The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

May 17, 2009

To Boldly Nitpick Where Thousands Have Nitpicked Before: The New Star Trek Movie

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 3:35 pm

WARNING:  This post is full of spoilers on the new Star Trek Movie.  If you have not yet seen it, and wish to do so, I would recommend that you not read this post until after you have watched the movie. 

Although over the years I have watched quite a bit of Star Trek in its various incarnations, I do not think that I would consider myself to be a Trekkie.  For one thing, I have never really done much besides watching the show itself, and even with that there’s still a fair bit I haven’t ever watched.  I’d say I’ve seen most episodes of The Next Generation, but beyond that I have watched bits and pieces of the other various Trek series (mostly Voyager.)  I haven’t even watched all of the episodes of the Original Series yet.  I’m sure I’ll eventually catch up on all this stuff, but suffice it to say I am not exactly the biggest Star Trek fan out there.

With this in mind, on Friday I finally broke my years-long streak of staying out of movie theaters and joined a number of other people to watch the new Star Trek movie that is out in theaters right now.  I actually hadn’t planned on seeing it, but since all the cool kids were doing it (well, at least the cool kids that weren’t over in  the other  theater for Angels and Demons) and because I began to suspect I might be putting myself at risk for revocation of my nerd license (which is probably already on some sort of probation not only because I took so long to see the Lord of the Rings movies, but because I never bothered reading the books before seeing them) if I didn’t see it, I ended up at a 9:30 showing at the Lincoln Square Cinemas in Bellevue on Friday.  The theater at Lincoln Square actually has an IMAX screen they were showing the film on, but for this one we just stuck with the standard version. 

Although I found the movie to be mostly enjoyable, I found that even taking the loose interpetation of the laws of physics present in the Star Trek universe into consideration, there were still a number of scenes I found to be a bit far-fetched, which ultimately turned into the nitpick post you will find below.  Once again, I will remind the reader that this post is full of spoilers, and is not recommended for anyone who has not yet seen the movie if they plan to do so.  For those of you who might find this type of thing boring and/or headache-inducing, there should be a new Recycled Newspaper post coming soon to give you something more to your liking to read.

As usual,  you will find the remainder of the post after the jump.

The action portion of the movie (at least the part of it where I started paying attention) begins with a distress call from Vulcan in the middle of a hearing over Kirk’s rigging of the Kobayshi Maru scenario.  If you’re starfleet, you send half your fleet out to investigate a distress call on Vulcan and completely lose contact with them within minutes of sending them there (particularly if they all got annihilated in particularly horrendous fashion by some big evil Romulan ship from the future,) don’t you think someone might notice this and try to figure out what’s going on?  In the movie, it’s explained that the big space drill (of all things) is disrupting communications and transporters, but you’d think that if nothing else, someone out at Starfleet would probably notice some sort of communications jamming signal or something like that.  And even though all available cadets at the Academy were sent after this distress call (and presumably annihilated in the process) there still seemed to be an awful lot of them left at the Academy afterwards to run outside, gawk and otherwise stand around being useless when the big bad Romulan guy showed up and started drilling in the middle of San Francisco Bay.

And speaking of giant space drills, was there really any need to drill to the planet’s core in the first place?  If you’re dealing with something that creates a black hole big enough to suck in an entire planet (or, for that matter, an entire supernova,) it doesn’t seem like you’d need to worry about all the messy business of drilling a hole clear to the planet’s core for it to work.  A slightly less fanatical vengance-fueled galactic supervillain from the future might have considered sneaking someone in on a shuttlecraft with a tiny little thing of red matter, dropping it off on some middle-of-nowhere corner of Vulcan with a time bomb attached to it, and finding some nice quiet corner of the solar system from which to watch the annhilation of Vulcan.  I suspect that most bloodthirsty Romulans would find that approach a bit unsatisfying, but it would certainly get the job done with a lot less hassle, and might attract a bit less attention when it comes time to go destroy the rest of the Federation.  Not that the Federation seemed to be doing much to respond to the annihilation of half of Starfleet and the destruction of Vulcan in the first place.  If the Federation in 2258 happens to be anything like the UN of today they’d probably have still been busy haggling over the language of the strongly worded resolution when the black hole sucked them all in, but that’s beside the point…

