Comfortable and Furious



Are you one of us?

I’ve sunk as low as picking up TNG novel to read on a plane, but not low enough to enjoy it.  I’ve seen all of the movies, probably 150 TV episodes and, for some reason, do not want to kill myself, though I have the social status of Steve Bartman on Division Street.  So I’m on your side, but not a proper Trekkie.

How disappointing was it?

Not very.  The premise was excellent.  By creating a new time line, they needn’t worry much about inconsistencies–in fact, can play with them–and get to start everything from scratch.  I thought it was especially interesting how Kirk’s altered personal history transformed him from a gutsy, if calculating, gambler to flat out reckless.  I look forward to the future adventures of Bean-Bluc Bicard.

The action was very good, particularly when the ships were battling and planets were imploding.  The man on man action was a cut below that, with some weak moments, but satisfying overall.  One could argue that Kirk found himself hanging from a ledge about eight too many times, but I actually liked how Sulu was a wicked swordsman. The story held together enough to allow one to thoughtlessly enjoy the film.  It won’t be a re-watchable classic, because it has minimal character and intelligence, but the initial, visceral experience was satisfying and the stage has been set for excellence in the sequels.

The story held together “well enough?”

Yes, there were implausibilities and plot holes.  But some of these are attributable to the original, e.g. women and minorities being useful members of society. Others were there to help move the story along and weren’t particularly distracting. Yes, it’s curious that nobody thought to just break the drill that the villains were using to destroy planets from their cores.  The Vulcans are actually shown watching this giant space drill burrowing into their planet and proceeding to go about business as usual.  But I don’t see any way to write out of that, though they could have de-emphasized it. I guess the drill could have been indestructible, but that would have been stupid too.  The ships create sonic booms in space, but I believe that was included deliberately to annoy nerds.


But surely the cast was a dire affront to the original one?

Well, look.  It’s very unlikely that this group will become icons who record bizarre spoken word albums.  Nobody came up with a “KHANNNNN!” type moment. Nimoy owned the screen whenever he was opposite a n00b and was given the only genuinely clever bit of dialogue.  Still, the kids did a nice job all around. Again, they weren’t given particularly good dialogue, yet they still gave memorable performances.  They all captured the original characters and I’d say Kirk, Bones, and Scotty, in particular, put their own stamps on the roles. My money says that Chris Pine (Kirk) has the Takei/gay base covered.  The new Uhura will lead to the sticky devaluation of many a carelessly placed Magic card.  Scotty  probably raped his little alien sidekick during their long isolation on that desolate outpost.  Something for everyone.

So it lives up to the glowing reviews?

Not really.  I think that films aimed at broad audiences often feel obligated to explicitly fist bump the morons in the audience.  The segments about Spock and Kirk as children were gratuitous and terrible.  The biggest moron fist bump of the film came with a child Kirk speeding along in a stolen sports car and jumping out of it as it goes of a cliff, all while the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” blasts.  There’s another scene in which we see a woman from the side in a chaotic situation and as the camera moves in, she turns around and it turns out she’s totally an alien!  Scotty’s alien sidekick is  a Happy Meal toy.  I wonder, would the movie really gross less if they took these parts out?  Wouldn’t the masses be content with the cool explosions?

So, is it possible that JJ Abrams is not a demon from hell?

No.  What kind of demon would he be if he couldn’t attempt to pass for human?  The direction is often hamfisted with these awful Spielbergian moments of prolonged reaction shots in which the characters pantomime the emotions we are supposed to feel.  Add to that the abuse of shaky cameras and fast cuts in lieu of solid action direction.   A lot of the film seems deliberately soulless and fake, which is part of Abram’s general aesthetic, so many scenes have the feel of a Mentos commercial.

I thought you said the movie was pretty good?

Yeah.  The acting, premise and action carried it forward.  Sequels seem probable and perhaps the box office will provide enough leverage for someone to stand up for the injection of more wit and intelligence into future scripts and for films with less rounded edges.  Looking at the rest of the slate for summer, this is probably as good as it will get.  Land of the Lost notwithstanding.