Geek in the City

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Star Trek – Spoiler Free Review (McCoy Version)

My history with the JJ Abrams relaunch of my beloved Star Trek is long and only slightly hypocritical. (Okay, I’m a massive hypocrite). I was a against it. I was angry. I was Comic Book Guy and my Geek rage would not be silenced. More like Star Wars? Screw you! He wasn’t a fan of Star Trek? Heresy! Written by the Transformers dudes? Hab SoSlI’ Quch! I’d have none of it. Why? It’s just Star Trek. It’s not like your identity as a human is on the line. Just Star Trek? Just?! Here’s the thing, Trek is a part of my personal identity, healthy or not. I was born into a Trek house and unlike many kids that rebel against their parents likes, I wholly embraced Star Trek. I knew all the original series episode titles before I knew my multiplication tables. I took drafting courses because I wanted to design the Enterprise. I got into my first fight in Junior High School because someone said Captain Kirk was gay. (I know, that doesn’t matter now, but when you’re a 12-year old Geek with massive insecurities; and surrounded by hicks, it matters). I got Geek Outed on the regional news when a camera caught me flashing the Live Long and Prosper salute whilst screaming “Yeah! Star Trek!” for my 16th birthday. I still have an Orion Girl fetish. Remake my beloved Star Trek? To hell with that!

Then something happened.

Abrams started releasing images and videos from his version of Star Trek. They looked good and they felt “right”. Sure, I wasn’t sold on the whole time travel thing. (Just because it is Star Trek doesn’t mean you have to friggen travel through time, curse you legacy of Berman)! Still, my anger started to subside. Then the casting happened, each actor a great fit for the character, save Chris Pine. I wasn’t sure on that one. Months went by, more and more information flooding your friendly neighborhood Geek’s inbox. What the hell was happening? What was that feeling? Wait, was I becoming excited? This was Star Trek from the Felicity and Mission Impossible III guy. Then Nimoy graced the screen for a short 3 seconds at the end of a trailer. Something snapped. I was Captain Kirk and Spock was telling me why I should accept my destiny and take command, face my Khan. (That might be the geekiest line I’ve ever written). Well, one does not argue with Mr. Spock, as it is an exercise in futility. I was hooked. Star Trek was coming back and it was coming back strong. After months and months, the film arrived. Like a kid on Christmas Eve, I tossed and turned in bed all night long, sleep eluding me. (I realize this review has been 100% navel gazing, too bad, this is Star Trek and I can’t avoid an emotional review, once I get to it).

The lights went down. The Paramount and Bad Robot logos beamed in and out. No credits. Just the USS Kelvin facing an unknown ship in the grandest of Star Trek tradition. As the trailers revealed, this is where Kirk and Spock’s destiny are set in stone and chain of events that leads to legend begins. To say this opening scene felt epic would be a disservice. This is the Star Trek we all knew existed, but Paramount never gave the budget to produce. The action is crisp and tense. The emotions are pure. The humanity is evident. This is Star Trek. But, this is only the opening 5 minutes. Still plenty of time to get it wrong. Still plenty of time to make massive cinematic mistakes and hammer in that final nail Trek naysayers have wanted for years. Did it happen? Did JJ Abrams and Paramount provide the death knell for a franchise pushing half a century?

Hell no! Indeed, I’d say Star Trek is stronger than ever and once you watch the film, you will agree.

Star Trek Crew Banner

Here begins the official review and I don’t care that I’ll be tagged as a plant or biased fanboy. This is Star Trek perfected. JJ Abrams, along with the cast and crew present a nearly perfect film. Miraculously, Abrams made a film that not only targets and entertains everyone, but also provides a respectful smile to the Trekkies that have been there since day one.

The casting and performances are spot on. Karl Urban makes the perfect D. Leonard H. McCoy. This is the simple country doctor in the stars that we all know and love. Simon Pegg, though low on the screen time, brings the humor and brilliance of Montgomery Scott. There is a reason Scotty has some of the most memorable lines in Trekdom, and Pegg nails each one while making it his own. John Cho and Anton Yelchin as Sulu and Chekov fit their roles with skill. Kudos to the writing team of Orci and Kurtzman (a phrase I never though I’d write). They understood both Chekov and Sulu were more than “the guys driving the Enterprise” as was their place in all the previous Star Trek films. Little nuances merely hinted at within the original series are given strong screen time.Does learning that Chekov is also a skilled stellar cartographer distract the Trek virgins? Not at all and we fans get to nod and think “finally”.

