I was pretty meh about Star Trek. And my sons also found it kind of boring.
I feel like I missed the entire re-boot aspect of the film. Where was it? In the end, everything became just exactly like what was broadcast 40 years ago, only with shinier special effects and more cliched writing. There was a single moment where my ears perked up, feeling a sense of unpredictability--when Young Spock is captain and has Young Kirk tossed off the ship for insubordination--but, indeed, it was but a temporary aberration and we soon returned to the rightful triumph of How Things Ought to Be. In fact, this was yet another film about American essentialism.
In terms of rebooting, Battlestar Galactica was a ton more interesting (disclaimer: I have not seen Seasons 3 or 4), even with its dodgy gender elements, and by comparison it had a much more diverse cast in the major and secondary major roles.
So let's take a few points. The point of a re-boot is to, um, well, update the premise, right? Get new curtains. Redecorate. Make timely the issues involved; ask different questions than in the original because of changing circumstances and a new century.
I found none of that in this film. No new questions were asked. No chances were taken at all, in fact. A more diverse cast? Not really. Better gender representation? We had two vanishing but actually unimportant mothers. Uhura, who is given some interest in the opening part of the film, is reduced by the end to a love interest (worse than in the original series). Zoe Saldana is gorgeous, and she has real presence; I wish the writers/creators/whoever had treated her as a person instead of a foil.
But there's the thing. If they really meant to reboot the series, why didn't they do so? Forex, having a Chekhov in the original series was risky because of the Cold War. Now, they have a Young Chekhov because, um, there was one in the original series. And he is young, and a genius! Amazing how they are all geniuses. Either this film is the product of a generation swollen by a sense of its own entitlement to genius, or by a generation convinced its children are all geniuses. I can't tell which.
Back to Chekhov. So we have the kid with the cute Russian accent. Why? Why must he be Russian? Because he was in the original? But that's baloney, because Sulu, played by a Japanese-American actor in the original, is here played by a Korean-American actor. So why couldn't the Chekhov character be of, say, Nigerian ancestry? Or Brazilian? Or Indonesian? Why does he have to be the same, but we can switch out the Asian dude?
If they really meant to reboot the series, why not do a film about the Young'ns and show them in their first positions in a way that reflects actual circumstances? No way Young Kirk gets his ship at the end, even if he was a battlefield captain (which aspect one could believe). He might get an early promotion to Lt. for his battlefield heroics, but command of the flagship? This is just ridiculous. I could enjoy a trilogy of films in the vein of, say, Hornblower, where we see the Handsome Young Cast make their way up through the ranks more quickly than one normally would due to the exigencies of, say, war. But no. The essentialism of the subtext remains: Kirk must be captain. Spock must resign his captainship and gladly accept his subordinate position for reasons that make no logical sense if you examine them for even one instant. Uhura must wear short skirts, because, um, it's a homage to the original--yeah, that's the ticket--even if we throw a scrap to the dogs of the 21st century by suggesting she has Special Linguistic Powers (which we are only ever told of but don't actually see except in kind of passing like).
Females. Let me see. Two mothers, one useless and absent. The other, played as a middle aged woman by an under 40 who is aged to fit the role, has no personality and no point except to die. And Uhura, who is gamely given Special Powers but who doesn't actually really get to use them because she is more important to the plot as a love interest. The Orion girl offered a flash of interest, a moment of turnabout as fair play, but there was, naturally, no followup on her. Otherwise, any female roles were strictly incidental background filler. Pass the Bechdel Test? No, not really. It could have so easily.
What did I like?
I do like Zoe Saldana and if a sequel is made, which I expect it will be, I would hope she actually gets to do something.
Chris Pine was good as Young Kirk, I thought; he has real screen presence.
Eric Bana.,in a thankless role as a villain so bland and pointless that he was the filmic equivalent of gruel, was certainly handsome to look at. But how is it that the sole surviving Romulans were all white males between the ages of 20 and 40? How weirdly coincidental is that, eh?
Simon Pegg was good but really had little chance to do anything.
The special effects were nice but they didn't really matter. They didn't act to enhance the story. And, honestly, the action sequences struck me as pedestrian, and the couple of fight scenes downright lame. Can they not hire someone from Hong Kong to choreograph the fight scenes?
You know what? I really love skiffy action adventure films, but these days they strike me as so poorly written and structured that it is quite depressing. It is possible to make a great action film with characters whose character matters to how the plot unwinds. This isn't it.
UPDATED TO ADD:
I was in the theater on a Sunday night with a large crowd, and I was pleased to see the numbers. I hope the film does really well, even if I didn't love it, because the success of big ticket sf films means there will be more, and that seems like a good thing to me.
But Enough About Me!
How do you like my dress?
- Star Trek: Alas, Count Me Underwhelmed