Of course, the only real reason they needed a giant space drill was to provide some sort of plot device on which to hang a big-bucks action sequence in which Kirk, Sulu and the obligatory Ensign Redshirt drop from a shuttlecraft onto the giant drill in an effort to disable it.  If you’re going to be skydiving from space and aiming at some tiny little platform hanging thousands of meters off the ground in a daring high-risk maneuver (especially one in which you might possibly find yourself getting shot at,) you’d think that you might want to consider having a backup parachute around.  You know, just in case some sort of huge FX-laden action battle set-piece happens to be waiting for you when you land on the thing.  Sure, you might luck out and get some ensign who happens to be able to dash all the way from the bridge to the transporter room, take the transporter controls (which seem like they’d be accessible from somewhere on the bridge) and figure out how to get transporter locks on two targets falling at terminal velocity just in time to beam them out before they land, but you probably don’t want to count on that.

At this point, I won’t even bother discussing the gratuitous Nimoy ex Machina they threw into the plot (but I’m sure there will be people with plenty to say about that one though,) nor will I bother discussing how some random galactic hitchhiker somehow ended up being promoted to Chief Engineer of the ship (even if he did somehow mysteriously “figure out” the secret to transwarp beaming from some middle-of-nowhere Federation outpost.)  From here, Kirk forces Spock to relinquish command of the ship for being “emotionally compromised” (and getting himself half-strangled in the process) and instead of being tossed in the brig for all his various transgressions up to that point, he somehow ends up assuming command of the vessel.  Then again, if Spock is emotionally compromised by the whole thing, how isn’t Kirk?  After all, Nero killed his father on the USS Kelvin, which might give him a bit of reason to be mad at the guy.  Probably not exactly to the point of being “He destroyed my planet, killed my mother AND probably kicked my pet Tribble in the process” emotionally compromised, but probably enough to fall afoul of the Starfleet regulations. 

Nonetheless, with Kirk in command of the Enterprise, the movie moves on toward its climax in which Kirk and Spock beam aboard the Narada, Spock steals the Red Matter-equipped ship in which Future Spock came through the black hole, and sets up a final showdown in which the ship is rammed into the Narada setting off all the red matter, but not before the Enterprise appears out of nowhere with phasers blazing, which is somehow able to shoot down all the missiles fired at Spock’s ship.  The same missiles that, as you might recall, just annihilated half of Starfleet back on Vulcan.  You’d think if a ship crewed by a ragtag group of wet-behind-the-ears cadets and already on its fourth acting captain could manage a feat of galactic marksmanship of that caliber, surely someone in one of those other Ensign Redships over on Vulcan could probably have managed to do something similar.  Nonetheless, after the Red Matter explodes and creates the black hole which destroys the Narada (a surprisingly small Black hole for as much Red Matter as was detonated here, I might add, especially if a drop of the stuff is supposed to destroy a planet) the Enterprise finds itself in the gravitational pull, which begins cracking various structures on the bridge as the ship attempts to escape, but yet somehow manages to avoid crushing the presumably much more fragile heads of the crewmembers within.  Finally, a massive explosion of ejected warp cores manages to propel the ship out of the gravitational field.  An explosion that even by the loose standards of Star Trek physics, would definitely be pushing it in terms of size.

All in all, in spite of miscellaneous nitpicks, I still thought the movie was pretty good, even though if I watched it again I might be inclined to skip past the first thirty minutes or so.  Yes, it’s probably necessary to establish that The New and Improved James T. Kirk is 35% more angst-riddled and edgy than the leading brand (the same goes for New Spock, with a side of Spock Classic randomly thrown in for comparison) but once you’ve got that part figured out you probably don’t need to watch him try to pick up Uhura and get into a barroom brawl again.  Taken as a whole, I can say that this movie is nothing like any of the Star Trek I’m familiar with.  It’s pretty much the same effect that gets applied when some old and (vaguely) beloved TV or comic franchise gets turned into a big-budget blockbuster.  The result looks and feels almost nothing like the original, but is still easily recognizable as such.  As with most of the movies of this ilk, I suspect they’ll sequel this one into oblivion soon enough, but in the meantime it’s an enjoyable action flick that just happens to be a Star Trek movie.  I might even be inclined to watch it again at some point, which given how few movies I actually watch is about as much of a compliment as I can give it.

1 Comment »

  1. I am Captain James Tiberias Kirk. You killed my father. Prepare to die!

    Comment by Stephen B — May 17, 2009 @ 9:39 pm

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