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David Staum
Mon, Jan 18, 2021, 11:57pm (UTC -6)
Re: Star Trek (2009)

I originally wrote this review on my blog in 2009. Thought I'd post it here and see if anyone agrees or disagrees with my take

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This was a great movie. Excitement, special effects, great dialogue, great characters, some good humor. Great, that is, if you’ve never heard of Star Trek before. But if you’re a long time fan, as I am, it’s hard to separate the Star Trek universe from the bright & shiny new movie.

Casting: Supporting characters: excellent!

Each of them brought a newness to the role, and didn’t copy the original actors, but still channeled the essence of the characters we’ve come to love.

Special mention goes to Karl Urban as McCoy and Simon Pegg as Scotty. Both were pitch perfect in their roles from the moment of their first appearance onscreen. Anton Yelchin as Chekov was one note, played mostly for his humorous earnestness, but that one note was hit perfectly.

John Cho, as Sulu, didn’t really evoke George Takei much other than his enthusiasm, but he fit into the cast well and had some great action scenes. Zoe Saldana didn’t even try to be another Nichelle Nichols. And why should she? In the original Trek, Uhura was docile and was just a glorified telephone operator. But they wanted to update the role and bravo for trying. So why, after a good start, did they relegate her to the role of Spock’s arm candy?

I was a little disappointed in Zachary Quinto as Spock. He’s a decent actor and played the numerous scenes he was given fairly well, but couldn’t quite shake the feeling that Sylar, from Heroes, was hiding behind that calm expression.

And Chris Pine as Kirk? Well, no one could ever fill William Shatner’s hammy shoes, and no one should even try. But as a fan of original Trek, it was hard to see anyone else in the role. Plus he seemed too young.

The special effects and action sequences were amazing! If you’ve seen it, you know what I mean.

Now, what was up with the relationship between Spock & Uhura? I guess I could swallow it, but there was one big “huh???” moment when watching the movie. I just don’t see that it added anything. And, as I mentioned above, it sidelined Uhura into a man’s woman. And there were no other women, unless you count the sexy green girl Kirk was in bed with early in the film (nice touch!) But why couldn’t they have nurse Chapel? Or Yeoman Rand?

The story was pretty good, with one big problem that I’ll get to in a moment. But the scene changes between comedy and intense, emotionally fraught action, were a little abrupt. Considering the seriousness of what was going on, I couldn’t really enjoy Scotty materializing inside the water tubes as much as I would have otherwise. Speaking of those water tubes, it reminded me of the scene in Galaxy Quest, where Sigourney Weaver complains loudly about the smashing hammers they have to jump through, saying: “What is this thing!? I mean, it serves no useful purpose for there to be a bunch of chompy, crushy things in the middle of a hallway! No, I mean we shouldn't have to do this, it makes no logical sense, why is it here!?” and Tim Allen answers “Cause it's on the television show”

Nero was a pretty good villain, albeit one dimensional. But his desire for revenge on Spock seemed somewhat arbitrary. Yes, sometimes things happen that way, but given the lengthy exposition of the origins of Spock & Kirk, you’d think they could spend a few minutes making Nero’s lust for revenge a little more plausible.

There were some major illogical leaps, like old Spock standing on a planet and seeing Vulcan be destroyed. How close was that planet to Vulcan, so that Vulcan would be several times the size of our moon as seen from Earth? It seems like the science was very weak. The movie just assumes that an audience coming to see a sci-fi movie would expect there to be a time portal inside a black hole, so doesn’t bother to explain. And that something labeled “red matter” can collapse a planet. Again, no explanation of what “red matter” is. The science on original Trek was pretty flimsy too, but at least they made up some silly dialogue to explain it. On the other hand, the audiences today have seen enough sci-fi to fill in the blanks, so maybe this isn’t such a big deal. So I’ll go ahead to my biggest issue of the movie.

VULCAN IS DESTROYED! AND ISN’T RESTORED!

There’s a scene where Spock is explaining to the bridge officers that since Nero changed the past, what Nero experienced is no longer relevant and the future belongs to whatever they do. They are not beholden to what others may know about the future. That was directed straight at the audience. So we are told by JJ Abrams; “Hey, we can do what we want. We’re not beholden to what you fans think you know about the Star Trek universe.”

Still. Destroying Vulcan? Vulcan is so much a part of the world of the federation. As some other reviewer I saw online pointed out, it’s not like Aalderan in Star Wars, a planet with no real emotional resonance to the viewers. But Vulcan? Leaving the surviving Vulcans an endangered species? How can you have Star Trek without Vulcan in it?

This is more than just sentimental. It affected my viewing experience of the movie deeply. First of all, after such an emotionally wrenching and apocalyptic event, it was hard to enjoy the humorous scenes. But more than that, from that point on, I was assuming, or at least deeply hoping, that time would be reversed and Vulcan would be restored. So in those climactic scenes near the end, where the Enterprise is being pulled into the black hole, I was rooting against them! I was hoping that they would be destroyed, and all of the red matter’s destruction would set the timeline to back to the way it was supposed to be. Ditto for the scene just before that, with Spock’s taking the ship with the red matter on a collision course with the (bizarre looking) Romulan vessel. So when the Enterprise finally emerged from what I presume was supposed to be the event horizon of the black hole (never mind the scientific inaccuracy of that), my heart fell, obviously the opposite feeling than what the moviemakers intended.

Maybe the next movie will be subtitled “The Search For Vulcan”. Hey, they brought back Spock from the dead. Maybe they can bring back his whole planet!
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David Staum
Thu, Dec 3, 2020, 8:31am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S3: Unification III

Here's my succinct analysis of the problems with DSC:

The plots? Sometimes strong, sometimes weak, could use more world building.

The character interactions? Mostly cloying and contrived with cringeworthy dialogue.
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David Staum
Sun, Nov 1, 2020, 1:59pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S3: People of Earth

Regarding some commenters' looking askance at the idea of The Burn, my guess is that it'll be explained through some pseudo quantum mechanical idea, that somehow all dilithium atoms are linked via quantum entanglement.
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David Staum
Sun, Nov 1, 2020, 1:42pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S3: People of Earth

A lot of people on this and many threads about Star trek seem really focused on inconsistencies. But inconsistencies in Star Trek are as old as the franchise itself. My feeling is that it's fiction, and as long as the story is well told I don't mind some inconsistencies, as long as they aren't glaring within the story being told itself. Star Trek is a modern cultural myth, and different interpretations are welcome. There are many retellings of Shakespeare as well. I have plenty of issues with Discovery, but that has to do with the writing, the dialogue, and the characters in general. It doesn't have to be firmly consistent with other trek shows or movies.
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David Staum
Sun, Aug 9, 2020, 10:11pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S7: The Void

I agree with most of the reviewers - I liked the episode quite a bit, as well as the optimism displayed.

One reviewer mentioned that Janeway should have deployed warning buoys. How about taking it a step further and sending vast quantities of supplies into the void, including the technology to escape? It would have shown magnanimity to those still trapped there, despite their treachery towards Voyager. That would have been a true Starfleet moment.
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