In reverse of what I usually do, I wrote this for Movieweb.com first and then posted it here. Better make a sandwich because it's pretty long!
I just don't understand why every critic in America is going nuts over this movie!
"Star Trek" has certainly been one of the most anticipated movies of the year, and for many reasons. On one hand you have the true fans. For some it's the original series, others the continuing adventures of the original crew of the Enterprise from TOS through the movies, and still others, the complete run of the franchise encompassing "The Next Generation", "Deep Space Nine", "Voyager", and "Enterprise".
On the other hand you have people who are perhaps coming to the table for the very fist time. Maybe they watched some episodes from any one of the television series, movies, or even were just aware of the concept of "Star Trek" but never felt the urge to get into it. It might have been because it was before their time or they found it to be too slow or talky.
Despite comments I've made during the past couple of months about how this movie was going to suck, I want to take on this reboot using these two vastly different viewpoints. I say this because I came to this movie as a "Star Trek" fan (not a 'Trekkie', which I consider the extreme fan) and as a passionate moviegoer. In other words, I watched this movie unfold by also being able to disconnect my fan expectations and view J.J. Abrams story and vision as solely one of this summers anticipated blockbusters. Which is kind of the way I went into the first "Transformers" when it came out. I was never a fan of the toys or animated series, but I found the movie to be filled with cool action and amazing scenes of giant robots kicking the shit out of each other...and that's exactly what I wanted from that movie. Considering the fact that Michael Bay has never had dimensional characters or great story in any of his movies, I knew I'd get exactly what I set out to enjoy: action, action, action!
However, with the new "Star Trek" I was finding it very hard to enjoy the movie on either level; both fan and moviegoer. As a backup to how the film would be perceived minus the true fan aspect, my girlfriend has never been a "Trek" fan and was mainly seeing this with me on the sole merit of being one of this summer's big movies we wanted to see. So she was clear of the baggage that some people might say I brought too much of with me into the theater.
Keep in mind that there are SPOILERS AHEAD.
First and foremost I have to say "Star Trek" was way too fast and furious for me to really care about any of the characters. The constantly moving camera work was WAY overdone and became a real annoyance throughout. FOR CHRIST'S SAKE, LOCK THE CAMERA DOWN ONCE IN A WHILE! Even shakiness during some serious scenes seemed inappropriate. I'm reading a book...quick dolly in on me! I'm about to go to the bathroom....drop zoom onto my face! I'm sitting here thinking about my dog....push the camera in and spin around me landing on my face and then shooting away to my girlfriend about to make eggs!!! STOP IT, I'M GETTING A HEADACHE!!!
The whole concept of this being in an alternate reality was clever at times, but I think that was one of the things that took me out of caring about the characters. These just didn't feel like the same people who would become the iconic crew. Even though in a way they were. The time travel aspect was definitely fascinating though.
A lot of the sets were just out-of-control tricked out! My thoughts about the bridge in photos months before the actually movie came out remained the same for me as I watched it in motion. Too bright, way too detailed, and at times, very indefinable. Speaking from the "Trek" fans point of view, I didn't like that there is a large 16x9 window at the front of the bridge. It's always been a view screen! Even with a zillion graphics flitting across it, it's still a view screen.
I flat out thought engineering was a joke! What, are we in A BREWERY?! Give me a break! Concrete and valves? Did we just run out of time and shoot in the basement of the studio? But wait, there's a computer terminal where Scotty works. Oh, I see the high tech future now. I'd like to order the Enterprise Lager or the Unemotional Spock Stout please! That comment came from my girlfriend at the end of the movie, BTW.
Chris Pine did a better job than being a little wooden, as some of the reviews I've read state. Thought he carried the lead nicely, and I appreciated brief nods here and there to Shatner's original performance...like when he said "Bones" near the end. I didn't think he was amazing though. Speaking of "Bones", the nickname is common among ship's doctors in the Navy and has been for decades. THAT's why he's called "Bones". Why they had to come up with a reason for Kirk calling McCoy that is kind of pointless.
The whole Kobayashi Maru test scene with Kirk was way over the top.
Fan's view point: Kirk should have been a little cocky for sure, but more intent on appearing to masterfully beat the simulation instead of swinging around in his chair, eating an apple, and being so blatantly unconcerned with the outcome. How does he get a personal commendation for original thinking out of this, as he states in "Wrath Of Khan"? Here, Starfleet wanted to boot his ass out! To anyone with half a brain he seemed like he was blatantly cheating and even a five-year-old kid would have nailed him right away. Just seemed dumb the way they portrayed it.
Zachary Quinto does a very good job of taking over the role of Spock. I don't think anyone else could have played him so in tune, not only with the character's iconic persona, but in his resemblance and connection to Leonard Nimoy. Simon Pegg was definitely funny and I kind of wanted to see more of him. Anton Yelchin's Chekov was a little over the top with his accent but it didn't bother me that much. Perhaps the best performance of the movie goes to Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy. He really nails DeForest Kelley in so many ways AND makes it his own without over tweaking. He was probably the most enjoyable element I found in the entire movie.
One thing I was pretty annoyed with was how the original "Star Trek" phrases and nods were really just tacked on in just about every scene. Spock saying 'fascinating' and McCoy grunting 'you green blooded hobgoblin' just came across as lip service to the fans. Kind of like 'here's your little treat to chew on, happy now?'. The green academy girl Kirk beds was a similar 'here ya go, Trek nerds' scene. Even Leonard Nimoy saying 'I have been and always shall be your friend' seemed like one of the biggest rotten carrots thrown out to the fans, and it was delivered like an empty promise that this was really "Star Trek". Nothing against Nimoy.
