One Fan’s Perspective on Star Trek

SPOILER WARNING: This post contains major spoilers for J.J. Abrams’ new film Star Trek. I mean really, really big spoilers. If you don’t want to know about things that might ruin your enjoyment of this movie, then you really should stop reading now and go somewhere else.

So much has been said and written about the new Star Trek film from J.J. Abrams that it seems to make little sense to write my own thoughts up. But seeing as Star Trek has been such a big part of my life ever since I was a little boy, and given that I’ve often written about Trek in the past, I figured what the heck.

Overwhelming consensus seems to be that the film is “Great!”, “Fantastic!” and “Fabulous!” Of all the guys from work that I went to see the movie with, I think I was the only one who came out of the theater not jazzed. I think Corey might have had some reservations too, but overall he was very excited about it. Did I like it? Yes I did. Did I love it? No I didn’t, at least not yet.

The Good

There are tons of things in the new film that I liked and others I even loved. In no particular order they include:

The cast: Every actor in the film did a wonderful job of translating their character for a new generation. I especially enjoyed Quinto and Pine as Spock and Kirk, but also thought Simon Pegg as Scotty was wonderful and was surprised by the turns put in by the actors behind Checkov, Sulu and Uhura.

The twists: I had seen so much of the movie in the commercials and trailers leading up to its debut that I thought I knew what was going to happen. I was surprised and delighted therefore when Kirk wasn’t the one under Uhura’s bed, but was under her Orion roommate’s instead. Same goes for the scene with Kirk sitting in the Captain’s chair with his black shirt where Spock tells him to “Get out of the chair.” It was wonderful and went against what I thought was going to happen going in.

Spock rejecting the Vulcan Science Academy: Loved this scene to death. Quinto played it to a perfect Spock “T” when he asked the elders about his “disadvantage” and basically told them to go to hell. If you had put Nimoy in that scene instead, it wouldn’t have played any differently. Brilliant stuff.

The action: It was quite a roller coaster romp from start to finish and had great pacing. The time seemed to fly by while we were in the theatre which is always a good sign.

Uhura & Spock: I thought the scenes with Uhura and Spock becoming close would bother me, but they didn’t at all. They were played very well by both actors and Abrams’ direction here was wonderful. I can’t wait to see where this goes in the sequel.

The Meh

• The music: Totally didn’t live up to Star Trek standards. The main theme (which Louie pointed out was used in almost every track of the film) seemed like it *wanted* to be Star Trek, but was just slightly off. I kept expecting to hear the familiar Next Gen theme at points in the movie, but didn’t.

• Engineering: Being the die-hard Trekkie I am, I didn’t really appreciate the way Engineering looked more like a chemical plant from 24 than the heart of the flagship of the Federation.

Enterprise in Iowa: Sorry, but the Enterprise was never built on the ground. It just wasn’t and the entire ship was never intended to land either. If Roddenberry was around today he would have told J.J. this small fact to his face. A totally unnecessary and pointless scene that would have at least been semi-credible if it had taken place in San Francisco instead of Iowa.

The Bad

Abrams’ wanting to have it both ways: The studio promised us that this wasn’t “Your father’s Star Trek” and made a big deal about how everything was different. In reality, the only things that were different were the things Abrams wanted changed. There were so many TOS classic references that when they were thrown in, they seemed oddly out of place. More than a few of them seemed gratuitous. If you’re going to promote the film as all new Trek, have the space balls to see it through to the end.

The Kobayashi Maru: As a huge fan, this was the scene I was looking forward to the most. I had run this classic tale of how Kirk beat the no-win scenario in my head dozens of times. I had always imagined it that Kirk reprogrammed the simulation just enough to make it seem like the rescue was plausible through heroic actions or sheer guile. What we got instead was a smug, overly-cocky Kirk eating an apple while everyone around him is astounded to find that the simulation has been reprogrammed. The most throughly unsatisfying bit in the entire movie.

The destruction of Vulcan & death of Spock’s Mom: Listen, I get that this probably only matters to geeks like myself, but it does. The destruction of Vulcan negates HUGE portions of Star Trek history and cannon. Sure, this is an “alternate reality”, and it was probably necessary for several of the plot points, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. You know how you felt when Lucas made Greedo shoot first? The loss of Vulcan is like that for me.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter what I think of Star Trek. Everyone seems to love it and have hailed it as a wonderful re-boot of the series. To be honest, I’d rather have new Star Trek movies than not, so I can live with the parts I didn’t like, at least for now. I think by the time the inevitable sequel comes I’ll have come to terms with the disappointing parts of Star Trek and learned to see only the good stuff. After all, there is a great deal in the new film to like especially since I don’t enjoy being called a dickhead.


  1. I DO agree about Vulcan, THAT bothered me greatly and it was going to be my main gripe on the ‘cast. Would have preferred we find out Romulus then have him TRY to destroy vulcan as a payback and hey of course manage to fix it at the last minute.

