Star Trek: A Non-Trekkie’s Take

by | May 8th, 2009 | 3:30PM | Filed under: Theatrical Reviews

"Live long and prosper." 

"Beam me up, Scotty." 

The Vulcan nerve pinch. 

The USS Enterprise.  

While watching Star Trek, I realized that even though I'd never seen any of the previous ten movies, or so much as one episode of any of the six TV series having to do with Gene Roddenberry's fictional universe, its characters and catchphrases are such a part of the pop culture lexicon that it was impossible to feel like a complete newbie to this space-based franchise.  Sure, there were a few points during the film's two-hour running-time where the hard-core Trekkie sitting next to me had to lean over and whisper-explain why everyone else in the theater was laughing… and I'm positive that I didn't catch 95% of the nods director J.J. Abrams surely gave to All Things Trek that preceded this reboot, but I was completely fine with that.  There are no prerequisites for enjoying Star Trek; from the ridiculously intense opening sequence to the closing credits, I was enthralled.  Now I even have some sort of bizarre crush on Spock, which has thoroughly disturbed my husband.

As Locke reviewed this film in detail from a long-time fan perspective, I'm not going to dish out many specifics about its plot.  But I will say that the front-loaded scenes showing the drastically different upbringings of future-Enterprise captain James T. Kirk and even-tempered half-Vulcan/half-human Spock were my favorite parts of the movie.  Once those backstories were established, the action moved on to a struggle between the crew of the USS Enterprise (on its maiden voyage, no less) and a band of nasty Romulans, led by a perpetually pissed-off Nero (Eric Bana).

I'm happy to report that I wasn't annoyed in the slightest by Adult Kirk, played by pretty boy Chris Pine.  The commercials for the film had me worried that this hotshot at the Starfleet Academy would be little more than an impulsive, hot and bothered meathead, but thankfully that wasn't (entirely) the case.  He served as the perfect foil to Zachary Quinto's calculating Spock; lesser actors might have overplayed these roles, but there was never a point where I felt that Kirk and Spock weren't believable characters. 

In fact, the entire cast was great — not a weak link in the bunch.  I personally was a little irked to see Winona Ryder as Spock's mother, however.  Her acting was fine and the make-up team did a great job transforming her into an older woman, but whenever she was on-screen, my Bubble of Suspended Disbelief popped and all I could think was, "Why in the hell is Winona Ryder in this movie?!?"  (I hope I didn't just curse you with the same reaction.)

The only other issue I have with the film is that some of its key plot points are pretty darn confusing.  As you may know, producers J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof and Bryan Burk also worked/work together on Lost, which isn't exactly known for straightforward storytelling.  Since I've been tuning into and analyzing  Lost for the past five years, I thought I'd easily be able to process anything Star Trek threw my way.  Color me overconfident — I must admit to being completely bewildered by a few of its twists.  Enterprise In the interest of not spoiling anything for those of you who plan to see the film, I'll keep mum on what I couldn't figure out.  Here's a hint, though: fellow Lost fans will probably laugh out loud at the similarities between the TV series' current season and some of the events that transpire in Star Trek.

One other similarity Star Trek shares with Lost is the brilliant composer Michael Giacchino.  Remember that breathtaking opening scene I referenced earlier in this review?  It showcased Giacchino's expert ability to subtly shift the score between quickly oscillating action sequences and cry-your-eyes-out dramatic scenes, all while heightening the emotion of both.  However, as Locke bemoaned last week, there definitely wasn't a recognizable, indisputable Star Trek "theme" that emerged by the time the film ended. 

Finally, I can't talk about a sci-fi film without weighing in on its special effects, right?  Well, I've got good news for you: I give the effects a 9.5 out of 10.  I'm one of those people who's quick to complain about shoddy CGI, and at several points throughout Star Trek I found myself thinking the exact opposite: Wow, I can't believe how real that looks.  Nero's ship is especially impressive in all of its gigantic, steel-pronged glory.  When you see that thing coming at the Enterprise, trust me, you'll be worried.