That had my head shaking, but didn't compare to the space sky diving scene! GIVE ME A FUCKING BREAK!!! So when are we going to burn up in the atmosphere?! I was shaking my head so much I was waiting for it to come off my shoulders and roll onto the theater floor! That completely topped my reaction to the alien spacecraft rising up in "Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Title Is Too Long And Out Of Control"!
Spock and Uhura having a 'thing' really did nothing for me or the story. Maybe to add more to Spock's emotional side? I was annoyed at it from a fan's point of view, and found it kind of flat from the general moviegoer's seat.
The first ten or twelve minutes of the film that everyone is saying 'grabbed them by the throat and never let go' was good, but didn't have me at the edge of my seat, heart pounding with anticipation. I'd probably have to say the one clip I thought was well done was when an explosion rocks one of the decks and a crewmember is blown out into space. As you follow that person outside the hull, all sound is removed and we ONLY SEE the battle. That was an effective moment. There's no sound in space, but of course if we didn't have sound out there in the movies, these space actions and battles wouldn't be as potent. When Kirk's mother and father start talking about what they're going to name they're newborn, it kind of seems like the clock ticking off the last ten seconds before the Kelvin hits Nero's ship stops. Oh wait, did I leave the gas on? Hold off on to that impact thing for a moment.
The effects in general were very well done, and at times eye popping. When the Enterprise comes out of warp at Vulcan, the way it traverses the debris field of wrecked or destroyed ships is awesome. Although initially when the Enterprise, as well as the rest of the fleet go into warp it's too loud and too annoyingly abrupt. In general it seems like whenever they do something like this in a movie it always has to top what's come before...to the point of being ridiculously blown out. This could have been done better. But then again it's what young audiences want in movies today. Big! Loud! Slam! Crash!...Hey man, is that Dolby Digital?! WELL TURN IT UP, MAN! Used effectively it's amazing. Used just for the sake of the 'pow', it's nothing but noise. But this is just a side note from my review.
The story was pretty basic, although very rushed. Like I said at the beginning, you're never given time to connect with anyone. Even Eric Bana seemed more like a Next Generation movie villain (that's not a compliment) than anything even remotely touching Ricardo Montalban's Khan, still the best of the best. I say this because so many people are comparing Nero with Khan. Sorry, didn't see it at all. I just didn't feel threatened by him. But for what Bana was given, I think he did a good job with it. BTW, was his ship big enough? Kind of like these guys who have big loud muscle cars to compensate for their supposed small dicks. A one could make that connection here; not so tough, but my gi-normous ship makes me seem a lot more dangerous.
Six billion people die when Vulcan is destroyed. I think we should have felt that much, much more than anyone in the film certainly did. This is part of the emotional resonance that was missing from the entire film; BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, EXPLOSION, EXPLOSION, EXPLOSION, FIRE EVERYTHING!!!....Can I have a little heart and soul with my rock and roll please?!
The new design of the Enterprise is probably cool for someone coming into this fresh. I had some issues with it, especially the overly pregnant engines. This is a minor thing, I know, when it comes to the overall film. In fact more faithful Trekkies will probably decry a lot of things in this movie on a pickiune scale. I respect that, but didn't feel as many abrasions when it came to canon. But they did step over the line quite a bit here and there in my book.
Rebecca, whose not a Trek fan but is a HUGE movie and sci-fi fan, found the movie to be O.K. but nothing overly special. She agreed that emotion was lost on the abundance of blown out action. She was a true gauge for me outside of those I've read reviews from previously. If you're a twenty-something and you've never seen "Star Trek" you're probably going to think this movie is the second coming. Good for you, glad you enjoyed it so much and can't wait for the sequel. For me this was just a one-off that didn't really connect to the established universe of the franchise. But then again I really lost interest in the movies when they moved on to the Next Generation cast.
Another observation by Rebecca (and I agreed with her): did it seem like the ending was lifted from the original "Star Wars"? The Throne Room scene? Kirk gets a medal, everyone applauds...he should have winked at Spock. Then they all turn around and Chewbacca growls because he helped and didn't even get a medal! And even before that, Nero's humongous ship destroys entire planets. Hmmm...like the Death Star maybe? That J.J. Abrams...he's such a "Star Wars" fan.
As a Trek fan I was really expecting this movie to be fantastic. When I first heard about this project I thought to myself what an incredible fine line the filmmakers are going to have to tread to get this movie right, to follow what is canon. Kind of like Zack Snyder when making "Watchmen", and I thought he did an incredible job with that! Plus, I'm a fan of the graphic novel. Key elements when making a new movie from a revered book, property, comic, etc.; respect for the material while turning it up a notch and giving people something new. Zack Snyder, Sam Raimi, Bryan Singer have been these directors. J.J. Abrams could have gone to the next level, brought a really exciting "Star Trek" story WITH emotion and WITHOUT insane amounts of pimp-outed action, sets, characters, and it could have worked nicely. Turning it up to 11 or 12 would have been great. He turned it up to 30! I think my eyes and ears are bleeding now, thank you.
As a movie I wanted to see from purely a movie fan's perspective, and I too am a HUGE movie fan, "Star Trek" seemed kind of average, relying on a lot of elements we've seen before and to no greater use here. Like I said, it wasn't bad, it was just kind of...there. As a "Star Trek" movie, and the level of character depth, story, and emotion, this doesn't hold a candle to "The Wrath Of Khan"...period.