spock chose this path and greatly gives the movie strong emotional gravitas and power beyond the usual “my daddy was murdered as a hero and now I have to avenge him (Kirk-plot).” (Note: Still not sure why Vulcans are so backward when they’re so logical – that’s always been an inconsistency for me, but can’t have everything.) In general, embracing this theme not only paves the way for more opportunity, more adventure, more diversity, but it actually helps the real world with a strong message – so good going guys.

5) Directing and Acting: J.J. Abrams has directed a really watchable and engrossing movie, even though some things were extremely heavy-handed and sloppy.  It was a big canvas and he could control it, though he needs more experience “sketching” perhaps on his own time in order to become a master auteur.  Overall, he was able to elicit excellent performances from the actors (especially the guy who played Checkov) and made some good casting choices….but there was one casting choice that was….horrible….The Bad: Winona Ryder is horrible in this movie and seemed very nervous in the scene she had with Zachary Quinto (Spock). Or, perhaps she is just badly cast? Very badly. She is completely unbelievable as the Ambassador’s wife. Her husband, Sarek, is much taller and bigger than her: they don’t look right together – they don’t complement or echo each other, which people who are in love usually do. Winona Ryder tries to cover her girlish accent, but we can hear it.  It doesn’t work. Sorry Winona. I know you’re trying to make a comeback, but this wasn’t your best showcase.  As for the acting, I thought the performances were surprisingly good and I rCaptPikeelinquish my hold on Shatner…for now (god, he was great) as Kirk, so no complaints really.  The guy who played Checkov did an excellent, surprising job: really refreshed my perception of the Checkov character.  Sulu was right on – steady and strong. Dr. McCoy was always interesting to watch, but he didn’t have that Southern Comfort swing DeForrest Kelly had, which is so great in a doctor. Chris Pine, as Kirk ,was good and I enjoyed it, but will he be able in the future to portray the gravitas that Shatner was able to convey?  Not sure. I’m ok with the Scotty character and Uhura, but they both need more gravitas. Zachary Quinto’s character found a way to bring the human side of Spock out more, but kept it underwraps enough. The guy who played Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) – he was excellent and brought real gravitas to the part, which is so necessary when portraying a captain.  He was a real man, not like all these boys. I want to see his adventures!  William Shatner was able to convey gravitas and command (see first post below on the Wondercon 2009).  It’s hard to do.  Really Bad: Leonard Nimoy was such a joy to watch in the old episodes as Spock – he truly is a great actor. Here, however, J.J. Abrams doesn’t find a way spockto take advantage of his emotional capabilities and reach as an actor, which I felt was a real weakness in the film. He’s just plopped in there from time to time with expository information and well-worn catch phrases.  He doesn’t seem to have an inner life or a real agenda that is urgent. Perhaps this is the fault of the writers, too?

6) Graphics:  They really improved the Star Trek logo and put it everywhere beautifully – on clothes, flags, etc.  Not the one you see on the Internet. There is a version that is solid rather than has the little star inside of it that is great. Excellent. I want to put it on my stuff. I’m such a geek, but it’s so beautiful.  The video graphics were pretty good, but wanted to see more video interactivity (naturally!) as a way to control information. “Minority Report” graphics designed by my friend, Dale Herigstad of Schematic, certainly are ahead of their time and in keeping with what the future will enable.  The opening title, by the way, showing the title “Star Trek” was very powerful. I’ve always wanted a grittier and stronger Star Trek opening (though I love the old episode opening, believe me, and so does my 21 month daughter, Hannah, who I indoctrinated already) and they stated that out in front with that. I’d love to watch the movie just for that again.

Nero-shot7) Costumes, Makeup, and Music:  Beautiful use of fashion design for people from Vulcan – really modern and elegant. Costumes caught the slick curved leave-shaped lines of the their eyebrows and ears so strikingly and with awesome stateliness that everything fit together much better than we saw on “Amok Time” all those years ago, which was a blend of Asian and ancient Egyptian themes (didn’t work really). I think this might spawn some trends.  Loved the use of black on black for Kirk’s shirt and logo and could appreciate the updated weird meshy shirt fabric deployed for their uniforms: that seemed logical and the fabric breathed. It was funny to see the cadet’s costume color – as the same as the Golden Gate Bridge – rust. I’m sure all of us in the San Francisco audience appreciated that.  Didn’t like Spock’s mother’s outfit (couldn’t really see it, to be honest). Other costumes of robotic policemen on motorcycles or aliens or the Romulans, for that matter, were excellent and need to be studied, though it was often too dark to appreciate them in their glory.  The Romulan make-up was great. I really hated the Klingon make-up in the older movies and series when they became “lizardized,” so I hope they don’t go down that path in the future. The Romulans here were clearly humanoid and related to Vulcan, too. There’s nothing worse than faky-looking prosthetics. Spock’s makeup was excellent, too, though I see they didn’t embrace the green tint of his skin that Nimoy once used in the early years.  Loved the doctor costumes full of white and silver.  The music theme is very memorable. I can’t comment on the music throughout the film, though: this isn’t my area of expertise.

