So many lens flares, so little analgesic cream.
Caution, spoilers ahead.
Yes Mr. JJ Abrams, we understand. To enjoy Star Trek, we now must be blinded by all the bright little reflections of all the neat little things found in your nu-Trek universe. Or what I normally call an Apple Store. What I’m most impressed with is the fact that you were able to implement lens flares on the Klingon home world of Kronos. Not anywhere near a city or large-ish population center, mind you. In the fucking middle of no where. There were just rocks and dirt, and bam, lens flares. HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? But I’m getting ahead of myself. Why? Because I’m writing like this is actually being read by Jay-Jay. This, actually, is not. And I’m also describing a scene near the half-way point in the movie. So let’s back up a bit.
To sum up my feelings in one quick expressive statement– I like this movie. In fact, I like this movie a lot. And I like it a lot despite some issues I had with it. However, I should state that as a self-professed Trekker, I might have a certain amount of bias. Then again, I’m a huge Trekker that doesn’t care if he’s called a Trekkie. I mean, really… people get defensive over this stuff? Let’s do something more important, like cure cancer, or feed the hungry, or just walk the dog. Why do we have to demean ourselves even more over something like this? Most of us are already dateless for constantly quoting the show, or talking about the show, or dreaming of being in the show. Yeah, I’m guilty of all three. It’s terrible. So why add nitpicking to the list? Are we trying to shoot the moon here?
Of course, me not caring what my fandom of this long running series is called could be construed as a different sort-of bias, in that, I actually enjoy JJ’s Trek universe. In fact, I enjoy it just as much as I enjoyed the Original and Next-Gen catalog of movies. I really can’t tell you how much I don’t give a fuck how JJ has changed Trek. Really, I’m shedding alligator tears when I hear and read of all this nerd-rage. One comment, in particular, that I came across on the interwebs, made me raise an eyebrow and then flip-off the computer screen in one quick motion. Get yer popcorn ready.
“But the words STAR TREK mean something…greater. It means something is[sic] almost the polar opposite of popcorn pulp.”
Seriously brah? I’m not sure what’s worse here. The fact that you think Star Trek is above being a successful movie franchise, or the fact that you think it belongs in the Art House genre. I call shenanigans sir.
All of this is to say, I don’t really think I would get along with most other Trek fans if this is where the mindset is. Because I like a Trek that’s successful more than I like a Trek that stays in touch with its roots. Look, I’m all about Roddenberry and the legacy he left, the vision he had, and his ideals of what Star Trek was. But one thing is very clear in terms of science fiction and, moreso, in terms of Trek. Change is good. The Trek of old just doesn’t work anymore. Does anyone think that if Voyager got stuck in the Delta Quadrant and was a successful series right now, everyone and everything would be so, I don’t know, cheery? No! Battlestar Galactica would happen. There would be drinking, drinking, and more drinking, mixed with utter fits of suicidal rage, plenty of pew-pew, and bam-sex. In today’s media, it isn’t about the vision anymore, it’s about fitting a story that relates to the situation and then molding the vision around that. This doesn’t just make a good sci-fi story, it makes a good story period. And that’s not to say that JJ Abrams has the perfect formula down, but he certainly has a pulse on how to succeed with the franchise at an epic scale, and still throw enough easter eggs out there for the core Trekker audience to masturbate to. Section 31 shout out, amiright?
I could go on forever, and I’m sure what I’ve said already is a disqualifier for some, but it boils down to the fact that I would rather have Trek than not have it. Call me pragmatic. Call me rational. Call me crazy, I don’t care. I’m enjoying the ride. And if this is the package I have to experience it in, I’m there. Reverse polarity this son!
Whew. Now that’s over with, we can talk about the movie itself.
The opening scene before the credits was vintage nu-Trek, showing everything we love about the cast and current vision. There’s humor, drama, action, and red hot magma. And while the indigenous species on Planet Orange-ish was a bit, I don’t know, goofy, it wasn’t hard to go along with. The Enterprise crew has found itself trying to save the, I don’t know, we’ll call them the ‘vibrant Mayans’, by stopping a Volcano that is about to erupt and destroy the surrounding area. With Spock, played by Sylar, inside the Volcano, mind-melding with some sort of nuclear device ice-maker briefcase, Captain Kirk, played by Chris Pine’s dimples, is faced with a decision to either let Spock die and protect the Prime Directive or do the opposite and reveal a hidden Enterprise, freak out the local peeps, and rescue his pointed-ear buddy. Of course it’s Prime Directive be damned, reinforcing Kirk’s brash ‘shoot-from-the-hip’ decision-making process that we all know and love. We are basically seeing an almost adolescent hyper-version of the OG Shat-model that is still about several years away in this universe at work here, continuing Kirk’s character arc from the first reboot.
Fast forward to Canadian Bruce Greenwood, aka ‘Ultra Father Figure’ who is now imparting his wisdom on Kirk for his continual recklessness, with the help of Spock’s submitted report of recent recklessness, even though said recklessness saved his life, as the cherry on top. Suffice it to say, Bruce Greenwood should adopt me. Combined with this meeting, the story progresses quickly. Explosions, then
Cumberbatch Sherlock is introduced, and then Kirk loses his command and is booted back the Academy, and then promoted to First Officer, then Peter Weller Robocop is introduced, then more explosions, then Kirk getting promoted back to Captain of the Enterprise all happen in 10 minutes time. I’m fucking serious.
