Sunday, May 10, 2009

STAR TREK - deus ex singularity

I am not a sci-fi fan. I've never seen an episode of Star Trek in any of its guises. I only watched the new Battlestar Galactica because Melvin and Sam convinced me that it wasn't, in fact, sci-fi but a consideration of US politics post 9-11. In fairness, I did get pretty addicted to BSG up until season 4 when it transpired that, not only Ronald D Moore NOT have a plan, he also had NO respect for his viewers. So my brief dalliance with sci-fi was over.

Still, I approached J J Abrams re-boot of STAR TREK with curiosity and an open-mind. He did a good job injecting the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE franchise with some emotional heft, and allowed us all to vicariously get off on Philip Seymour Hoffman beating the crap out of Tom Cruise. Moreover, much of the team from MI-3 were reunited on STAR TREK - not least writing duo Kurzman/Orci and cinematographer Daniel Mindel.

Imagine then, my horror, when a few minutes into this new flick, I'm greeted with a rip-off of one of the worst scenes from the new Star Wars trilogy - James T Kirk's mother screaming through childbirth as her heroic (read: unemotive, square-jawed, blonde) husband suicide bombs into the nasty Romulan ship so that his crew can escape. I had traumatic flashbacks to the Natalie Portman birth scene.

Fast forward through Kirk and Spock's childhood (Kirk an enfant terrible a la Dubya; Spock a half-human, half-Vulcan misfit) and we end up with Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quino), Sulu (John Cho), Uhura (Zoe Soldana) and Bones (Karl Urban) aboard the brand new Enterprise and on their way to aid Vulcan. Kirk doesn't inspire me with much confidence. He runs round the ship like a five-year old who's eaten too many E-numbers. And seriously? Would Starfleet really staff up a ship with 17 year olds? Maybe I'm just taking this too seriously, but it's these sort of crazy details that pulled me out of the film.

Now the one thing I had always liked about the concept of STAR TREK was its liberal, pioneering political message and racial inclusiveness. So I was particularly keen to see how the new movie pushed forward the envelope. Would they have an Indian officer? More woman? An openly gay crew member? Nope, they stayed true to the original. Indeed, I was particularly dismayed to see the only female crewmember strip down to her bra and knickers within the first half hour of the flick - a crass and unnecessary move only partly mitigated by the fact that she ends up with the brainy Vulcan rather than the brawny Kirk.

Next up, the Enterprise realises that Vulcan is actually being attacked by aforementioned Romulans; there's some fighting that hints at light-sabers; Kirk is ejected off the ship onto a planet that looks suspiciously like Hoth; and the movie totally jumps the shark. As soon as it became clear that time-travel was going to play a major part in the flick, I was lost. It has always struck me that the ramifications of time-travel are too mind-bendingly complex and insane to grapple with in a movie, and that screen-writers tend to use it (as with religion in BSG) as a lazy, unsatisfying deus-ex-machina, or rather deus-ex-singularity.

The plot unwinds with lots of technically superb action shots; a good comedy turn from Simon Pegg as Scotty (despite an unnecessary Willy Wonka rip-off); and the only really engaging and convincing performance from Zachary Quino as Spock.

Overall, I just didn't see what all the fuss was about. The movie was well-made but unconvincing. It's hard to get too excited about fight scenes when you know that all the main characters are going to survive. And I was utterly unconvinced by Chris Pine's Kirk as the hero of a new movie franchise. Still, it's taken shed-loads of phat cash, and the fanboys seem happy, so I guess these actors are made for life.

STAR TREK is on global release.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, time travel resolutions are shite, other of course than in the Back to the Future movies and Terminator where the whole franchises are based on them - they're not so much a resolution as the point of the film.

    You could say the same of Star Trek - The Journey Home, where Kirk and crew save the earth by travelling back in time and loving animals, hugging trees, etc. The film was shit as Trek films go, but at least it wasn't resolved through time travel.

    Actually, TNG also used Time Travel numerous times, but always as a central plot device, never a resolution. For example in Time's Arrow, when the crew find Data's severed head underneath San Fransciso alongside 19th century artifacts (while data is still alive and well on the ship), Data is faced with the inevitability of his own death in the future (or should it be, in the past?) The crew then unravel what happened by time travelling numerous times and to numerous locations - facing a species of time travelling enemy. A classic double-episode, but again, time travel was the central theme, not the resolution.

    Shame - they seem to have turned Star Trek into a cheaper, shitter version of Mission Impossible, in Space.