Directed by JJ Abrams
A massive ship from the future appears from a spatial anomaly and sets about attacking the Federation when it probably should avert the disaster that pissed off its captain.
I have problems with this movie. While the 2009 reboot gave Star Trek the big budget it needed to best tell its stories, it saddled it with a shallow story along that a complete bastardization of the mythos that no movie universe deserves.
Supposedly the point of divergence for the Kelvin Timeline was when Nero showed up and attacked the USS Kelvin. I am cool with that but where is Sam Kirk? It was established in TOS that Captain Kirk (Chris Pine here) had an OLDER brother named George Samuel “Sam” Kirk. He was mentioned once and seen once where he was infamously played by William Shatner wearing a thin mustache. His OLDER brother is never seen or mentioned in this movie or the other two for that matter. Prove me wrong if you can. I know it is a small piece of Star Trek mythology, but it is something that is not hard to discover if you watch the original series. I think the writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman failed to do even the most basic of Google searches and instead relied on casual knowledge of the series.
Families on starships did not start happening until just before the TNG era due to the voyages being longer in that time. That was established during Season 1 of that series. Prior to that families resided off ship though it appeared childless married couples could be together on a ship. A few TOS episodes implied this. I bring this up because Kirk’s mom (Jennifer Morrison) is in labor with her second (or not) child in this movie. Obviously she is VERY pregnant yet still hopping around deep space. Unless the timeline changed prior to the film then she should not be there.
Supposedly the goal of an alternate timeline was to open up new story possibilities but have the characters portrayed as they were originally. I am fine with that but several key moments, for example, in Captain Kirk’s life are either altered or missing. They were important to the character. One is Finnegan. He was a Starfleet Academy boy that really affected Captain Kirk so much so that in a TOS episode he conjured up a copy of him in order to finally get the better of this nemesis.
Captain Kirk’s time aboard the Farragut was also especially formative. That was when he encountered a cloud entity and the inability to stop it originally greatly affected him as his first encounter nearly killed him. These are just off the top of my head.
In this movie even though Pike states Kirk has a genius level intellect, Kirk is portrayed as a drunken idiot or just a dunce. In TOS he was a Starfleet Academy instructor for a time. “In Jim Kirk’s class you either sink or swim” or so his friend Gary Mitchell said in “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” They took the most superficial aspects when that was not what the character is all about. He was a charming intellectual that had a way with women.
The whole Kobayashi Maru scenario as they showed in the movie was just awful. It just did not feel natural or plausible that Kirk as he was acting could have pulled it off. The character was no even pretending that everything was normal. Conversely when they showed Spock (Zachary Quinto) rejecting joining the Vulcan Science Academy it was a very genuine moment. It felt authentic and not jokey as they did with the Kobayashi Maru. For some reason they took care with the latter and not the former.
Karl Urban gets McCoy right. I know actors generally do not like to emulate a predecessor’s performance when taking over a roll, but he made a smart move in doing what amounted to an impression of DeForest Kelley playing Leonard McCoy. It accomplished the goal of the character being portrayed the same in an alternate timeline. I also applaud the writers for inserting a little bit of information about McCoy that was in the series Bible but never made it onto the screen. Bones was divorced. I also find that shocking since they totally missed Kirk’s OLDER BROTHER but got the never mentioned divorce of McCoy.
Ben Cross and Wynona Ryder nailed it as Spock’s parents. Cross was calm and cool and reserved but not stiff and robotic. He nailed the template as established by Mark Lenard in his portrayal. He portrayed him as more than a fleshy robot. Amanda was a loving mother who was in control of herself enough that she could function. Ryder hit that on the head.
I am old enough to remember the stink it caused when William Shatner paired Scotty and Uhura in Star Trek V. Personally I did not mind it. It did not seem to be illogical in my opinion plus it gave the actors a little more to do with their characters rather than be just background support for Shatner. Also this Star Trek V fling did not feel awkward or forced but the Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Spock relationship here felt awkward and maybe even a little childish. These adult characters came off as high school kids.
It is clear that a certain portion of the ship scenes were filmed in buildings. That reality smacks you harder than an aluminum bat to the side of your head. You have a multimillion-dollar budget and you need to go location shooting for parts of your spaceship? Where is that budget going? It is fine to go location shooting for the alien planet or for some type of building, but it is idiotic to do so for your spaceships. It detracts from and does not enhance the film. Engineering looked like a water treatment plant but was actually a Budweiser plant in Van Nuys. Really?! Utter idiocy.