So if it's not already obvious, let me state in no uncertain terms that I highly recommend Star Trek to all of the other non-Trekkies out there.  Since the hard-core fan of the franchise sitting next to me seemed pleased when the theater's lights came back on — and as Locke was happy with the film as well — I dare say that even those of you who have gone to Star Trek conventions will approve.

Speaking of Star Trek conventions, let me end with this classic Saturday Night Live clip featuring the original Captain James T. Kirk, William Shatner.  Perhaps it can serve as a primer for those of you who are going in blind to Abrams' franchise reboot.   (Things really get moving at the four-minute mark.)

I'd love to hear the reactions of other non-Trekkies who've seen the film, so be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Spoilers are fair game there, too. 

In the meantime, I'm off to see if I can find one of those I Grok Spock tees.

Other Trek pieces:

Locke Peterseim's Review of Star Trek

What We Talk About When We Talk About Star Trek — Locke reminiscences on what Trek has meant to him

48 Responses to “Star Trek: A Non-Trekkie’s Take”

  1. Mark
    Posted on May 12, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    The unsecured building dock of the Enterprise in Iowa was somewhat unbelievable since you are always going to have “Bill Ayers”-type terrorist nut jobs in any century who misinterpret vehicles of self-defense as imperialist war machines.
    Other than that it was a great movie… 2 thumbs up.

  2. Locke Peterseim
    Posted on May 12, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Yeah, Mark — that was a bit unrealistic — maybe Starfleet felt no possible spies or saboteurs (alien or human) would ever think to look here in Iowa.
    Also, when it comes to “don’t think about it, just enjoy the ride”, how about the fact that Earth and the headquarters of Starfleet (not to mention Vulcan) have NO ships that can fly up and shoot down Nero’s plasma mining drill platform? Only Spock can do it in the jellyfish? LOL

