Tai Shimizu

iOS & Mac Developer

Creator of the iOS photography apps Gridditor & Filterstorm, the Mac drawing app Inkist, the Mac HDR app Light Compressor, and the experimental web browser Torii.

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Star Trek Review

Did JJ Abrams really just make that movie and get away with it? I’m seeing 95% positive ratings on Rotten Tomatoes for perhaps the worst Star Trek movie of the 11.

Romulans sitting around waiting for Spock to save them? Really? Spock reciprocating Uhura’s feelings? What? Random ice planet monsters? This isn’t Empire Strikes Back, and that planet wasn’t Hoth! In fact, the planet was Delta Vega, but not the Delta Vega from “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. This Delta Vega is a planet at a similar distance to Vulcan as Earth is to its moon. That does not make sense.

The thing about all the old odd numbered movies is that even if they had a weak plot, at least they were proven characters we knew and loved. This movie attempts to start fresh, but ends up looking like a bad teen drama. The effects were lackluster, the action was pedestrian, and the villain uninspired.

Within the first few minutes you see a young Kirk driving a car (what?) listening to the Beastie Boys (WHAT?) being chased by a cop on what seems to be no more utility than a motorcycle today, but it floats, and in the future things are done to look cool, and not because they’re an improvement on past designs. Uninspired, to say the least.

There were bits of this movie that certainly got through to me. There were moments with only slightly tweaked versions of original series sound effects that brought shivers down my spine. There are little in-jokes scattered around the movie, with most characters able to get in their most famous lines. Sulu is still a fencer, bones still is a doctor, dammit, and Scotty still insists the ship’s giving all it can. In a way these side characters work.

Sulu is taken the least literally, I’m glad they didn’t attempt to make John Cho imitate Takei’s inimitable voice. Bones was perhaps slightly too close to DeForest Kelley’s speech patterns, treading on the edge of uncanny valley at times. Despite this, he still manages to steal almost every scene he’s in. Simon Pegg’s Scotty is fun, but over the top. I would have liked to see Paul McGillion (Stargate Atlantis’s Carson Beckett) take on the role.

These actors did a commendable job, and I think were well cast. The real problem is with the core, Kirk and Spock. Kirk is an arrogant whiner that Starfleet would never make an officer, and Spock is really just a human, his emotions no more suppressed than any other crew member. He’s hurt, he loves, and worst of all, he lets us know it.

Moving away from characters, I liked the bridge set better than I expected, but engineering was a mess. It looked not at all futuristic, and far too gritty for any starfleet design. People zipping from level to level on ropes was just gratuitous. Even if I had no prior exposure to starfleet, it just doesn’t look like it belongs in the same universe or time frame as the bridge and corridor sets.

The Enterprise itself was off proportion, the saucer section looked fine, but the nacelles are far too big, making it look unbalanced. Every time a ship gets into a fight we get close up shaky shots with screen-filling shots of phaser volleys which, while fairly interesting looking, makes it difficult to see what’s actually happening, and whether inside the ship or out, lens flares are constantly obscuring half the screen or more. Being able to see what was happening, I found the brief borg cube battle in First Contact far more visually appealing than anything in this movie.

I’m more burdened than most by my love for, and encyclopedic knowledge about, Star Trek. I’m sure for this reason alone most will enjoy it far more than I could, but even stepping back and looking at it as purely an action movie, or as a science fiction movie, i don’t see it working. The pacing was rushed, and the plot was just a thin vehicle for action. Major events happen, but I’m never given the chance to care.

With all that said, there’s potential. The secondary characters are already almost there. Without an angsty backstory to tell, if Kirk and Spock can slip into their normal roles, a sequel could be something amazing given the correct writers and fewer lens flares. Remember, the next movie will be even-numbered!

Posted by tai on 2009-05-08 08:31:06. Comments (0) | Tiny link

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