One of the things about Star Trek is the ships never had a lot of useless space on them. I know that had to do more with them being sets you had to construct but it also makes sense from a technical aspect. You do not want a lot of useless space on a spaceship. That wastes space in something where space is at a premium and requires energy to be used to provide an environment to something not being used. Engineering or the shuttle bays on the Enterprise or even on Nero’s ship there is a lot of useless space.
And why is there water on the floor in Nero’s ship? They are just traipsing around in a big puddle at one point. It does not look like any kind of processing area. There is just no logical reason for some of the set design elements other than them going for cool or alien looking over logical.
I know they want to re-design things. Give old stuff a more modern look if you will but maintain the design elements that connect it to that universe. It helps maintain continuity. Nothing has any design similarities to the original series stuff. It does not have to be an exact copy but the Enterprise bridge for example in an oft used descriptive was like an Apple store. I read that design was actually inspired by Abrams love of his new iPhone.
I would say designing similar to what was used in the original Star Trek movies would have been a better option than all the slick and shiny surfaces and massive amounts of white they used here. Those had a visual connection to TOS. This not so much.
With the Enterprise crew joining up they imply via a statement from Spock that all of them coming together on the Enterprise is fate but honestly, it is just coincidence. At least the way it is portrayed in the movie. There is no real implication of fate but some rather lazy writing to get the characters all on one ship. I am being kind initially calling it coincidence.
Spock Prime (Leonard Nimoy appearing in an effort to lend this movie some cred with fans) seems super helpful in directing Kirk around…to a point. It feels like he holds back the most important information or help when it works best for the plot rather than what is most consistent for the character’s stated purpose. He gives Scotty (Simon Pegg) those equations but fails to be really helpful when it comes to Kirk and his younger self.
Why didn’t the Romulan Star Empire evacuate their seat of power? They knew the nova was coming. As of this writing I haven’t seen Picard so I don’t know if there’s an explanation offered up there but it seems logical that even the militaristic and authoritarian Romulan Star Empire would see fit to begin evacuation of the population of their home planet knowing disaster was coming. A nova is not a surprise and there is generally plenty of warning from a star. With their advanced science they would have an even greater warning.
Say the Romulans were extremely stupid for some reason and did not evacuate their people because they thought they or Spock could stop the nova from reaching their planet. That still does not explain why Nero after coming back in the past decides to linger around space for 25 years waiting for Spock. Or that after showing up and realizing when he was did not make a beeline for Romulus. His spaceship is one big piece of evidence of anything he might say. Trying to find Spock and then decimating the Federation seems silly.
The story is…okay. It is just not a great story. And that is one problem. Another is there really is not too much to the story when you get down to it. Most of the movie is just retold origin elements. Some of it is nice to see. Some of it makes me cringe that they showed it how they did. The characterizations are close but not quite right more often than not.
Star Trek stories are to be about more than what can be gleaned from the surface. This should have been more than an origin story. What bigger things does this story touch on and explore? Nothing. It is all origin and spectacle with little substance.
Star Trek (2009) was a barely adequate start, but they could have done it so much better. Instead they give us this shallow piece of material that feels like fanfiction. I am glad Star Trek finally got a good budget again, but it should have had a worthy story. The movie has plenty of spectacle but not much substance. It is an okay watch but not a must see in any sense. Skip it!
2 thoughts on “Star Trek (2009)”
There’s not a lot to like about this movie. I liked some of the retro styling (the end-credits is possibly the highlight of the film for me) and some of the casting – as you say, Karl Urban as McCoy is just perfect and as such is totally wasted by the ham-fisted Jar Jar. The guys who made this film obviously had such little knowledge of Trek mythology, and thought that the Kelvin timeline would excuse their laziness. What is it with Jar Jar and his hijacking and destruction of established franchises, its like he’s some kind of nefarious creative criminal.
In hindsight, seeing what he did to Star Trek everyone should have been terrified of him touching Star Wars, and he did the same to that (possibly he did worse- I don’t think either of his Star Treks, bad as they were, stank as much as Rise of Skywalker did). Now he’s being set loose on the DC universe I think I need to dig myself a deep hole and hide away for a few years, it could get ugly.
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Abrams is all about style over substance as demonstrated by how he handles legacy properties.
When it comes to DC I think the WB executives see an kindred spirit which does not bode well for the films there.