Review: Star Trek (2009): The Dumbing Down of a Great Sci-Fi Franchise to Fit the Attention-span of the Jersey Shore Generation

Children on board: Chekov, Kirk, Scott, Bones, Sulu and Uhura

I am going to spare everyone a summary of the plot and cut to the chase: while this movie was entertaining with a handsome cast and flashy scenes, it was not Star Trek.. If you had named it, let’s say “Space Academy – the Early Years” it would be pretty ok but naming it Star Trek is sort of like throwing a bucket of acrylic paint at the Mona Lisa and calling it art. If you dont know much about Star Trek and dont care too much about internal consistency in a movie in general, character development, plausibility or a plot for that matter, then this is the movie for you. As a matter of fact I believe that one of the reasons this movie has proven to be very popular among non-Star Trek fans is because it is not Star Trek!! It is a glossy reboot of the original with little substance beneath its action-packed surface and pretty faces, resembling more an MTV video. Here are some of the more serious issues with this movie:

+ All of the “acting” is ‘over the top’ and everyone is exaggerated, to the point of clownish buffoonery. Kirk (or Chris Pine really) appears to have ADD or something and he is arrogant, cocky, erratic, tactless and obnoxious. I was so annoyed early on with him already that I actually enjoyed watching him being beaten up at the bar. A cutsey boy cadet who walks on a bridge and says, “I’m in charge”. You have got to be kidding me. Not only that but an Admiral placing him as second in command of a ship? Wow.

The Bloomingdale's make up counter doesn't look this chic

+ Lightning fast cuts from one scene to another like an MTV video and really poor plot where all the Enterprise crew just happen to find themselves together even though their entire respective pasts have been inexorably changed? Ridiculous.

+ The back stories behind how the original characters met was insulting and every tagline from the original series was used most inappropriately, as if they had a list of lines required to be used so that they could show at least some resemblance to the original show. Instead of spending time on developing each character, such as Spock’s inner struggle and Kirk fighting his demons and finally turning from a repeat offender to a serious and devoted Starfleet officer, they forwarded (literally) all that to focus more on CGI effects and visuals.

An adolescent, arrogant Kirk caught cheating gets to play captain

+ Speaking of visuals: The interior of the Enterprise looks like a Bloomingdale’s make-up counter. How ridiculous and untrue to even an altered timeline was that? The interior of ships in the 24th century didnt look this chic.

+ The villain was uninspired and dumb. Seriously. I mean here you got this Romulan (who doesn’t even remotely look Romulan by the way and has super strength) decide to obliterate _an entire planet_ based on essentially faulty intelligence. There is no passion, no substance, no character behind his person and motive other than what was written in the script for him to act like. God awful.

Spock makes out with Uhura - pon farr or not

+ The product placement was so obvious. Way to promote an enlightened future in which all of human kinds’ ills coming from money and economic deprivation have been eradicated – by having something like 20 millions worth of product placement in there.

+ Bones: The reason for why McCoy says he is called “bones” was totally pulled out of the writers’ butts in this movie. The expression comes from civil war time doctors who had to use saws to amputate legs. The term “bones” (which Kirk called McCoy in The Original Series) comes from that. In this stupid movie McCoy says “in a divorce my wife got everything and left me dry to my BONES” and they use that to explain why Kirk calls him “bones”. Ridiculous.

+ If this is a future in which money has been eradicated (and lawyers executed), how can McCoy _lose_ everything he has in a divorce and be left “dry to his bones”?

+ The Star Trek series, especially Star Trek: The Next Generation, brought in top scientific minds to advise about what is and is not science and how they can take an idea and transform it such that, even though it is science-fiction, it is still scientifically consistent and coherent. This movie spent a lot of time on special effects, flashy scenes and catchy one-liners but very little on rationalizing the science and incorporating it intelligently into the movie to create consistency. They dumbed the whole premise down to a grade school level and some of the things they are trying to pass as “science” would make the head of any Star Trek regular writer spin in disbelief. That’s what happens though when you set out to deliver bread and circuses to the masses. Ships flying through Black Holes and coming out the other side intact? Enterprise escapes the black hole by blowing up the warp core inside of it? Ski diving onto a platform FROM SPACE? A mining ship annihilating an entire planet?

Spock doing to Kirk what I wanted to do to him all along

+ The writers seemed to be thinking that simply because this is science fiction, any kind of implausible garbage they come up with goes. Sci-fi doesnt equal magic though and the one thing Star Trek didnt rely on was magic bullets to explain phenomena and anomalies etc. In this movie, the most absurd stuff goes down and we are to believe it makes sense because the genre is sci-fi and the writers say so? How stupid do they actually think people are?

+ This movie is not true to Star Trek in even a rudimentary way. It is not intelligent, or thought provoking. It is not about space exploration and asking the tough questions, there is no ttempt at science, philosophy. Nothing. This is Star Trek the way only a product of the over-stimulated times we live in could make it. Cheeky, sexy, and dumb.

BFFs out of the blue, yet forever

+ Speaking of inconsistency: Spock’s and Kirk’s relationship in this movie is adversarial from the start and all they do is argue and fight and at some point Spock is juts about to strangle Kirk. Yet in the end, somehow out of the blue, they become good friends, because the old Spock says they were in another life. That is completely inconsistent with how the characters have behaved and been portrayed throughout the movie as you cannot just push the button and say “hey, I am good friends with you now”. That is just bad writing folks. If you cant even get something like character consistency within a plot right, you are a lousy writer. How Orci and Kurtzman are still with a job and get to write the sequels is truly beyond me.