Zoe Saldana displays strength, intelligence, and grace that we fans have come to expect from space’s first lady. Her Uhura is sharp and quick, but with an all too human side; and the new addition to her character is something I am very much looking forward to. (No, I won’t say, this is spoiler free friends). Zachary Quinto is Spock, pure and simple. As one that isn’t a big follower of Heroes, I can’t say if he’s channeling Sylar. What I can say is playing a younger Spock, one not in complete control of his emotions is no small task. A task Quinto performs perfectly. Then we have Chris Pine, the lone actor that no one was sold on from day one. Who is this pretty boy sitting in the center seat? I’ll tell you who he is. He is Captain James Tiberius Kirk and don’t you forget it! This is Kirk distilled to his core element. Brilliant. Brash. Smooth. Human. Pine makes Kirk his own and yet never once do you think “this isn’t my Captain Kirk”. Because against all odds, Pine’s performance as Captain Kirk is my Kirk. As were all the characters in this film. Bones, Spock, Sulu, Chekov, Uhura, and Scotty. They are all there, in their iconic glory.

These characters, like so few in literature, have transcended the actors who portrayed them. They are part of the collective modern mythology. Their personalities reflecting something within all of us. Passion. Logic. Self-sacrifice. Love. Hate. Abrams clearly understood this fact when shooting Star Trek. These are characters that will endure long after we are gone. Stay true to the icon and you stay true to Star Trek.

As to the plot itself. Well, it is a Star Trek film, there are certain elements that must happen. Space anomalies? Check. Galaxy at stake? Check. Enterprise only ship able to help? Big check on that one. Still, for as many times as we’ve seen one variation or another on this plot, Star Trek keeps it fresh. Abrams knows exactly just how long to linger on a shot or element, and just you start to think about questioning the current path; he pulls you another direction. Yes, this is an origin story. One that many fans felt was unnecessary. Well folks, when Spock Prime (played by the venerable Leonard Nimoy, and whose first scene did make me tear up) enters the story, all bets are off. This is no longer the Star Trek history you’ve come to memorize. Characters are changed forever. Paths altered. No one and nothing is safe in this new Star Trek. And let me tell you, forget everything you know about Trek canon. The JJ Abrams Star Trek is an exciting universe where anything can and will happen.

A few months back Abrams made a comment that his Star Trek would be more like Star Wars. A comment that made my Trekkie blood boil. Dammit Jim, Star Trek was never supposed to be like Star Wars. I love Star Wars, but it had no place in my cerebral and morality laden Star Trek. Well Trekkies, relax. This is still Star Trek, but with an eye to ILM style effects and design. Again, this is Star Trek with an actual budget and feeling not seen since The Motion Picture. (Yes, TMP flick is boring but boy is it pretty). This Star Trek is pretty and not at all boring. You feel every torpedo hit. Phasers crackle the air all around you. Warp speed pulls your imagination right along with the Enterprise. Speaking of which, let me spend a moment to write about one of the most important characters in Star Trek. The USS Enterprise, NCC-1701. If there is another vessel in popular culture more recognizable, I don’t know what it is. (Yes, I place it over ships from Star Wars). She is sleek, sexy, modern, and yet retains that classic 1960s feel we Trekkies will forever love. Sure, the bridge looks extremely high tech now, but that had to happen. Even a “prequel” such as Star Trek needs to bend to modernism. Audiences, even Trekkies, won’t buy a craft from the 23rd century having bulky knobs and buttons. If my 2009 phone has a touch screen, you can bet an interstellar craft made 200 years from now will. Still, the production designers kept an eye on Trek tradition. The Enterprise uses a throttle to increase speed and the engine room is still littered with bizarre transistor ducts and Jefferies Tubes. Like I keep saying over and over again, this is the Star Trek for everyone.