But that’s okay, I’m with it, because Cumberbatch brought his British sexy snarl with him, and it’s certainly not set on stun, if ya know what I mean. Don’t you even question the fact that he can transport from Earth all the way to Kronos, who gives a shit with bangs like that? Bringing up Kronos, that gives us a natural segue to talk about JJ’s Klingons. I kinda of dug them, since basically their forehead no longer looks like a torn up vagina with an attached bouffant. They are big, bald, and proud. And then they promptly have a can ole’ whoop ass delivered upon them by Sherlock’s ‘John Harrison’.
A few scenes later, naturally, Khan happens. I’m kinda okay with it. The reveal fell flat, even with all the secrecy to keep this spoiler under wraps. I was hoping for something dramatic here, not in terms of the reveal, but the actual origins of the character. I understand that we are basically in a bizarro universe here, but I had personally contemplated that maybe ‘John Harrison’ could turn out to be an evil Picard from the future, or some obscure remnant of some episode from the original Star Trek series, or a brand new character, just something that wasn’t easy hanging fruit, ya know? Despite that, the Kirk/Khan relationship was profoundly different than I expected, and I relished the interaction, and thought that pay-off was more than enough to keep me committed.
The only part that felt really off in the entire film was Sylar’s “KHAAAAAAN!” towards the end. I’m not sure if it felt forced or awkward, but something was just off-putting about it. I think it was just something that was probably better in idea rather than function, kinda like a queef. That being said, I loved Spock letting loose and showing some of that Vulcan Kung Fu. One of the most easily forgettable things in the Trek universe is how physically powerful Vulcans can be. Though, I may have just been desensitized with watching Tuvok develop into the worst Security Chief ever. I smirked throughout the Spock/Khan wrestling match, and the physicality of it all was fun to watch. And as a quick aside, I really had no problem with the earlier phone-a-friend with Leonard Nimoy. Yeah, I can see why its corny, but bro, it’s Leonard Nimoy. Nuff said. I also had no problem with the Kirk-Spock love poem via glass door being in reverse. We already knew Kirk was going to survive as soon as McCoy injected the dead tribble with Khan’s mojo. Plainly put, there is no replacing Star Trek II, nor is there any way to replace the iconic scene of the original Spock’s death. My take is that it was just another veritable progression of the Kirk/Spock relationship. Nothing more, nothing less. And that’s okay, just easily forgettable when it shouldn’t be that easy.
The film ends on a typical triumphant note, and left me wanting more. At the end of the day, there’s not much more you can ask. Except, if Khan’s blood can cure Kirk, why couldn’t they just use the blood from Khan’s 130 or so buddies? They are all genetically engineered, right? Riddle me that Batman! Ugh. Still, if I’m going to keep lauding Inception as fucktastic, even though Leo’s ‘Cobb’ could have just, you know, bought plane tickets for his kids to visit him, then I guess I can forgive some plot holes here too.
The action sequences are very well done, especially any scene that Robocop’s ship is in, which is pretty much in all of Act II and III. They call it a Dreadnought Class, but I’m pretty sure it was Godzilla class, called the USS Whatthefuck. I dug the fact that the repercussions of the Nero-affected Trek timeline has created an atmosphere where Starfleet has become more focused on militarization than peace-making. There is no longer black and white, everything is a measure of grey. While this could be construed as a social commentary, which I’m sure it is, the change also fits the narrative well, and I really am eager to see this trend continue.
The cast all received enough screen time to grow. I’m still waiting for the trinity to form, but so far, McCoy seems to land secondary to the Kirk-Spock dynamic, which is a shame. I feel Karl Urban hits closest to home in terms of nostalgia. Simon Pegg continues to do a great job with Scotty, and is really given his own part away from the main story. And, as is a JJ thing, Pegg spends a lot of time on the phone (communicator), probably just as much as in Mission Impossible III, if not more. Uhura is one big hot mess in some scenes, though Zoe Saldana is still able to add some levity and strength at different parts. The two biggest losers in the screen time tally were Chekhov and Sulu, but they were given unique enough hoops to jump through, so even their characters progressed some. I really don’t understand why Alice Eve’s ‘Carol Marcus’ character was really necessary. I mean, I found it very necessary to see her in underwear, because boobs, but the character itself seemed kind of just put there as eye-candy. That’s okay, I guess, but I might end up dating a feminist one day, you never know, so just let it be said that she could have been utilized a bit more. Peter Weller knocked it out of the park, and Bruce Greenwood we could always use more of, so it’s sad we’ll no longer call him Dad. Or is that just me? But hey, no Tyler Perry, that’s a win. Cumberbatch, of course, did a fine job. He didn’t even try to resemble Ricardo Montalbán’s Khan, and more importantly, didn’t try to resemble Ricardo Montalbán’s chestal region. It was fresh, but more subdued at the same time.
Michael Giacchino’s soundtrack was solid, but not as strong as his previous effort with the 2009 reboot. I found his Klingon music a bit jarring, but you can feel the energy and passion throughout. For the most part, the music matches to the drama and action very well.
Just as a special note, I saw the movie in IMAX 3-D. I’m not a fan of wearing glasses to movies, nor do I venture to the theatre too much nowadays. As I’ve gotten older, I have a desire not to force-hold my pee in for hours at a time, so I usually just pick and choose my moments. I can say the 3-D is done fairly well. The space scenes really shine, but otherwise, like all the other 3-D titles I’ve seen, it’s still more gimmick than wonder. But I enjoy the sharpness and overall high-def experience that IMAX offers, so it’s just something I’ll have to deal with on a continual basis.
If you liked the first reboot, you’ll certainly like this film and then some. If you didn’t, you’ll hate this one even more. It’s as simple as that.
Verdict: 6 out of 8 pew pew’s.