I need to get it off my chest how horrifically, unbearably, atrocious the reboot of Star Trek was. I’m not being hyperbolic, if you tracked down every single copy on DVD, Blueray, the original film and any other form it may exist in and launched them into the sun, the world would be a better place.
However, before I go into why I loathe this reboot, let me state a few things. First, as far as I can tell the general rule seems to be that anyone who grew up first with the Original Series of Star Trek rightfully hates this abomination of a film—whereas the culturally bereft among you who grew up first on The Next Generation (or god help us Voyager or Enterprise) seem to be okay with mockery of all things Star Trek.* Second let me say that I’m sure that even if I hadn’t seen all the Original Series before The Next Generation came out; by the time I was 6 I’m sure I had seen most of the Original Series (and all the movies that had come out by that point). I’m a Trekkie. Always have been, always will be. My early teens were a bit more obsessive about the show than I am now (I have been to one convention 20 years ago, and I have no intention of ever going back, unless I have a booth selling copies of Destiny’s Knights and other fiction novels).
So that’s where my biases come from.
However that does not mean I was meant to hate it. I could have easily loved the new version. I liked the Tim Burton Batmans but I acknowledge that Nolan’s vision was vastly superior, and Daniel Craig’s more serious Bond is a major improvement. If the Star Trek reboot had been better, or even on par with the original, I probably would have liked it…but it wasn’t. This film was inferior on every level. And not just because it was from the writers who brought you such horrifically bad movies as The Island, The Legend of Zorro, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen…not to mention having been writers for Hercules and Xena (depending on when you grew up you might have some fond memories of the campiness of those shows, the writers of this movie didn’t write the episodes you have fond memories of).
Okay some people have covered some of the major reasons why this was a dumb film… but let’s cover some of the reasons not covered there.
So three-quarters of the film is spent drilling holes into planets (let’s just ignore why a mining ship has more firepower than the entire Star Fleet). A lot of time is wasted drilling holes. Why? So they can drop this plot device called red matter that creates a black hole wherever it is dropped. So why not just drop the red matter on the surface? A blackhole will still suck the entire planet in whether it’s on the surface or in the core of the planet. And in general this is a major problem throughout the whole movie. Star Trek has always skirted the laws of physics, but it has done it in such a way you usually don’t notice until the second or third viewing. Usually the story of a Star Trek episode or movie (I’m not counting anything from Voyager) was good enough that you could suspend your disbelief enough to not notice the glaring errors in science. Here you couldn’t do it. Not in their crappy understanding of black holes, or theoretical time travel (yeah going through a black hole doesn’t send you through time it only crushes you…this isn’t an advance theoretical physics concept, this is high school physics), or even throwing out your own rules of how transporters work (yeah let’s beam them onto a ship with shields up going at warp speed…why?…because our crappy writers put us in this situation with no way to get us out beyond that little bit of insanity). One of Star Trek’s long standing virtues was that it tried (tried didn’t always succeed, but it tried) to have a loose understanding of science…but not with this crappy reboot.
Oh and then there was the fact that every character is different. EVERY CHARACTER (except Bones for some reason, way to go Karl Urban for actually doing some study of the character). And what had changed? Some captain no one ever heard of died and so did Kirk’s dad. Yes I understand Kirk’s dad, played by Chris Hemsworth, is Thor, god of thunder…but even that strains belief that he would change how everyone turned out. Let’s run down some of the differences. Chris Pike has gone from a man who considered leaving Star Fleet and selling Orion Slave Girls to a sage like father figure who is a couple of magical powers short of Obi Wan and Gandalf. Spock suddenly became hyper emotional, illegally marooning cadets, assaulting people on the bridge, kissing Uhura (WTF?)…so everything that people loved about Spock, the cold logic, the wry sarcasm, the only hints of emotion…all gone. Uhura developed a personality. Chekhov developed some useful skills. Scotty turned into a comedian…with an ugly Ewok as a sidekick. Wow, even if you believe in the butterfly effect, it’s a little hard to believe that Kirk’s dad had that much of an effect on the universe. (Let’s also realize that this reduces all life to nothing more than a B.F. Skinner ideal of all there is is the conditioning of our environment, hell there isn’t even a genetic component to your personality, only the environment…and don’t even get me started at how this implies there is no soul, only a malleable thing conditioned by circumstance…thematically it comes off a tad cold and meaningless when compared to, well, any other incarnation of Star Trek. Of course really you’d have to have a theme before we use the word thematically, something this movie lacked).
Oh and let’s talk about Jim Kirk. The rebel without a cause, purpose, plan, brain, or clue. And the punchline of numerous jokes throughout the film. Part of what made the Original Series so good (beside the writing) was that the character of James Kirk (despite questionable acting at times) was, on the whole, an admirable figure. Like the character of Horatio Hornblower whom Roddenberry used as a model, was a strict and disciplined commander, whom despite his appearance of bravado only cared for his ship and his crew. This little punk was all ego. And how the hell do you go from cadet about to be court-martialed one minute and, like a week later, promoted to Captain. I’d follow him, how about you? Quite frankly when I first heard Benedict Cumberbatch in the new trailer say he was better than this Kirk in everyway I rolled my eyes and said, ‘well, yeah, it’s not a high bar to reach.’ Nothing about this character makes him admirable, nothing. You can like Shatner’s acting or not, but you have to admit when the script and directing were good Kirk was an admirable, likable, virtuous character. This cocky little punk just needs to be punched in the face, often. (Oh, by the way, Chris Pine will also be playing Jack Ryan later this year…yeah thanks for ruining another of my favorite characters.)
And then, of course, is the relationship these films had to their source material. Nicholas Meyer (writer of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country…otherwise known as the good ones) said one of the first things he did when given the job of writing and directing Star Trek II was he sat down and he watched all the episodes of the original show. Doing this he not only discovered the heart of the show was the friendship of Kirk, Spock and McCoy (utterly nowhere in this movie). Was the original series inconsistent in quality and have some really bad moments? Yeah. If a Trekkie can’t admit that “Spock’s Brain” may have been the dumbest episode in the history of science fiction, they’re not looking at things rationally. But the original series also had some of the best moments in science fiction history as well. And what made the good movies good was that they respected and took from the best of the series, paying little homages to the source material all over the place. Meanwhile I’m not convinced anyone associated with this film has seen anything beyond Futurama’s parody of Star Trek. Nothing. There is no connection to the original beyond a couple dead red shirts and Pike ending up in a wheel chair.
And before I end this let me talk about the preposterous villain for a second. So we have Nero, a Romulan commander. But not the cool, cold, calculating Romulan Commanders we have come to love…no he’s in charge of a mining vessel. But don’t worry his mining ship has more firepower than the entire Star Fleet…I knew the Romulans were a paranoid bunch…but really? So his genius plan is to wait 25 years for vengeance, and apparently this guy, whose command skills were only good enough not to get him assigned to a garbage ship is able to keep his entire crew also hellbent on his personal madness for 25 year and nobody mutinies. You believe that don’t you?
There is so much more that pisses me off about this movie, from horrible directing, bad acting, truly lazy writing, production values that think you should be blinded by light in every scene…I could go on. It’s not really that I’m upset that they tried to reboot Star Trek, I’m upset they did such a poor job at it. Just ask yourself this, if you took away the name Star Trek and changed all the character names…would you call this a great film…or would you compare it to other such sci-fi jokes as Wing Commander or whatever original movie is on SyFy this week?
*I’ve never actually met someone whose first exposure to Star Trek was Deep Space Nine, so I have no way describe their feelings toward the reboot