  3. Steven S.
    Posted on May 12, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    So, as I suspected, I did not like the new Star Trek film/movie. Let me repeat myself, I did not like the new Star Trek movie. Unfortunately, giving a movie project to a non-Star Trek fan is comparable to giving a head coaching job with the Yankees to a person who doesn’t like baseball. Being a new convert (watching for only 10 years or so) I came to the realization that this film, like all films, was made to make money – lots of it! Although one could argue that anyone who took on the new Star Trek project would make money, regardless of who was at the helm of this intricate, massive, cultural-hit of a concept. Alas, in this case it is J.J. Abrams, the “stealer,” the “3M” of many of someone else’s idea kind-of director/writer. Please insert your own comparisons for Alias (La Femme Nikita), Fringe (X-Files), Cloverfield (Godzilla meets Blair Witch Project), Lost (The Prisoner [from the 1960's] meets Gilligans Island), etc…
    Before I tear a hole in J.J.s alternate-universe of Star Trek, let’s give credit where credit is due and make it clear what the silver-lining was: 1) J.J. probably ignited, excited, and down-right invited non-Star Trek fans into possibly researching/enjoying the Star Trek of old/yesteryears and become a fanatic of the sci-fi “Enterprise” and all its counterparts. 2) He made Star Trek “cool”, especially for the younger generation, perhaps younger than me (30). 3) The set, studio, CGI, casting (mostly, especially “Bones”), and most of the storyline (I’ll get to this later) was awe-inspiring, saliva-inducing, and visually stimulating to any creature on Earth. 4) They lept the “funny” quibbles in the script. Good job.
    These examples of what was good should be enough to love the film, right!? It really sounds like I really enjoyed it, right!? No. And here’s why: 1) Once you get past the “glitz & glamor” of JJ’s Star Trek alternate universe, you realize he forgot one thing many Star Trek television series episodes had, a “realness.” Well, you’re thinking I’m some head-case to think Star Trek is real. No, I’m not a crazed, Star Trek lunatic, let me explain. Every Star Trek episode/movie teaches a lesson on life – one could argue Kirk, Spock and crew in the movie showed valor, braveness in this film, but at what cost? The message in this film was transparent: Action, revenge, action. It didn’t teach me anything about the dangers or consequences of revenge. 2) The original Star Trek had its own explosions, shouting, and grunting, but rarely used expletives, such as “G.D.” Of course, in reality people curse, and I probably do it more than others, but it was another discrepancy to start from a sci-fi series that rarely curses. 3) Yes, I mentioned the casting/storyline was “almost there” but the Sulu actor did not come close to the original; the inflection of voice/tone was especially lacking. The storyline: Well it’s completely new for Star Trek – everything that came before, and I mean everything, would logically need to be discarded. Why? In the new film there is now no Vulcan planet, and Kirk’s father, as well as Spock’s mother (an important supporting character in the original timeline) have perished. This changes everything, creating a J.J. Abrams “alternate universe of Star Trek” Star Trek.
    Whether you are a purest, hardcore Star Trek fan or newbie, the movie is definitely a love/hate situation. Basically, this movie disregarded/omitted all previously known created Star Trek material, because the timeline has changed and all the choices/adventures would be irrelevant. Does this set-up allow the studios to make new adventures and create new character development? Yes. Does it sum everything I like about Star Trek? Almost.
    Overall, there were many good/bad choices. I don’t care for the “hold-my-hand”, watered down, non-thinking Star Trek. To me, there was no rewarding personal character development or new insights. I didn’t take away a moral lesson, such as, “oh, this is how I should live as a person…with character, respect, duty, honor, pride, encompassing critical thinking/feeling skills.” This movie tells me I should live by a feeling that lacks realism combined with frenetic movement, and more explosions, the “I can’t think, but I can react to visual stimulation” crap. Many will like the dumbed-down, in-your-face version of Star Trek, but I will always have the original genius of Gene Roddenberry vision in mind. This is one that is thought-provoking, breeds massive fans and has been doing just fine for 50 or so years without the almighty, J.J. “stealer of good things”…”I’ve got to 3M everything” Abrams. All in all, it’s like different versions/translations of the Bible, everyone has their opinion. But for me, and many others, it just didn’t have the heart of Star Trek and now is a critical time for fans to decide, J.J. is attempting to become the modern-day figurehead of Star Trek, leading the series away from the vision that should and always be guided by the foundation Roddenberry built.
    As for the blatant disregard for William Shatner in the new film, especially his original narration, I hope J.J. “boldly goes where no man has gone before” and stays there in an isolated chamber, so he can not steal, borrow, nor corrupt another concept from an original creator and call it his own. “Live, long, and prosper…in a galaxy far, far away”…oh wait a minute; I don’t want to give J.J. any more “new” ideas.

  4. Danny T. From CCTX
    Posted on May 12, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Well being in my mid 30′s I can’t say I never watched the series, actually I liked the original and the “Next Generation”. I gotta say I was really expecting to be disappointed, honestly I was almost wishing for it. So many remakes and resurrections fall completely flat that, well I’ve just become very jaded in that regard.
    I won’t say this movie stunned me, but when I think about it no previous Star Trek episode really did, unless you count the super short skirts of the original, or Dr. Troi’s amazing cleavage from the “Next Generation” (when I was 15) I mean come on even Seven of Nine was super hot and I hated the “Voyager” series “lol”… It did however leave me with that warm feeling of nostalgia like when you see an old friend after many years.
    Stunned or not they always gave me something to dream about when it was time to close my eyes that night. “What would it be like to be in their shoes?” That was what kept me coming back.
    I love that non-Trekkies are enjoying this film too. Maybe I won’t feel like such a dork when I bring up Tribbles next time. Hope the sequel isn’t far behind.

  5. MiMi Moore
    Posted on May 12, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    This comment is coming from a true luvah
    of all things Trek : if you don’t go
    see this movie, then you are a fool! I’m
    so happy that they showed how Spock(yum),
    Kirk and the rest of the crew get their
    starts in StarFleet. The action(a must-
    see in IMAX) is fierce and the special
    effects make you believe that Gene
    Roddenberry’s world is just a blink
    away. And, where else can you see a
    Sistah make a Vulcan shed his icy
    veneer? Beam up(don’t walk) to the
    nearest theatre and see this summer

  6. meghan
    Posted on May 12, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    My husband and I loved the movie.Im not a trekky, and i got it. Conntinue on more!

