Flashback: Nitpicker's Guide to the New Star Trek, Pt. 2
In preparation for discussions of the new Star Trek movie, CultureGeek offers you the four-part review of the 2009 reboot, which I dubbed Star Trek 2.0. This is part two.
May 14, 2009
To be fair, I'm going to start the spoileriffic Nitpicker's Guide* with the stuff I liked. Spoilers! Spoilers! Don't read if you haven't seen it.
• A real ensemble cast. For the first time, everybody got something to do. One of the downsides for the original cast was simply sitting in their eternally un-seatbelted stations, frowning and looking scared and occasionally throwing themselves out of their seats while the Big Three had all the fun.
Sulu got to actually fight with his sword! I can just imagine George Takei grinning from ear to ear - lore has it the "Naked Time" episode was his favorite because he got to fence through the halls of the Enterprise. Yes, I've heard people complaining about Sulu's Chinese fighting style when he's really Japanese and the actor is Korean and... y'know, chill. It was awesome, and Sulu got to save Kirk's life, so you know Takei was eating that all up.
Of course Chekov is a talkative young Russian who can save the day at age 17 because he ran off to join Starfleet. He's a nerd. C'mon, you were once a nerdy teenager and don't tell me you didn't want to run off and join Starfleet. I would've done it in place of college if it existed. In fact, CultureGeek Jr. informed halfway through the movie that it is his new career goal, so he would like someone to go invent Starfleet already.
As for those complaining about Chekov's accent - the kid grew up in Leningrad, people. As opposed to Walter Koenig, who grew up in Chicago. The only alteration Anton Yelchin made to his accent was to keep Koenig's replacement of V's with W's, even though that's more Polish than Russian.
Scotty was a bit more of a caricature, as though Simon Pegg was playacting at Montgomery Scott rather than really digging into him. Granted, he didn't get much time to play with the Enterprise, but we needed to see Scotty up to his waist in a Jeffries tube Scotty-rigging something to pull off a miracle, not running through the bizarrely empty engine room and pressing a button. However, bonus points for what he did to Admiral Archer's beagle. (Ha!)
Also, look fast for the guy sitting next to Scotty in the transporter room. That's Chris Doohan, son of James, who also appeared in Star Trek: The Motionless Picture.
I talked up the Big Three before, and Uhura belongs in the next part. I just want to add: Karl Urban is now my movie boyfriend.
• Hand-waves at the Prime universe. Did anyone besides me hear McCoy ask for a hypo from "Nurse Chapel"? Who responded, off-camera, "Yes Doctor." Oh, I expect - nay, demand - a truly uncomfortable love triangle in the next movie.
Lots of little touches: the tribble on Scotty's console at Delta Vega. Olsen as a literal red-shirt. The aforemention of Admiral Archer. "Fascinating," with eyebrow quirk. A way-too-cocky Kirk smacking his head on a low beam, knocking him down a well-deserved peg. Everyone got in their trademark lines, without too much ham-handedness. I had quite a few giggles.
• The music. I realize this isn't a popular opinion. No, the new theme doesn't match either classic or TNG themes in its soaring dance. But the score itself worked for me very well.
• The design. No, it makes no sense for the bridge to look like an Apple Store and the engine room to look like an oil rig crossed with a brewery. I don't care. It was very shiny. I particularly like that Sulu's warp-drive is a big shiny lever instead of the flat panels of Enterprise D - a little throwback is good for us.
Extra credit also goes for the space shots. It's one of the very few space operas that really gets the three-dimensionality of space from a visual and tactical standpoint. Choreographing a space battle is much more like planning an air assault than a naval battle; even classic Trek movies still tended toward sea metaphors. The stellar (heh) battle in Wrath of Khan was lifted almost entirely from The Enemy Below, a submarine picture.
Abrams really gets all three dimensions, not just in the way the ships fly, but the way the camera moves over and under the ship. Excellent work.
• The old girl herself. The Enterprise gets her own mention, because she was a thing of beauty. A brilliant cross between TV-1701 and Movie-1701 with a touch of Next-Gen and a bit of the 21st century in her smooth lines, the Enterprise was art herself rising through space. Geek confession: in my youth, I built model starships, because my first best destiny was to be a starship captain and I was in love with space.
Seeing Enterprise Beta for the first time, I had chills. For the first time since I was fourteen years old, I wanted to build a model starship, because she was just that pretty.
And that moment where she flies out of warp and unleashes hell itself on the giant jellyfish? That was geek heaven. The goddess has fangs. It was right up there with the Enterprise Prime rising above Khan's ship in the Mutara Nebula and blasting him back to the 20th century. Again: A thing of beauty.
• Best line ever: "Out of the chair." Tone, timing, everything. I nearly killed myself laughing.
Next: The Boos. Sorry, it wasn't the second coming of science ficton, folks.
* The title of this series refers to the excellent series of books by Phil Farrand, now sadly out of print.