The Great STAR TREK Movie Debate

“Star Trek reignites a classic franchise with action, humor, a strong story, and brilliant visuals, and will please traditional Trekkies and new fans alike.” – Rotten

The new Star Trek movie has garnered amazing reviews and generated blockbuster ticket sales. It seems to be appealing to both hard-core Trekker fans and the general public who couldn’t tell the difference between a Tribble and a Gorn. But you know the saying, “you can’t please everybody,” so there are still people out there who were disappointed with the film. My brother-in-law, Brian (BCM), is a prime example. He wrote his review on my City of Kik newsgroup and it sparked a reply from my friend Robert (ROB) who disagreed.

Herewith are some excerpts, with my own commentary (KIK) thrown in for good measure. No words have been changed but the chronology of some of the statements has been rearranged for dramatic effect.

(SPOILER WARNING: The following discussion includes plot points from the new movie, Star Trek. If you haven’t seen it yet, move along now and come read this after you’ve had the chance to see it. Thanks.)

BCM: I finally went to go see Star Trek last night. While there are several movies out right now that I want to see I was looking forward to this one. I sat through the whole movie, took it all in, and walked out of the theater with this dark heavy weight on my heart surrounding the feeling that I had just sat through a crapfest of monumental proportions.

KIK: I, on the other hand, really enjoyed the movie. It was far more entertaining than probably more than half the Trek films and television series that preceded it.

ROB: I would comment on Brian's review, but it is clear based on his comments that he is not a Star Trek fan.

BCM: Clearly, you are not a fan of Star Trek.

ROB: Clearly, I AM a fan of Star Trek.

KIK: Okay, okay. I’m a Star Trek fan too. And Classic Trek (the Original Series) was my favorite, so I’m glad J.J. Abrams decided to go back to the original characters of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, et al. One point for the new movie. Let’s move on, shall we?

BCM: Let me acknowledge my bias. I am a Star Trek fan and have been for most of my life. But, I am not a mad blogger. I do not care that there are missing EPS conduits in episode 54, or that there is a different uniform in episode 36 than in ep. 68.

KIK: I admit that I am a “mad blogger.” And I’m one of those nitpicking fans who wants the writers to stick to continuity rather than ignore it. But I accept most of the attempts to explain all the inconsistencies during the 40-plus years of Star Trek in its various incarnations. And I think the new movie does a great job of establishing something new while letting fans know that the Trek they knew hasn't been completely wiped out.

BCM: This Star Trek is a smash-bang blockbuster with explosions and actions galore, which should appeal to the drooling masses who regularly go to the movies to see the mindless action flick of the moment.

KIK: Nothing wrong with exciting action. The original Trek was filled with it. One of the problems with later versions, like Voyager, the early seasons of Enterprise, the lesser episodes of Next Generation or Deep Space Nine, was when they became too techno-babble talky and lost that “Western in Space” feel that the original series excelled at delivering week after week. The new movie recaptures that and makes Trek fun again.

BCM: If you like smart dialogue, good writing and cinematography that won't give you a headache, this movie is not for you... The cinematography consists of watching through the lens of a camera that appears to be bouncing around inside a Kansas Twister.

ROB: About the cheese factor (for example, when Bones says, "All that's left are my bones." line), may I remind Brian that in the classic series episode "The Way to Eden," the Enterprise picks up a group of space "hippies" looking for Eden. And their way of referring to "squares" was to call them "Herberts." Seriously, if you're not a fan of poor dialogue, how can you be a fan of the classic series?

KIK: Brian, I think the movie did have some smart dialogue, some good writing, and some great cinematography. But it also did have some clunkers (and I agree with you to an extent, the shaky camera and lens flares were a bit annoying, I hope they don’t repeat that in the inevitable sequel). There were moments during the film when I thought, “Finally, they’re treating Star Trek like a real movie.” Then there were the lazy moments, the weakest for me was when Spock Prime (Leonard Nimoy) recapped what happened in the future. One of the big rules of writing is “show, don’t tell,” and that was a bad example of telling exposition instead of revealing it more smoothly through plot developments.

BCM: The dialogue is weak. The characters often seem like they are trying to find something to say to fit the moment. McCoy in particular randomly says things that seem as though the writers (I am looking at you J.J. Abrams) made an outline for the movie with a note that says "needs 18 'McCoyism' jokes...write jokes and find place to insert." They are forced, as is most of the general dialogue.

KIK: I liked most of the in-jokes. This movie was a set-up, they were introducing (or re-introducing) all the key characters. The dialogue was much more believable and pleasing to the ear than what we were tortured to listen to in the last few Trek movies and television shows.

BCM: Spock. I don't know whether it was poor acting by Zachary Quinto (who I love as Sylar on Heroes), or just the bad writing he was given, but Spock was awkward the whole way through. A little too soft where you would expect Spock to be sharp.

KIK: I totally disagree. I think the casting was superb. The actors did a fine job of paying tribute to the classic characters while making the roles their own.

BCM: And the whole Uhura love interest thing was so out of place and out of character that it smacked of the writers sitting around a table saying, "We have to add a love interest or a love triangle, how can we add that to our formula...Wow. Lets shake things up and give Spock a love interest instead of Kirk!" It was bad.

ROB: Spock had many love interests in the classic series. What the writers cleverly did was fuse the Nurse character and the Uhuru character into one.

