Monday, May 18, 2009

A to B Back and Forth Review: Star Trek, Part I

I'm teaming up with longtime friend, Kozy of April 31st to review films. We're calling the segment "A to B" because I'm Andrew and he's Brad. And he lives in Amsterdam, and I live in Buenos Aires. We generally won't get the new releases when the States do, but hopefully we can either help you reminisce or offer advice before you head out to the video store. So let's get to our fourth review - Star Trek.


Hey Reed,
Here we go again! It was cinema Sunday here in Amsterdam and I found myself boldly going to see Star Trek. The last time this occurred in our solar system was when my dad dragged the entire family to see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The day ultimately will be remembered as the Wrath of Susan, as my mom’s displeasure turned into a near decade of my dad losing his turn as Sunday movie picker.

I have to say upfront that I am not particularly familiar with the Star Trek legacy. I never not watched a single episode of any of the numerous TV series, and apart from catching Wrath of Kahn in 1982 I have not seen any of the other films. But now there is another sci-fi nerd in the family, the wife. The nerds are gaining numbers and exerting their movie selection muscle, perhaps atoning for the lost decade.

With their newfound numbers, last week my dad and my wife selected another sci-fi movie (of sorts) X Men Origins: Wolverine and while this is not the film du jour I cannot help but compare it to Star Trek in at least one way. Wolverine was a movie that had the word “origins” in its title, meaning to me that at its very essence we would learn the heritage of the Wolverine, how it came to be and why he is the way he is. Unfortunately, none of this came to light during the film. When mentioning this criticism post screening to wife and dad they were both quick to defend the film. “Wolverine is a mutant. Mutants are born that way.” So that’s the answer? They are just born that way? Well then why did we need an entire movie to not tell us that?
No, not that Wolverine

On this “origins” front Star Trek succeeds massively. The movie provides the full back story of Kirk and Spock in a way that really got me involved in the film. I thought it was fantastic watching the two characters in childhood, evolving into the young men we eventually find leading the Starship Enterprise.
No, not that Starship Enterprise

Another thing that really worked for me in this film was the style. Everything was updated 60’s chic. The outfits managed to look retro and futuristic simultaneously. The soundtrack was over the top, but effective. Even Spock himself, the pillar of a bygone era looked classic yet perfectly updated.

So my man, what was your take on the film? What did you think of those Romulan bad guys?

Tot ziens,


Hoooola Kozy,

What movie are we reviewing here? As much as I dig all things Wolverine, I didn't see that one because you wanted to review Star Trek. Though based on your comments, it sounds like you saved me some time. I imagine that I came in with a bit more Trek knowledge than you, but only a bit. I've seen a fair amount of the Shatner episodes and the first two movies, though it's been a loooong time for any of them. Anyway, I'm just going to come right out and say it. I felt like I was watching a TV show, not a movie. Yes, I realize Star Trek is originally a TV show, but hardly anything in this movie mattered. I was thoroughly bored until Scotty showed up. But let me first highlight the few things I liked.

As you said, they got the style pretty right, adhering to the original sets and costumes without making it seem at all dated. That's quite an accomplishment. There were some well-played moments of humor, especially from Simon Pegg as Scotty. Uhura is smoking hot, and they even got her mascara right. Finally, I found Spock to be an interesting character and well-acted. In fact, he was the only remotely interesting character in the entire movie. This includes Romulans, Humans, Vulcans, and that giant puke-monster that chases Kirk around on "Hoth" (seriously, I was waiting for someone to whisper, "Degobah System"). Anyway, there is a lot to be mined with Spock; he's not a cliche like everything else here. I think it was smart of them to center this film on him. This movie is really his story.
This Uhura? Oh my yes.

But they backed away from every opportunity to delve deeper.

The original series explored interesting issues such as racism, sexuality, and human nature. This film had none of that, despite having many opportunities to ask those questions. As soon as a more complicated issue would arise, someone would choke Kirk and they would completely forget what they were talking about. The fight scenes were impossible to see, let alone follow. The scenes in space weren't much better. Just a bunch of ships and debris flying around willy nilly. They could have called this Bourne Identity 4: Jason In Space. I couldn't tell how seriously this movie was trying to take itself. I felt like it tried to stand on all sides, alternately campy, serious, and an action thrill-ride. But they half-assed all three of those sides. I realize the proper homage must be paid to satisfy the Trekkies, but not in place of a story. I found myself often reminded of Galaxy Quest. That's not a good thing.
No, not that Jason

My inner sci-fi geek is perhaps a bit of a snob because he only digs a movie when it's smart. Sci-fi movies rarely are, and this movie is no exception. There is an incredible pile of illogical things in this film (zing!). I've been pretty light in my criticism so far, but will really tear this movie a new one on my next e-mail. Get ready. I'll save what I thought of the Romulans for my biggest complaint simply because I can't discuss it without dropping a spoiler. But believe me, it's coming, and completely ruins the entire movie. In sum, they're imbeciles. But first, I'll give you the chance to defend yourself for making me sit through this. However I will leave you with one question: What the hell was Winona Ryder wearing, and from which fancy Vulcan boutique she steal the outfit?

May the force be with you. Um, I mean. Un abrazo!


Hey Reed,

“The original series explored interesting issues such as racism, sexuality, and human nature.” You’re hilarious! News flash, the original series was sexist, somewhat racist and Shatner portrayed Kirk as a raging hornball worthy of a seat at a sex-anonomous meeting.

For someone who proclaims to have an inner sci-fi geek you really don't have the resume to prove it. I checked your fightingtheyouth regular feature One Word Reviews for sci-fi films. Guess what? I did not find a single non-earth based movie. Sure there were a few aliens in Signs, and a fantasy film in Pans Labyrinth. But sci-fi? No way. So then let’s agree that you are not exactly an expert on the genre.
Brad's preferred uniform for a Sci-fi movie reviewer. Also, is that a Norelco shaver?

Did you really think this was meant to be a serious film? And did you really think in 2 hours it would explore “interesting” topics like racism, sexuality and human nature? In one breath you complain that you felt like you were watching a TV show and in the next you complain that it explores its topics like a feature film. Clearly you are confused.

At its core, this Star Trek is a pure adventure movie. A space based thrill ride. Accept it for what it is. The campy comedy is part of the formula so the fact that it was done well and made me chortle is a feather in their galactic cap. But as a fan of the series you already knew this, as campy comedy has been Trek’s bread and butter since the Shatner days. Hell, Shatner’s entire career is based on schlock, he’s the freaking Priceline Negotiator after all!
No caption can do the comedic value of this photo justice. But I think he might need to use the bathroom.

What you will not read here is a defense of the Romulans. Their future legacy will be mastering face-based tattooing. There is a line out there that a pulpy movie like Star Trek is only as good as its bad guys. To that I say bally-hoo! Can you name the bad guy in Batman Begins? I can’t. And yet the movie was impactful because it was fun and interesting, keeping my tension piqued.

So what’s next? You going to rip on Winona more? The woman has served her debt to society. Or can you present a solid Spock-worthy logic to your criticisms?

- Kozy

Kozy doesn't get the last word in this debate, but he gets the last word for today. Click here for the conclusion of this heated exchange, and see if we can rise above personal attacks (here's a spoiler: no we cannot).

Previous A to Bs:
Slumdog Millionaire
The Wrestler

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