The New USS Enterprise

When the Enterprise, crew at their stations, Warps toward the Final Frontier and Michael Giacchino’s excellent score kicks in, I was beyond elated. All my childhood memories came flooding back. This was the Star Trek that I grew up with, the Star Trek that did help make me the man I am today. This is the Star Trek that Gene Roddenberry envisioned all those years ago. The Star Trek that very few episodes and even less films rose to aspire. This is City on the Edge of Forever, Inner Light, Far Beyond the Stars, and The Wrath of Khan. This is the Star Trek that made me sneak out of bed at 3am and sit inches from the television just to watch one more episode.

The Star Trek that promised me humanity survives. That we rise above our petty differences. Where we all go where no one has gone before.

Together.

Star Trek opens May 8th. Those in Portland, OR, look for me at the Roseway Theater!

Those wanting a review with a little more emotional detachment, click HERE for Bobby (Spock) Roberts Star Trek review.

Category: MOVIES
  • Jim says:

    It was a great popcorn movie… full of sound and fury. that’s the best I can say.

    May 4, 2009 at 4:14 pm
  • Aaron says:

    Oh, come on. I read your email. You liked it more than that! :)

    May 4, 2009 at 4:20 pm
  • Melanie says:

    Too cool for school strikes again.

    May 4, 2009 at 6:15 pm
  • Aaron says:

    What? This movie was anything but “too cool for school”. This flick WAS the school. Oh, I get it. Well, I understand where that commenter is coming from. He’s got a long and loving history with Trek. Can’t fault his opinion, even if I don’t agree.

    May 4, 2009 at 6:17 pm
  • Mcbee says:

    Hmmm…roseway 8pm Thursday or Loud show 11pm friday? Hmmmmmmmmm might have to just do both lol

    May 4, 2009 at 7:30 pm
  • Aaron says:

    I like the way you think!

    May 4, 2009 at 7:53 pm
  • Meghann says:

    I can’t wait to see this!!! Your review brought a little tear to my eye!!!

    May 5, 2009 at 12:18 pm
  • Xander says:

    /skeptical

    Actually, did you WATCH the original series? Your comments sound much more TNG+

    > Space anomalies? Check.

    Really? How many TOS episodes had “space anomalies”? In the 79 episodes (counting the pilot), I can only think of a COUPLE that even *had* space anomalies of any kind. I’d hardly say this was important to ‘Trek’!

    > Galaxy at stake? Check.

    And, again, how many times in TOS was the “galaxy at stake”? The only time I can even think that Earth ALONE was at stake was in ‘The Doomsday Machine’.

    > Enterprise only ship able to help? Big check on that one

    Bah, this is pure TNG, there. In TOS, ‘Enterprise’ was an important ship, sure. Critical, even. The miners on Janus VI were relieved to even hear ‘Enterprise’ was coming. But it was pointed out several times in the series that she was of a class of a dozen similar ships. And, it was implied, each doing the exact same missions, exact same risky contacts and exploration, and, yes, many of them lost along the way. What set TOS apart from the later series (and Star Wars, specifically) was that it was always about the GROUP. ‘Enterprise’ was important, but there were other ships like her. Kirk was critical…but was balanced by the logic of Spock, humanity of McCoy, or support of his crew.

    And I think the biggest strike against the movie is that it IS an “action flick”. It doesn’t seem to be ABOUT anything. That’s really what set TOS off from the later series – each episode tended to be quite heavy-handed with some morality tale. Maybe not the most action-packed situations that crew or ship went through…but the ones most showing something about ourselves or teaching a lesson…were what we were shown.

    Anyway, it DOES look like a great ‘popcorn’/action movie. Seriously. And the soundtrack is quite good (not Cliff Eidelman good…but still Very Good). I’m definitely catching it opening weekend. But I’m not expecting ‘Star Trek’ (TOS) out of it.

    May 5, 2009 at 8:13 pm
  • Aaron says:

    Did I watch the original series?! Oh Xander, you done opened the can…

    Space Anomalies – The Immunity Syndrome, Operation Annihilate!, Tomorrow is Yesterday, The City on the Edge of Forever, Obsession, Wolf in the Fold, Day of the Dove, The Lights of Zetar, The Motion Picture, The Voyage Home

    Galaxy at Stake – Doomsday Machine, What Are Little Girls Made Of?, Charlie X, Balance of Terror (had Enterprise been destroyed, Romulans would have conquered Federation), The Changeling, The Motions Picture, The Wrath of Khan, The Voyage Home,

    Enterprise only ship – Balance of Terror, Doomsday Machine, The Motion Picture, The Wrath of Khan, The Voyage Home, The Final Frontier, The Undiscovered Country.

