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Saturday, May 9, 2009

No Country for Old Trekkies
Time and/or distance can make a person homesick. After watching the new Star Trek movie, I was very homesick.
I was homesick for directors who could actually direct, actors who could actually act, plots that were actually plotted, and science fiction actually based on science.
A friend of mine, a truck driver by trade, sums up the typical plot line for many modern movies:
Fight scene.
Car chase.
Fight scene.
Roll credits.
JJ Abrams’ new movie, Star Trek, doesn’t follow this pattern exactly, but pretty damn close.
Before this movie, I enjoyed Leonard Nimoy’s performances but I never thought of Leonard Nimoy as a great actor. But compared to Zachary Quinto, Nimoy is a genius! I’ve liked Quinto’s performances on the TV show Heroes. But in this movie, Quinto’s voice is more like Mike Tyson than Spock.
And Chris Pine just didn’t do it for me. I didn’t expect him to imitate William Shatner’s characterization of Kirk. But Pine just didn’t project the Kirk I had hoped for: an overconfident, rascal of a star captain.
I loved Simon Pegg as Scotty, Karl Urban as McCoy, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, John Cho as Sulu, and Anton Yelchin as Chekov. Also, Eric Bana, who I’ve enjoyed in the past, just wasn’t menacing or evil enough to me. And what was up with Nero blaming Spock for the destruction of Nero’s home planet? Spock was supposed to stop a supernova??!!
Science fiction is the greatest transporter device of all time. Science fiction movies like Jurassic Park, Soylent Green, and Planet of the Apes (1968) have transported me to places far, far away from my home state of Wisconsin.
I expected the same take-me-away experience from Star Trek. But during this whole movie, I never left my theater seat. I was painfully aware of where I was. As a Star Trek fan, one would think I would find comfort in the old familiar faces, alien races, and conflicts, but I didn’t. Yes, the special effects were spectacular, but the rest of the time, I was bored. The time travel plot has been done to death.
Science fiction takes new technology and projects its impact and influence on our world. Every day, I see how technology is changing our world, and yet I saw little of this in this movie. Why weren’t the characters wirelessly linked to the ship’s network through some kind of implant? Why do the shuttles, which have to enter a planet’s atmosphere, still look like Kleenex boxes? Why wasn’t Uhuru sending tweets to Twitter? After all, this movie does take place on stardate 2233.
I was shocked at how bad the fight scenes were. After years of military training and bar fights, Kirk and Sulu couldn’t fight their way out of a room full of tribbles. I can’t believe Abrams has never seen any of the Bourne movie fight scenes or some of Steven Seagal’s early movie fight scenes. And why would you let your main character, Kirk, get his butt kicked in every fight scene?
It was interesting and boring that Abrams chose a very sterile Star Trek environment. Every set looked like a hospital room. The lesson to be learned from Battlestar Galactica is that space can be an incredibly dirty, smelly place, which can be much more interesting. And speaking of Battlestar Galactica, that show’s writers were the best on the planet Earth.
Out of curiosity, I watched a JJ Abrams interview on Youtube. He said that he and some guys got together in a room and just wrote the script. It really, really shows.
And the lesson to be learned here, Mr. Abrams, is: if you find drug money or a bad script in the desert, don’t even think about taking it home.

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