Star Trekkin’

Saw Star Trek over the weekend and was pleasantly surprised. It’s simply a good time at the movies — funny, fast-moving, occasionally touching, and full of life.

My expectations were not high after the dismal double-whammy of Nemesis and Enterprise managed to suck the last tiny spark of vitality out of the Trek universe, and after a few early previews made the movie look a little too dumb and calculated. Then the reviews were mostly positive, so my hopes rose a bit, but still — the reviews were mostly positive for The Phantom Menace, too. (Sometimes I suspect reviewers of reviewing the movie they wanted to see and not the movie they actually saw.)

What I got was something that delighted me the way the Christopher Eccleston restart of Doctor Who did — something made with love for the original series, but also with a spirit of adventure and playfulness.

I knew Star Trek was a reboot in the sense of revisiting the characters from the original series as fresh-from-Starfleet-Academy newbies, but it also reboots the entire Trek universe through a time/space warp that alters events starting from when Kirk is born. This is a surprisingly brilliant move from a storytelling perspective — it invents a new timeline without forcing a reinvention of every other aspect of the Trek universe.

The film manages to feel like the old series in all the right ways — it’s bright and sexy and really excited to be here — while at the same time making good use of modern sensibilities and modern special effects.

The characters we love are instantly recognizable as fresh young versions of themselves, with a few nice tweaks. For example, emphasizing Uhura’s genius for xeno-linguistics and pattern recognition makes her traditional role on the bridge seem much less like that of an intergalactic receptionist. (And Simon Pegg is awesome awesome awesome as Scotty. Now I’m hoping that the next film has everyone battling space zombies.)

The uniforms look exactly like the ones in the old series, except that the tailoring and fabric is better. The starships are bright and clean and full of giant chunky hardware that both looks cool and conveys a vast scale. The crews have races that differ from each other more significantly than just having a few bumpy things on the forehead. The female crew members wear the groovy miniskirts and hairdos that some of us remember so fondly, but there are more of them in more positions of authority and technical expertise.

And there’s Spock.

Lots and lots of Spock.

Child Spock getting tormented by Vulcan bullies, old Leonard Nimoy Spock in a delightful cameo, and — oh yes — dreamy regular Spock. He gets to do all sorts of cool Spock things, like being really smart and insulting bigots in a subtle Vulcan way and suddenly losing his temper and making out with Kirk.

Okay, he doesn’t actually make out with Kirk. But their relationship does play out like a classic romantic comedy, where at first they can’t stand each other and then eventually realize they can’t live without each other.

Does the movie have flaws? Probably. After an absolutely killer opening scene (I teared up. Seriously.) we waste perhaps a little too much time watching Kirk as a thrill-seeking juvenile offender. was annoyed by just how many times Kirk ends up dangling precariously by his hands from high places. And they do that thing where the laws of physics get suspended so that somebody can dive after a person who is already falling and magically fall faster in order to catch up with them.

But in this movie I’m not simply left to sit there gritting my teeth and growling about how that doesn’t happen — instead I’m immediately distracted with a funny visual joke and new danger and adorable 17-year-old-Chekov running around like mad with his crazy accent trying to punch in the equations that will save everyone. It’s a lot of what I like about Buffy the Vampire Slayer — no matter what is happening, no matter what emotional torment the characters are going through, things keep moving forward.

Unlike certain other recent big-budget adventure films I could mention (*cough* Dark Knight *cough*) Star Trek seems mostly concerned with telling an interesting story. About people we like. Who are really really good at their jobs. And funny.

And one of them is Spock.


  1. Right on, Julie. Almost exactly my thoughts! One of the weirdest complaints I saw was folks saying Chekov was the new Wesley Crusher. I mean…WHAT? He’s great!

    1. Author

      That is a weird complaint. The thing that made Wesley annoying wasn’t the basic concept of the character, but the way the writers would lazily use his genius as a deus ex machina, and the way they always seemed to forget they were supposed to be writing a teenager.

      Also, the fact that his Mom was one of the main crew members. That always bugged me, for some reason.

  2. I also thought it was fun and a good reboot of familiar characters — and yes, more Simon Pegg please! Spock remains probably the most interesting character, although I actually thought the appearance of Old Spock and the restatement of old lines from past movies was a bit overdone. I guess they felt they had to do a passing of the torch. I found myself unable to care much about the conflict with the Romulans, but I too got choked up at any number of points regarding relations amongst the protagonists and their families. I’m curious what the next installment will be like, when the rebooting itself isn’t the main point and attraction of the story.

  3. In skydiving, you can indeed catch up with someone who jumped before you. In an Earth-type atmosphere, you reach terminal velocity within a couple dozen seconds. But what your terminal velocity is depends on how you arrange yourself. If you’re spread-eagled, you ‘ll fall slower than if you pull your arms to your sides and keep your legs together.

    And really, they suspend the laws of physics to allow faster-than-light travel, and this is what you have a problem with?

    1. Author

      If they ever made it clear that the first person is falling all spread-eagled, while the other one is drawn in like a bullet, I probably wouldn’t complain. The movies always make it look like it’s done through sheer force of will.

      And they didn’t *suspend* the laws of physics for FTL, the applied the appropriate handwaving (or phlebotinum, if you prefer) known as “warp drive.”

      Anyway, I’m always more irritated by violations of small everyday science.

  4. I thought this wasn’t a particularly good movie, but it was a very fun one. The thing I liked least was that so many scenes were made into fast frantic action scenes in order to keep adrenalin always pumping, and that some of these scenes just came off as silly. The low point in this regard was when Scotty got beamed into a water tank and nearly sucked into the engines. But there was lots to like. All of the characters seemed like realistic alternates of themselves. I.E., the first Jim Kirk wasn’t (as far as we know) that much of a rebellious little hoodlum, but if he had an unhappy family life he quite well might have been. And Spock was just Spock. Except younger and more vulnerable. I enjoyed it a lot.

    1. Author

      some of these scenes just came off as silly

      It’s kind of the fundamental next gen vs original series debate really. Both were great when they were on, but when they were off, next gen was dull and original series was ridiculous.

      I find that, in the main, I prefer ridiculous. Or, rather, something that runs the risk of being ridiculous.

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