    Yes, the film is an “action flick”, but so is Wrath of Khan… Just disguised as a submarine film. This is a story of beginnings. A story how how legends come together. Dammit, this is a strong STAR TREK movie. This is TOS.

    May 6, 2009 at 7:52 am
  • fatboy roberts says:

    I can only assume one of two things:

    Either Xander left his computer logged into GITC and the stick in his ass posted a comment under his account while Xander wasn’t looking

    -OR-

    Someone finally wrote a chatbot program designed to sound exactly like a stereotypical Star Trek fan, and beta-tested it here at GITC.

    Also, there is only one comment on my review, and that is by Aaron, and that one doesn’t count because it’s his site. I consider this lame.

    May 6, 2009 at 8:23 am
  • Aaron says:

    Really, either reason for said posting is awesome! Although by the name, it could be a Whedonesque fan exacting their final revenge on me for a certain podcast.

    May 6, 2009 at 8:32 am
  • fatboy roberts says:

    Nah, you kissed those guys’ ass the very next show, they’ve already forgotten about all that.

    May 6, 2009 at 9:04 am
  • Xander says:

    Not much of Whedon fan, sorry. As to the episodes :-P

    > Space Anomalies – The Immunity Syndrome

    A giant amoeba is not a “space anomaly”. Falls more into the category of ‘monster’.

    > Operation Annihilate!

    Not even IN space! A creature, again, and set entirely on a planet’s surface!

    > Tomorrow is Yesterday

    Hmmmm…I’ll give you that one. The singularity that sent the Enterprise back in time wasn’t even SEEN in the episode, and certainly wasn’t the point of the episode…but was a ‘space anomaly’

    > The City on the Edge of Forever

    Again, not in space, and not an ‘anomaly’.

    > Obsession, Wolf in the Fold, Day of the Dove, The Lights of Zetar, The Motion Picture, The Voyage Home

    And all these were monsters or ships.

    > Galaxy at Stake – Doomsday Machine

    I did mention this one – but only really ‘the core worlds of the Federation’ were at risk, not exactly the whole galaxy.

    > What Are Little Girls Made Of?

    Howso? Seems unlikely that the androids would get off the planet on their own.

    > Charlie X

    He was dangerous. But he was also stuck on the planet before the Enterprise came along, so it’s not like there was some danger to the galaxy BEFORE they arrived.

    > Balance of Terror (had Enterprise been destroyed, Romulans would have conquered Federation)

    Doubt it. Had Enterprise been destroyed, there would have been another war. Nothing more. And Earth alone won the LAST war against the Romulans. Against the whole Federation? Stalemate, at best (I’m a huge fan of the Romulans, myself, but, still…the WHOLE Federation? Nuh-uh.)

    > The Changeling

    This one is a fairly good case – it would have taken a while (maybe longer than the machine could survive), but it was a real threat.

    > The Motions Picture, The Voyage Home,

    Both only threats to Earth itself – nothing else.

    > The Wrath of Khan,

    Khan was dangerous, yes, but the whole GALAXY? I don’t think THAT dangerous. (And the movies with the TOS crew aren’t exactly TOS-style stories. They really do feel a lot more like TNG, which isn’t surprising, given that most of them were contemporaries of TNG and later series)

    > Enterprise only ship

    As to all of those – I think I didn’t state my point clearly. My argument was not that the Enterprise didn’t save the day. Rather, the point was that there was no implication that it was ONLY Enterprise and NOBODY ELSE who could have done it. For ‘Balance of Terror’ – any of star fleets other Constitution-class ships could have done the same thing. For ‘Doomsday Machine’, the Constellation actually DID end up defeating the monster, not Enterprise at all (although, clearly, it was Enterprise’s crew that ended up being responsible for the victory…it WAS the other ship that actually destroyed it).