KIK: They did mention Nurse Chapel in the movie (you can hear McCoy call her name in the background in one scene) so I hope they’ll introduce her in the next film. I always liked the subtle (and in some episodes not-so-subtle) attraction Christine Chapel had for Mr. Spock. And Rob is right, looking back, Spock had a lot of love interests during the original series, they even hint at something between him and Uhura during a couple of the episodes if I’m not mistaken.

ROB: I could go point by point and dispute Brian, but one does not do so to one's inferiors. I would recommend Brian pick-up the classic series (seasons 1-3). Oh, in Season 3, we have "The Romulan Incident," another Spock babe-fest.

KIK: To Brian’s credit, I also thought it was jarring to see the Uhura-Spock love-smooches. Spock is more reserved than that. But in hindsight, it showed him battling between his human side and his Vulcan side, and the only time he really let his feelings out in public was in the Transporter Room when he arguably thought he might never return. As Spock later said, the Vulcan apocalypse left him emotionally compromised.

ROB: To state that Spock did not have love interests in the classic series…is clearly not the case. Two examples of this are "The Enterprise Incident" and "Amok Time." In both episodes, Spock had a love interest, whereas Kirk did not. Brian, you realize, of course, that the Spock you know is an EVOLVED Spock. In the Pilot and early episodes, Spock was clearly more emotional and less logical. Would it not stand to reason that in the prequel, he would be even LESS logical and MORE emotional? Hmmm?

KIK: I agree with Rob on this one. I always viewed Spock in the earlier episodes as more emotional, and saw his character evolving and embracing his logical side during the series, and then finding his humanity again in the movies.
BCM: Lazy Plot Devices. Star Trek has always been known for being realistic about the science it uses. It may rely on things over the top futuristic, but it allows for the suspension of disbelief. Ships flying in one side a black hole and out the other (which most 6th Graders know is impossible), and said black holes spawning all over the galaxy, is the laziest plot device in sci-fi history. It was awkward to watch. The attendant jump through time that inexplicably went along with said black hole voyage was a double joke.

KIK: Time travel has always been a tricky beast in Star Trek (let's sling-shot past the sun, everyone and land in the 1960s or the 1980s!) I agree that the black-hole green-matter plot device has its flaws. But to say that Trek is a bastion of realistic science is overstating it. There are entire Web sites dedicated to pointing out the faulty science in the Trek saga, way before the new movie came along. When in doubt, throw in some meaningless technobabble.

BCM: Destroying classic Trek. You have more than 40 years of Trek mythology to work with and to respect. I get the whole "alternate reality" thing as a plot device ( incredibly lazy plot device) allowing the writers to go in any direction they want with future movies. I think that is another lazy plot device, as well as unnecessary since there are countless voyages to be told with this crew that could be told around the old five year voyage. In any event, if you want to go that route, there is no good reason to blow up Vulcan, kill Spock's mom or kill Kirk's dad.

KIK: Aha! Now here is the key to Brian’s hatred of the new movie. They destroyed planet Vulcan. This reminded me of why I hated the first Mission: Impossible movie because they turned the original hero of the television series into the new movie’s villain. Annihilating Vulcan doesn’t fall into the same category. It had to be done to show the audience that in this reality anything can happen. Continuity is no longer a crutch. Unlike prequels of other franchises, we DON’T know where this new Trek series will go, because the timeline has changed. Nero killing Kirk’s father at the moment of his birth and destroying the U.S.S. Kelvin altered a lot of things, and blowing up Vulcan changes things even more. Let's see what happens next. If they did it just for shock value, that's one thing. But I think they did it for a greater purpose.

BCM: It left me with a terribly disappointed feeling that this show does not keep with the 40 years of mythology that I have grown up knowing and it guaranteed that I will have no intention of going to watch the likely sequels.

KIK: Some folks felt the same way when they killed Spock in The Wrath of Khan, but that turned out to be a great plot development. Sometimes you need to shake things up.

BCM: I'm sure there is more, but I have wasted enough effort on this already.

ROB: I'd rate this movie after Star Trek II and III, in terms of quality. All in all, I do love the classic series, and yes, I love the new movie. And yes, there are some gaps in logic between the two. But, it is a fitting movie for the series.

KIK: I agree again. It’s rejuvenated the Star Trek franchise. The final credits, with the classic music playing and the montage of planets in space, gave me chills of anticipation. Trek is back! Now if only George Lucas would let someone else reboot Star Wars!

I’m sure Brian and Rob, and maybe some others, will add some more comments to this discussion. If so, I’ll post a continuation of this debate in the future. Until then, go see the movie if you haven’t already and judge for yourselves.


Peter said…
I thought JJ Abrams did an excellent job and I thought the casting was spot-on. I really can't say what was eating your bro-in-law, but anyone who cannot see the potential of Trek after this movie is simply missing out on the big picture. I've been a Trekker since I was 9 or 10 and I'm relieved there's a breath of fresh air in what I thought was a dying franchise. Live long and prosper!
diode said…
This movie made me gag. Kirk was a womanizing drunk who fails his way into the Enterprise only to get kicked off, then use an agonizingly ridiculous method to get back on again only to emotionally terrorize the Captain into submission. This movie was written for teenager slackers who want to be Just Like That. Gentleman loser, captain of the Enterprise. Add-in the noisy, overblown CGI, violating several technical laws of the old Trek universe, leaving the planet Earth completely defenseless...what a clunker of a movie. It makes David Lynch's Dune look like a classic.