    Didn’t notice the music much, though, but as I said I was sleep as hell through parts of it due to not having much sleep and huby dragging me over he”s half acre that day.

  2. The casting was great, but the film let me down. This wasn’t a reinvention of Trek: it was Trek by-the-numbers, with no meaningful differences; a far more conservative approach than I had hoped for.

    So if 1) the treatment were going to play it so safe, and 2) the plot was, once again, a fairly boring Wrath of Khan rehash, I don’t see why this was a compelling film to make.

    I didn’t hate it by a long shot, and I sure as heck don’t want to see any more of the old-style Trek films…but to me, this film wasn’t interesting enough to justify its existence.

  3. I loved the movie but I agree about the destruction of Vulcan. Destroying a founding member of the Federation and its six billion people is going a bit too far, I think.

  4. Just a follow-up to some of your specific points…

    – Regardless of “how it really happened”, it would indeed make sense to build the Enterprise in space rather than on the ground. That said: the scene looked beautiful. And rather than unnecessary, I think it was useful in showing how Kirk might be inspired to enlist in Starfleet. Overall, I thought it was a good (though minor) scene.

    – Agree with your assessment of Engineering. Did in fact look like “24” with disco lights added. Also, that ridiculous scene with Scotty in the water pipes conjured up so many unflattering comparisons with both “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and “Galaxy Quest” (what’s that giant mulcher doing in the water pipes?) that I’m surprised it was left in. One of several action scenes that felt like “action” added in for its own sake.

    – Kobayashi-Maru. Completely agree here; wouldn’t you think Kirk would have tried to pull it off with a little subtlety, instead of telegraphing to everyone present that he was cheating?

    – Soundtrack. Also agree here. Michael Giacchino did the job of a lifetime with his “Incredibles” soundtrack, but everything else I’ve heard from him is bland.

    – Very minor points, but Tyler Perry as the head(?) of Starfleet, and especially Winona Ryder as Spock’s Mom, were distracting bits of casting. Was having Ryder in the film so compelling that it was worth slapping all of that “old-age” makeup on her?

    – Overall, there were just too many laugh lines. Pacing and dialogue sometimes felt like–I hate to say this–the non-stop one-liners you find in a Michael Bay film.

  5. I agree that the music was sub-par (or at least not as iconic as it could have been) and yes, the engineering department *did* look like a chemical plant. But on the whole, I really enjoyed this movie: I was gripped from start to finish and there wasn’t a dull moment in the entire film.

    I appreciate that this film takes some of the canonical elements and throws them overboard, but I say, so what? This is a reboot for the franchise, and in the same way James Bond is now more Jason Bourne than eyebrow-arching Roger Moore, sometimes you have to trust the director and producers’ vision.

    I think your Greedo analogy only holds water if Abrams re-made Wrath of Khan and included an amended Kobayashi Maru test in that.

    This film doesn’t negate the previous Star Trek TV series and movies, but you should try and look upon this as the 2003 Battlestar Galactica compared to the 1978 version: The same, but different.

  6. Sorry Jason, but I have to say you’re wrong about it not “negating” the other Star Trek series. From a “What’s official” point of view, the events in this movie are now what “is real”. This is not an alternate reality, it IS REALITY as far as Star Trek is concerned. If this was a novel or a Star Trek comic, I could say otherwise, but it is not. Its a feature film and therefore it, and everything contained in it must be considered to be real (for Star Trek).

    Therefore, the destruction of Vulcan means things like Star Trek III, Star Trek IV, massive parts of TNG, TOS never happened.

  7. Greg, yes I have to agree that the entire film felt “Michael Bay” in nature. From the camera zooms, quick cuts, over the top action sequences and one-liners.

    Also, you’re right on the money with the whole “water tube” thing. Not only was it in there for the sake of action, but huge portions of the tube were clear!! Just so we could see Scotty getting wisked along inside. I actually cringed during this part of the film.

  8. Ged–regarding your comments to Jason about what is canon and what is not…I think you’re assuming that the timeline that the old Spock came from is the classic “Trek” timeline that you’ve been watching for decades. And while that’s not a bad assumption, it’s not one that you have to make.

    The way I personally interpret it is that -both- timelines in the film are separate from classic Trek. For me, this Trek and classic Trek really have nothing to do with each other, and can co-exist peacefully.

  9. Re: the music. While I was uninspired by the opening theme, and thrilled to hear the classic music during the closing credits, I’ll say this: The music during the hand-to-hand fight on the drill was fantastic. It had the very same feel as the music that accompanied many fights on TOS. Loved it.

  10. I should add, when I say this film doesn’t negate the previous films, I mean from a fan perspective, not a storyline perspective.

    In some respects the movie tried to play both sides, and for me the weakest element was including Leonard Nimoy as Spock Prime: they should have taken the opportunity to cast someone else to emphasise the divide between this and previous films. For me, it was like having Dirk Benedict suddenly show up in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica!

    Nimoy, great and iconic as he is, simply muddied the waters and created links between this and the other movies when they shouldn’t have existed.