Creatures/Aliens: I was ok with those that popped up, but that last one (friend of Scotty’s) looked totally Star Warsy, so couldn’t go with it. There were a million ILM people in our audience and they cheered when the movie was over while reading credits, so was happy for them.  It was good to see aliens popping up in Starfleet Academy. I’m sure we are still in the early stages of moving out into the universe, but are we to the degree that there were only a handful of aliens in the cadet class one could see? Perhaps it’s a money thing?

9) The Romulan Ship: Pretty scary, but it seemed illogical to have such an inefficiently-design-constructed machine inside and out. Nero and his men were forever jumping on top of platforms to get somewhere and it seemed like they were risking their lives daily just to move about in the ship so they could look cool.  Didn’t like that.  Also, did this ship echo the bad guy’s ship in Galaxy Quest?

Kirks-Mother10) The Plot: I enjoyed it, but what can I say – a) Spock and Uhura – forced, but the clever time device allows for it. Everybody’s destiny has shifted just a little bit enough to enable it.  b) The destruction of Vulcan – that hurts! c)  Thought the relationship with Captain Pike was well done and well-thought out, though kind of cliché with the “you’re not living up to your potential” speech theme and “you have to do it for your father” stuff.   Was this that Tom Cruise movie, “Top Gun?” The Bad: d) Kirk on the snow planet – very forced and unsubstantiated. e) Spock from the future – forced – and miraculously on the snow planet. f) Scotty making mistakes – seems like Aunt Clara in “Bewitched” – remember, the guy is a genius!  Get that right.  d) Kobiashi Maru scene was too short and too casually staged – could have been a defining moment for Kirk and a good way to establish his character’s genius. It seemed almost a throw-away scene and Pine was too cavalier. Kirk is much more than bravado, strength, sexuality, macho risk-taker – he’s incredibly smart, resourceful, and wiser than his age.  We didn’t get to really see his intelligence here, when he finally figured out how to cheat the system. No payoff. Big mistake and lost opportunity.  g) Speedy Boy Kirk didn’t look anything like the adult Kirk.  h) Kirk climbing up the cliffs, on the drill – forced.  Really Bad: i) What happened to Kirk’s mother!????  j) The whole film was about avenging fathers, men, boys, speed, guns, explosions…alright already. Really Really Bad: k) Spock meeting himself. Slap my head. You can’t do that! It should have been edited out or inferred that they could see each other sort of. l) There is that example where Kirk has sex with a the green alien female named Devna from Orion. This scene is gratuitous and actually demeans women or, at least, her. Are we in college in a dorm room? Uhura actually takes off her clothes down to her bra and underwear – this was entirely unnecessary. I know sex is part of Kirk’s DNA, but would have preferred to see his predatory style more and flesh less.

11) The Settings, Special Effects, and Design of the Enterprise: So many, but the drill was super cool (evil space elevator).  The implosion of Vulcan was cool.  The black hole was cool, but wanted to see more of it from inside.  The Enterprise bridge was great, but seemed a bit claustrophobic. Again, the engine room was totally “Brazil” and not 23rd Century-ready.  Loved the look of Iowa and the distant giant grain elevators.  Loved the look of San Francisco where Starfleet cadets trained – we were all proud. I’ll bet George Lucas is Iowathrilled that ILM will be the home of Starfleet or the Federation someday. How did he scam the Presidio?  That is the biggest real estate coup in history after the taking of Britain by William the Conqueror in 1096.

12) Clumsiness:  The fat hands (Kirk) – what was that? The Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory reference (Scotty going through the huge tube infrastructure – he would not have survived in reality – too long without air). The Star Wars references (Spock in the ship that looked like the Millennium Falcon – sort of and the bar scene with alien looking shifty) and others.  The doctor’s heavy-handedness in giving medicine. The Galaxy Quest reference with the attacking devices. Again, Winona Ryder.  I really hated the Kirk cliff scene: looked so faky.

End Note: I really need to write and/or direct the next installment. It’s my destiny or is that in an alternate spacetime than my own?

Overall:  A-    but with serious reservations noted above

An Art Enterprise

An Art Enterprise

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: