Oh, man. I didn’t want to like this movie. The old one holds such a special place in my heart* and mind, and I didn’t want to see it ruined, which seems to be how all but a few modern remakes seem to go. And the posters didn’t really do much for me—I mean, really, a blur that might be the Enterprise? Kirk looking like his hairline and his eyebrows are fifty miles apart while Spock looks like he’s got no forehead at all? I was expecting something along the lines of Episode I, all flash and resentment, no story or emotion at all.
Man, I’m glad I was disappointed. This is the best sort of disappointment, where everything comes out much better than you expected. JJ, you’ve reached Whedon-levels of devotion in my pantheon of fan-saints (as if Lost hadn’t already won you that).
I loved it. I loved it so much, I went to see it again four hours later with one of the same people I saw it with the first time.
The ship looked delicious, retro enough to sate the fan in me, but new and bright and futuristic and wonderful enough to surprise me and make me want to be part of it all over again, like when I was a kid and had that same fresh feeling of wonder. It felt right, like this is what they’d intended it to look like before, but they just didn’t have the budget or the techniques to get it right. The loving and sexy first shot of the Enterprise at spacedock (why it gotta be spacedock? you don’t call a regular dock a waterdock.) was beautiful—I wanted to reach out and touch her hull with my bare hands. She looked real. She looked like the flagship should look, shining and beautiful and fresh and unchallenged. And the effects, whether battle or just cruising were great, flashy and brilliant and yet still somehow real enough to feel like something that could actually happen, something people could make and could live in. The first space battle, with Kirk’s dad and mom’s entirely human conversation as this massive monstrosity ends their marriage in fire and heroics set the tone for a movie that’s very tech, but also has the emotional connection that was desperately missing from all the Star Wars prequels. It’s what SciFi should be.
On to the characters. Like I said, I was most resistant to these new upstarts playing my beloved crew, but they won me over. Kirk wasn’t nearly as weird-looking as the posted led me to believe, and he had exactly the right amount of offhand charm and deep-seated anger mixed with problems with authority and a willingness to get severely beaten to get the job done. Which he did. Alot. He’s like the Harry Dresden of space over here, beaten up every three minutes by someone faster and stronger than him, and yet coming out on top every time. “I’ve got your gun” indeed! And he wasn’t as smarmy as Shatner!Kirk could sometimes come across, though he kept the cheerful disregard for protocol that always made him interesting (and, really, made this branch of the franchise more interesting than the story overall—I agree with Pike: the Federation had lost something in the perfect regimentation of the human race).
Spock was fun. I didn’t like Zack’s Syler until recently when he got something to debate over, and Spock always had that: something to battle out in his own head. I like that Spock’s whole emotional issue comes from the fact that he can’t reconcile the fact of loving his mother with the logic of not allowing emotions to rule him. And I love that he can love Uhura and still be remote, logical, radical, rebellious Spock. his eyebrows bothered me, but his real eyebrows bother me, too. I’m just happy that there wasn’t any of the idea that Vulcans are tantamount to androids that so many non-Spock actors seem to think is the case. I love that he’s devoted to being the best Vulcan he can be, but is just human enough to rebel when he needs to, to be the much-needed radical faction within the solid, ancient, entirely controlled Vulcan culture.
And I loved the deserty-cave imagery of the Vulcan homeworld. Amazing. And alien in that way where it’s obviously not here, but is recognizable enough that it’s not off-putting.
Sarek was pretty great, and Amanda was perfect—a bright human woman willingly living within an alien society, but daring to keep her sense of self and to be openly proud of her alien son. I didn’t even realize it was Winona Ryder until I saw the credits. She didn’t seem Winona-like.
Uhura was a little skipped on the character development, but we got enough in her acting to know that she’s strong and brilliant and has an actual talent—she’s naturally adept at what she does, not just a space-receptionist. She really cares for Spock, but doesn’t let it get in the way of her job, she wants to be an upstanding officer, but she speaks out when things are unfair, and she follows orders, but makes it known that she doesn't necessarily agree with them. That’s a lot of complexity to get into a pretty narrow role that she was given; i hope there are Uhura out takes in the special features. I hope there are dozens of deleted scenes, not because there are parts where I think something was missing, but because I want to see more of this lovely shiny world.
Chekov is adorable, a bright little baby dropped in the middle of this crazy, much older crew on a lunatic mission that doesn’t make a lot of sense in the context of usual fleet missions, but he has enough confidence to keep up, to do what he knows he can do and to do it well. I love that he’s still got his speech impediment. And I love that he’s excited about it all. And I love that he never once gets punched in the jaw and knocked out.
Sulu was also great fun, sardonic and a little sarcastic, unhappy with how things are going but loyal and skilled enough to trust and act accordingly. And fearless enough to volunteer for a skydive from space with combat training that includes not much more than fencing—and apparently some hack-and-slash.
McCoy was cranky and fussy and angry as I would have expected, but I missed the taunting that they hadn’t reached yet between him and Spock—trying to get a rise out of a Vulcan was always his most entertaining work. He makes more sense this way, a man who’s already been through medschool before joining Starfleet, who knows exactly what can go wrong when you leave the surface of a planet. Of the crew, though, I would have liked to have seen more of him, to get to know him a little more. Maybe to have seen just a moment when he was more at ease and less exasperated with the world.
And Scotty! He had the smallest part yet, but Simon Pegg just shone! Cranky, a little bit cracked, perfectly willing to go through a transport he hadn’t tested, to get almost drowned, to be taken hostage by security, to defy the captain, to be dropped into a role he hadn’t been assigned to, and to do it well. He was entertaining, to say the least, and sort of stole the scenes he was in—I’m glad they let him do most of the talking in his three scenes.
Old!Spock was exactly what I always loved about Spock in the movies: he knows who he is, and he knows exactly when logic doesn’t apply and how to rationalize so that irrationality seems rational. He willy-nillys all through the timeline, manipulating in that way where you could be mad at him, but you know he’s doing it for the best, so you aren’t. He delivers his best line as if it were new, and he fits flawlessly into a movie full of new people playing his old friends.
They’re all a little crazy. I love that this fact was played up. To work so well as a nontraditional crew, they’d all have to be on the adventure-seeking side, the lunatic fringe, and that’s exactly where they are. It makes sense. It’s not just loyalty to the captain, because he wasn’t the captain yet: it’s the fact that they’re all of a mind to find the best way to do something, even when it’s the crazy thing to do.
And the villains. Nero is a weird choice of a villain, really familiar and matter-of-fact, and I think that makes him scarier: he matter-of-factly destroys a whole ancient world and goes on to destroy another with the intention of wiping out something like 150 more. He falls through time and deals with it by spending 25 years obsessing over a plan to ruin the lives of everyone instead of going home to a world that hasn’t yet been destroyed (or even realizing that if he takes out Starfleet, there’s NO chance that it won’t be destroyed). He’s another rogue, someone not only separated from his home, his empire and his government, but also from his time and his previous life: a madman who thinks nothing of changing history.
And that’s what this movie does. half-way through, I realize that JJ wasn’t going to fix it. That this is how it is now. And I was just floored. It’s so bold. There was a moment of sadness that everything that came after won’t happen now, but there’s this immense feeling of freedom and excitement: anything can happen now. Anything. Maybe we’ll meet all the people we loved from after this point in the original timeline, but maybe we won’t**. Maybe we’ll meet all new wonderful people, have all new amazing adventures, fall in love with this world all over again.
I’m so ready to find out.
- JJ, that’s not how black holes work. You could have solved this easily by saying wormhole instead. Also, if one drop of red matter makes a time-traveling black hole, how come a whole ship full makes one the same size and strength? And why was so much needed anyway?
- I miss Nurse Chapel. And if Uhura is Spock’s love interest, then maybe in movie 2, Bones can meet Chapel and she can be his? He needs a good girl.
- I wonder what this more industrial-factory sort of a ship’s crew quarters would look like? We didn’t see a single private space in this movie (understandably, since all of it happened in, like, three and a half minutes), and I’m curious how the people all lived. individual quarters or barracks-type? Is there a lounge? Are there offices? Do they have toilets?
- Yay for understanding the three-dimensionality of space and the relativity of up-down orientation! That’s how space should be! And yay also for the perfect use of silence in the scenes that happened in space. There’d be no noise, and that makes them creepier and more stunning.
- * My personal memory of the OS comes from being very young in Japan and being locked un during typhoons: the USO channel would halt normal broadcasting and show OS marathons so they could break at any time for weather updates, and we’d sit on the floor all day and watch one of my dad’s favorite shows with him—which was quite amazing since we hardly saw him because of the hours he worked.
- Was Kirk’s mom in Starfleet? She seems to have been the only family-member on board, and he was just a Lieutenant, not important enough to have a live-in wife aboard. They say later that she was off-world…
- Did we really need the scene with kid!Kirk and the car? We needed the one with kid!Spock so we’d know what his weakness was, but I think Kirk’s was just to offer symmetry. We got that he was a roughneck from the bar scene.
- Uhura’s room-mate and maybe best friend was killed on the Farragut on that first mission, and she never got a chance to realize it. The only reason she wasn’t killed also was because Sulu left the braking dampeners on.
- ** I’m hoping we still get to meet Savik, Picard, Worf, Dax, Odo, and the afore mentioned Nurse Chapel. Doesn’t Kirk have a brother in the OS? I guess that got changed. I hope we don’t have to meet the Borg. I’m so over them, and it’s Voyager’s fault. I also hope we get to see the villains of the OS, all those tacky weird low-budget necessities turned into something cool and flashy and worthy of this movie.
- I’m pretty sure the entire purpose of the second crew was to wrangle lens-flares. Which I loved. I hope the future really is bright and shiny and flarey, and not dull and beige and monochrome and so well adjusted that people are flat and boring.