  7. Frank
    Posted on May 12, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    With the “old” spock from the future…they can now advance beyond means with his knowledge of engineering, science, etc.. *formula on warp drive given to scotty* ..out of all the characters I think McCoys was the best acting job..I could see a young supporting actor

  8. Enjoli
    Posted on May 13, 2009 at 8:20 am

    I come from the 90′s “Next Generation” when you had Captain Jean-Luc Picard, and Data (And let us not forget “Reading Rainbow, LeVar Burton, and Whoopi)! During high school a friend of mine hooked me in, and every day after school we would go to her house and watch the it once it had been syndicated.
    I’ve only seen a handful on the “old school” aka William Shatner series when Nick at Night was airing it, and I must say that I got the movie. I surprised myself because I have two “I heart Trekkies” guys in the front of me and some others throughout the theater (I went when I knew not a lot of people were going to be there) and I was laughing/getting the things that only diehard fans would know. So I must say that I was proud of myself.
    I too felt the same way when I saw Winona Ryder, and was thinking along the same lines as, “What the hell is she doing in this movie!?” But I guess she wasn’t in it that much to where it didn’t bug me, but every time that I saw her, I was thinking that. Also when Simon Pegg aka “Run Fatboy, Run” busted out as Scotty, I was so happy. I couldn’t stop laughing at the fact that he was in the movie. And to top it all off Tyler Perry was the cherry on the sundae! Small role, but a good one considering this is his first action/blockbuster movie he has been in and didn’t have anything to do with the production process.
    Go see this movie! Like stated so many times before me, you don’t have to know everything about the series to get this movie. I think that since it is such a great action movie (and yes the first 10mins are AMAZING!) people who have no prior knowledge of Star Trek will most definitely love it! Great CGI, great plot (there were a few times when I was slightly confused), GREAT cast, great EVERYTHING!
    This is be one that you don’t want to end.

  9. Thomas
    Posted on May 13, 2009 at 9:28 am

    it’s so funny. i went with someone who didn’t have a CLUE about Star Trek! i’ve been a fan forEVER! he didn’t know why everyone was laughing so i would lean over and “whisper-explain” to him! haha. they should have made a separate theater for those who went with someone who knew about it and those attending with the clueless so we could explain things. haha. i LOVED this movie. going again this weekend! and i can’t WAIT to add it to my Star Trek dvd/video cassette collection!

  10. Leonard McCoy
    Posted on May 13, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Well I really enjoyed the movie, and I’ve been a Star Trek fan since the beginning.
    I understand that this is a franchise reboot and can bring in a whole bunch of new younger fans with entirly new story lines. But there were a few things that in the original ST universe that brought depth to it, and that’s the life lesson and thought provoking type experiences that the original series and the original cast movies brought. It was those experiences that helped shape the characters and brought depth to them. And of course the interplay between Kirk, Bones, and Spock, the things that solidified their friendship. I hope they keep those main essential ingredients to the success that Star Trek has had.
    And yes, this is my real name. ;)

  11. gene white
    Posted on May 13, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    loved the new movie except the 13 year old james t. destroying the antique vette – showed too much of a lack of disrespect that i dont think needed to be input into his character. i think the star trek movies have a real future with this cast. hope to see more!!! loved the new scotty and bones the best but spock and kirk were fabulous.

  12. Buzz
    Posted on May 13, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    .. The 4th old Star Trek Movie about the whales has wide appeal to females and non-trekors…
    .. The 1st movie was pretty bad, they waste an hour just painting the Enterprise in SpaceDock, and the rest is a rehash of an old TV episode… New images of going into warp speed is good though…

  13. niki
    Posted on May 14, 2009 at 9:42 am

    I LOVED this film and gladly didn’t realize that what actress spocks mother played until AFTER I saw the movie. This is one that i’ll buy. Heck! I’d love to pre-order it now! If only they would make this a serial again (with the same actors) …do the in between missions that the old star trek did.
    My only best impression. “WOW!” I “liked” the old series, and many of their spin offs, especially in hours that I couldn’t sleep anyway, but THIS one is for daylight. SEE it!

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