I went to see the new Star Trek movie yesterday. Since it has been reviewed by the professionals, I’ll just stick with making a few comments on it.
Setting aside my long history with Star Trek, I have to say that the movie was quite good. The effects were, of course, the best money could buy. The acting was competent and the actors did an effective job of preserving the original characters while refreshing them. This is a good thing: I have seen fanboys trying to play William Shatner playing Kirk and this is often a grotesque and painful sight. Naturally, a professional actor will do a better job than a fanboy, but an actor playing another actor playing a role is far more suitable for parody (as wonderfully done in Galaxy Quest) than for serious acting.
The story was interesting and kept me entertained. In some ways, it did stick with classic Trek: men in uniform making tough decisions. And, if necessary, dying because of them. However, it generally stayed away from the philosophical depths sometimes explored in the original series. We do see the clash of emotions and logic (emotions win) and the standard revenge motif. The movie also managed to include elements from Trek history (the nasty mind controlling slug, for example) without seeming too forced or silly. It also had some comedic elements-which is something the original series did as well.
Naturally, I do have some negative comments about the film. There are spoilers here, so skip this if you haven’t seen the movie.
First, it did what might be considered the unthinkable: by changing the “past” it has effectively made it so that the original series episodes did not (will not) happen. As such, all the Star Trek “history” is now “incorrect.” On one hand, this can be seen as a good thing-they can create all new stories using the original characters. On the other hand, it seems wrong to sweep aside forty three years of established Trek material. The movie could have easily been written in a way that the original timeline was preserved. Changing things in this manner is like changing a book-it alters an established work (or works) of art and this is not something to do lightly-even to make money. Also, as a side point, destroying Vulcan radically alters the Star Trek setting. Doing this would be like having Gondor or the Shire destroyed in a re-written version of the first book of the Lord of the Rings.
Of course, since there are at least two more movies planned, perhaps they will restore things to the original timeline.
Second, the movie also violated what the series established about rogue time travel: there are people in the more distant future who deal with that sort of stuff. Surely some rogue mining ship captain destroying Vulcan would have attracted their attention. It also violated the usual Trek convention: time travel always ends with things being restored to what was supposed to happen.
Third, the movie made use of time travel. While time travel can be cool and an effective story device, it always bothers me. After all, it tends to create some rather serious plot holes. The biggest is, of course, that if time travel is accepted in the fictional universe, then people can always pop back a bit earlier to undo what was done. For example, the Federation could send a battle fleet back to meet Nero when he first came back. Or, to be more cost effective, they could just have someone kill him when he is a kid. Or, to be nice, they could pop ahead (or back) with Spock’s ship and save Romulus. Once time travel is in the mix, then things quickly get out of hand. After all, you need a reason why the universe is not constantly being changed by time travel.
Fourth, Nero’s motivations seemed a bit absurd. As far as I could tell, he wanted to destroy the Federation to protect Romulus from danger. Laying aside the obvious paradox (if he succeeded in saving Romulus, then he would never have been shot back through time to save it), his actions made no sense. Based on what he said, he had read history. As such, he would know that without the Federation, the Dominion would have crushed the Romulans. Also, without the Federation, the Borg would have also assimilated the Alpha Quadrant. So, in destroying the Federation, he would end up causing the enslavement or assimilation of Romulus. But maybe he planned to go get the Dominion, the Borg and everyone else, too.
Another obvious problem is that Nero had Spock’s ship in the past-he could simply go to Romulus and give them the ship-thus the ship would be on time for the super nova and Romulus would be saved. Of course, the paradox would arise again: if Romulus is saved, then he would not go back in time and he would not have that motivation to attack the Federation. So, either Nero is a idiot who cannot see the obvious or he is just a psychopath who likes to have an excuse to commit mass murder. As such, he is less interesting than the character of Annorax in The Year of Hell. It is interesting that the plots are quite similar: both involve men in giant ships trying to set things right by changing the past through time travel.
Fifth, there are some minor weak points in the plot. For example, when Spock was dropped off on the ice planet, why didn’t he walk to the Federation base right away? As another example, if Spock had the fastest ship that could be built, how did Nero catch him? As a third example, if they could beam aboard Nero’s ship, why didn’t they just beam stacks of armed photon torpedos into its key systems? Of course, I’ve long had that problem with Star Trek: transporters plus bombs would be an amazing weapon-just knock down the enemy shields, then beam a nuke into their bridge.
All that said, the movie was fun and keep me entertaining the who time. In the end, that is what really matters when it comes to a summer movie. Right?