+ Kirk’s promotion: how does a cadet go from being suspended for cheating to becoming the captain of one of Starfleet’s most prestigious spaceships less than a week later? Yes he saved Earth, but come on. That scene where he is decorated as the second coming of Zefram Cochrane, by the same man who just a few days ago held the hearing on his cheating ways, was ridiculous. A cadet getting full command of a flagship while his instructor, in whose class he cheated and was caught, gets to serve under him as second in command? Laughable…if I was Spock, Vulcan stoicism or not, I would have taken the matter to Starfleet command.

+ McCoy’s character played by Karl Urban seemed too old and sophisticated to be a Starfleet cadet, especially among this group of immature rascals. He seemed to be the only adult amidst this circus where a child (Kirk) was getting to play captain or something. Even though Urban did a fantastic job playing McCoy, they should have cast him either next to a more mature cast of Kirks and Spocks or cast him as an admiral or something. He really was the only one who wasnt out of his mind.
+ More than 600 episodes from Star Trek: The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, and Voyager are all rendered invalid, because a couple of writers, who I must mention have never even written a Star Trek episode before, had so little creative talent that their best idea was Well, why dont we just change the whole time-line, then we dont have to worry about established details and accurate characterizations. I am sure it’s a good way for the writers and producers to turn a fast buck but Star Trek is part of pop culture. The continuity so lovingly and painstakingly preserved by all the movies, TV series and novels subsequent to the The Original Series has been destroyed with this movie. You dont have to be a Trek geek to find that outrageous.

Spock giving the four digit Vulcan Salute

+ It is sad to know that the last time I, or anyone of us, will probably EVER see Leonard Nimoy do the Vulcan salute is in this nasty piece of tourist trinket!
Bottom line: Somehow it all felt very untrue to the essence of Star Trek. It was too Hollywood and glammy and very little story and depth. If you like bling and lots of mind-less action and nail-biting sequences and good looking, hollow characters having music-video length “dialogs” with each other while flashing their handsomeness in front of smooth, shiny surfaces and catchy shots, then this is the movie for you. But if you expect substance, drama, depth, coherence and plausibility, then you are in the wrong place. They had a lot of potential with this one but they just missed it. Since they were going to make sequels, they should have spent more time truly developing the characters and their relationships with one another and just the beginnings of their journey rather than rushing through that part and getting into some mind-less, pointless, absurd plot involving an insane yet at the same time comical Frankenstein’s Romulan monster. They just missed all that and it felt rushed. The creative angle was missing and you could literally see dollar signs hanging from every cgi shot. Open up a spot for Jackie Chan, 20 ninjas and Lindsey Lohan in the sequel and the abomination will be complete.

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  1. #1 by Qwerty on April 29, 2015 - 3:35 PM

    I would love to write a page long comment pointing out everything wrong with this ‘review’ but I’m just not bothered, so I’ll stick to the key issues. First of all, it sounds like it was written by a 10 year old. Your grammar and spelling leaves much to be desired and the overall effect comes across like an angry rant from a hardcore TOS fan with a closed mind and no concept of how an article should be structured. I get the feeling you wanted to hate this film. I found the comment about the ‘lollipop’ and doctorates to be extremely offensive. Why shouldn’t she have a doctorate? Because she’s physically attractive? Because she’s a woman? In that scene, Carol Marcus was changing her clothes out of necessity, and respectfully asked Kirk to turn away, which he didn’t. Of course I’ll agree that there were problems with this scene, in that it shouldn’t have been included in the first place- it was gratuitous and supposed to appeal to the male masses- but what is there in the movie to suggest that Carol Marcus didn’t deserve or work hard for her doctorate? Another thing; I am constantly hearing people complaining about the fact that Khan was white, but the fact is, he was genetically engineered! He didn’t have any parents, he was made in a lab, and most likely named after his creators. So the fact that he has an Asian name shouldn’t be of any significance.
    Throughout the review, you didn’t actually touch on anything that I thought was an actual plot hole -and there were plenty- but instead whined about how Abrams stomped all over your favourite characters and how they’re not exactly the same as they were in TOS. Of course they’re going to be different! That’s why they called it a reboot! I think if you’re going to review something, you should do it objectively, and not by comparing it to a series made fifty years ago. This film had plenty of mistakes in its own right, but I felt you were incredibly biased to begin with.

  2. #2 by steve on March 23, 2012 - 6:38 AM

    I’m just babbling now but it did break a lot of new ground the original series. The first ever on screen inter-racial kiss for one. That was pretty brave in 60’s America. What it really gave us was the promise of a brighter tomorrow where racial and cultural differences are cast aside for the greater good of all humanity. For me the original Motion picture was best everything since that from the wrath of khan to Enterprise has been poor imitation cash ins. Watch Dune that’s a sci-fi masterpiece.

  3. #3 by steve on March 23, 2012 - 6:27 AM

    I think Gene Roddenberry would be rolling in his grave at half of the rubbish that was released under the Star Trek name. It is important to remember that the original t.v. series was pretty twee. Oh we have found a planet of English speaking hot sixties babes who breath the exact same air as us and are human, again. We need to rescue them from a strange blob which is easily defeated by reversing the polarity of a phaser or some such. Laughable. The Gladiators of Triskellion is a great episode for demonstrating what kinky soft porn nonesense it was.

  4. #4 by steve on March 22, 2012 - 3:11 PM

    Yea the time line story was lame. It is guilty of style over substance. I don’t think it was that bad. A lot to tell in a short time. They are all really faithful to the originals apart from Simon Pegg. I love him but all his films are rubbish. Young Uhura and Spock are great not t oo sure about the love interest. Scotty is who Uhura fancies. I have seen worse. The final frontier was a pile of turd.

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