    And I agree with Greg: I’d forgotten how much that pipe scene with Scottie made me cringe. I don’t mind a bit of knockabout banter to add some levity, but the slapstick humour was misplaced. Pegg is a versatile actor and he doesn’t need to do slapstick to be amusing!

    Finally. Winona Ryder. Why? Were no women in their fifties available? The mind boggles.

  11. Ged, I just told my son in NYC to go see Star Trek in the iMax because it was worth it and that I’d see it again because it didn’t have any “cringe-worthy” moments EXCEPT The Kobayashi Maru. FWIW, ditto. That was the most over-hyped, least-delivered, fan-insulting and jaw-closing scene. The apple was gratuitous; Kirk’s indifference abysmal. It was a painful audience-insulting scene.

    As for music, the closing credits theme (with Nimoy’s “to boldly go” voiceover) evoked the original’s memory a/w/a the Khan movie’s closing. Would have to see it again, but I think the music throughout was both in a different key (for sure) than the original and used a different meter so as possibly to disguise it or declare its independence. Worse or better, it was a different orchestration.

    The engineering pipes (and water-travel scene) were silly; the missing red doors made me sad. However, the plot and writing – with the potential for new futures that intersect occasionally with old pasts – is kind of cool and I can’t imagine any other way they could have both brought in “Spock Prime” and prequeled the sequel. I didn’t want a rehash of the original and they delivered.

    It was fast-moving, exciting, belief-suspending and although I’m the only person on the planet who didn’t like the way he played “young Spock,” had great characters.

    But The Kobayashi Maru? Feh.

  12. I was surprised to see Michael Giacchino’s name in the credits. I’m a fan of his work on The Incredibles and Ratatouille, but the music in this film wasn’t nearly as distinctive.

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the monster chase. I know we had to divert Kirk into Spock’s cave somehow, but did it have to be with a distractingly implausible giant red ice monster?

    But yeah, the characters were well done, which made the film for me (and probably most people) more than anything. McCoy was my personal favorite, and I like the origin they gave for the “Bones” nickname.

  13. I am really surprised at your reactions. Has none of you ever seen “It’s a Wonderful Life” before? Most of your quibbles about the ‘changes’ and ‘removals’ in the Star Trek canon can be explained by the removal of George Kirk, particularly the Kobayashi Maru.

    This is NOT the J.T. Kirk we have known. He grew up without his father’s guiding hand. This Kirk developed under the burden/aegis of his father heroically dying immediately after taking command. He’d hear stories, take abuse, and generally get kicked around a lot, but there’s no father there to provide answers.

    This has created a different Kirk than the one you know and maybe don’t really love as much as you pretend to. C’mon, we all know Picard was the better Captain, anyway. The barroom-brawl Kirk IS apple-munching-kobayashi-maru-ruining Kirk. But he is emphatically not tribble-cuddling Kirk. I think new Kirk steps out of the tribble-mire and ‘spaces’ the lot of them. Maybe.

    Also the lack of open-mindedness of the general reaction to major changes is disappointing. I agree that the destruction of Vulcan is extreme, but it draws a distinct dividing line between one reality and another. Also, it provides a challenge that has never existed in the Star Trek universe before.

    Hasn’t it ever bothered you that things come so easily to the Federation? Whenever something BIG happens, the Vulcans can step in with their god-like mystery technology and solve it. I for one look forward to fewer easy answers in Star Trek.

    Likewise, with great challenge comes great opportunities. Think of all the unanswered questions there are now. How will the Vulcans develop from here? Where will the Federation go in terms of its militaristic/scientific stance? What changes in the balance of power will there be between the Federation, the Romulans, and the Klingons? What will the death of his Mother do to Spock’s development. He’s already claimed Earth as, “the only home he has left,” so where does that take his constant struggle within his dual nature?

    Okay, I’ve got my quibbles, too. RED MATTER? Seriously? A Black Hole cancels out a Supernova to save a nearby Solar System? What? A thirty-foot long, hairless creature lives in a glacial waste, but is afraid of fire?

    And yes, I quoted “Galaxy Quest” when Scotty was whooshing about in the tubes. Also, Carlin. “Look at the Frikkin’ tubes!” Come on. That stuff’s in there because Abrams is keeping a sense of humor about the whole thing and realizes he’s making a MOVIE. You complain that engineering looks too mechanical, too (pardon my paraphrase) ‘real world,’ but you’re upset when an unreal element is introduced to provide a VISUAL to what would otherwise be simply an audio gag. You can’t have it both ways. Besides, the gag works.

    After all that haranguing, for what it’s worth Ged, GREAT blog post. Really thought-provoking. My sci-fi love starts with Star Wars, and my love of Trek was never as deep as yours, so it was good to read your ‘dyed-in-the-wool’ reaction. Very cool.

  14. James Bond is now more Jason Bourne than eyebrow-arching Roger Moore..

    Roger Moore was to James Bond as Chevy Chase was to Gerald Ford.

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