    Cases like this movie appears to be…well, it seems like it falls into the category of a lot of what happened in the ‘Enterprise’ TV series. Especially in the Xindi arc, when it seemed like the entire planetary defenses consisted of the Enterprise (NX-01) and a half dozen other, smaller, craft…tops. I mean, the ENTIRE INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT OF EARTH amounts to 4 short-ranged ships and a single Warp 5-capable ship? *Really??* Although the winner for the “most contrived ‘only ship available’ award” goes to Star Trek V. I mean, seriously? The Enterprise, half complete and mostly nonfunctional, IN ORBIT OF EARTH, is the CLOSEST Federation starship to the neutral zone? REALLY?! Even if you take it to mean ‘closest ship not assigned another mission’, it’s still ridiculous. This is EARTH ORBIT. There wasn’t another ship in spacedock? Not a SINGLE ONE? Nobody, in the entire fleet, heading out to some patrol zone or returning from a mission that could be diverted? Uggh!

    May 6, 2009 at 11:19 am
  • Xander says:

    BTW – as an aside, while TWoK was a tremendously fun movie, and along with ST6 the best of the set (so far), one has to admit that it started a rather ugly trend of using special effects in some serious faults of logic.

    In TOS, the Enterprise was directly stated as having the ability to single-handedly devastate a planet (A Taste of Armageddon), and regularly – indeed, always – engaged in combat at warp speeds. In fact, the idea of fighting at LESS than warp speed was specifically stated as putting them at a huge disadvantage (Elaan of Troyius). Given the range ship-to-ship naval combat would take place today (100nm+…WELL outside visual range) and the lethality of weapons today (hydrogen bombs, anyone?), this level of destructiveness and ranges make sense for 200 years+ into the future.

    Yet, while the sensors of that period could certainly track a ship moving at warp, you clearly can’t put both ships in the same frame for a movie scene, then. And weapons that can flatten a city in one hit…well, would vaporize a ship if they went off against the hull. This seriously limits the “cool” factor of having ships flying past each other and engaging in space battle duels, with weapons that slice up and scar the hulls.

    Granted, this particular whole rant (hey, the site has ‘rant’ in the mantra!) has me totally being a textbook example of the fans being poked at by the Onion:

    http://www.theonion.com/content/video/trekkies_bash_new_star_trek_film?utm_source=a-section

    …but, still, it’s a shame to see so many ideas given up for the sake of “gee whiz” special effects and action sequences. It sure does LOOK pretty…but it’s not a very believable progress of technology from today. And rather a significant regression from what was in TOS (something that even the remastered versions of the episodes seemed to want to screw around with – just because you CAN put all the ships in the same frame now, doesn’t mean you SHOULD. I mean, seriously, when the dialog being stated in the episode says that the enemy ship is tens of thousands of kilometers away…*you aren’t going to be able to see both ships, in the same frame, at the same time* It’s pretty, but it’s wrong.)

    So, yeah, that’s why I’m thinking of this movie as a fun (and it looks fun!) ‘popcorn/action’ flick. But it’s NOT TOS, sorry.

    May 6, 2009 at 11:34 am
  • Aaron says:

    Perhaps I enjoy the stories as fantastic fiction and a way to make some social commentary. Also, fake.

    Wait… > Space Anomalies – The Immunity Syndrome

    A giant amoeba is not a “space anomaly”. Falls more into the category of ‘monster’. (Um, so a giant space monster ain’t a friggen anomaly? Ok). But, no matter.

    You’re mind was made up a long time ago. No point in continuing this “discussion”. Like arguing religion, neither minds will change. But, thanks for the input. I am sure there are many that will agree with you. Thanks for the visit!

    May 6, 2009 at 11:44 am
  • Xander says:

    Well, I COULD be wrong about the movie. :-P Catching it this weekend, so…will see!

    May 6, 2009 at 11:56 am
  • Aaron says:

    I look forward to your thoughts! Thanks.

    May 6, 2009 at 12:00 pm
  • fatboy roberts says:

    Jesus Christ that was fucking depressing.

    May 6, 2009 at 2:39 pm
  • KaraokeFanboy says:

    Aaron, I just saw it — YES. What a great way to please fans of the past and recruit new fans for the future, by affirming continuity freaks of the sanctity of their timeline, while building a foundation toward a new direction. Question: The bugs Nero used on Captain Pike — the same bugs from the TNG ep “Conspiracy”?

    I’m assuming they avoided the Klingons completely so we could have a fresh new foe for the inevitable sequel. Can’t wait to boldly go again.

    May 9, 2009 at 9:09 pm

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